If there is one thing I know and understand, it is anxiety in dogs.
When we decided to foster Cleo we had no idea what we were getting into. Our 2 prior pitbulls were adopted as puppies and were happy and emotionally healthy – the only time they were ever nervous was the 4th of July – so anxiety was not something we were familiar with. But Cleo arrived filled with stress, anxiety, fear – and every other emotional stressor that a dog can have, she had.
There is no shortage of items to help alleviate these feelings for dogs that is for sure. And of course no 1 item can help every dog as every dog is different. But we did find some interesting things during our research to help her and wanted to share our experiences.
While we were often told about medications to help her – we really wanted to try other options before jumping right to drugs to see if any non-medicinal options would help.
So, if you are tired of seeing your dog so anxious, fearful or even hyper – one of the most commonly tried and tested options is the use of a dog anxiety wrap.
What Is An Anxiety Vest or Wrap?
They are typically a material that utilizes maintained pressure and/or acupressure on your dogs body to help alleviate stress and reduce their fears. Wraps are typically more lightweight and use materials that are a little better for airflow while the the coats or shirts are often a bit heavier.
They literally wrap around your dogs body to give them a sense of comfort which in turn can reduce the stress, anxiety or unwanted behaviors they may be exhibiting.
Why Do These Work With Pets?
Well, think about a baby – what do you do when it cries? You swaddle it.
Think about older kids and adults – when they are upset or scared, what do you often do? You hug them.
Just like people, dogs like to feel close to people they love and it gives them a sense of calmness.
What Can An Anxiety Vest Help My Dog With?
Lots of things! Most commonly these items are used for things like fireworks or thunderstorms and that is often how you will see them marketed, but they have been known to help with a large variety of issues including;
- Nail clipping fears
- Excessive barking
- Separation anxiety
- Travel fears
When To Use A Dog Anxiety Vest?
In my case I wanted to try it on a dog we were fostering (who we actually wound up foster failing with) – to help her with her fear issues. It was a recommendation made by our vet once we did her initial health exam.
Other common uses for the vest are:
- Dog rescues and shelters to help calm nervous dogs
- Veterinarians to help administer drugs to scared pets
- Dog trainers who are trying to help insecure and fearful dogs gain confidence
- Owners who need a little extra help making their dogs more comfortable
How Long Can A Dog Wear An Anxiety Wrap?
Whether you are doing your own anxiety wrap or using a store bought version, we would not recommend a dog wearing it for more than a couple of hours at a time. Even then, it is important to make sure your dog does not have any irritation from the wrap or becomes to hot or sweaty.
If you leave your dog in a vest or wrap for too long it can cause them to become “comfortable” in it and the stresses they feel when it is off may become worse without the vest. These are meant to be short term fixes not a permanent fix.
What To Look For When Buying A Vest or Wrap For Your Dog
It is important to consider the options available to you when trying to select a vest or wrap to help your dog. We will walk you through some of the items you need to think about before purchasing a pressure vest.
It is important to know what kind of material each option is made of. Polyester, cotton and nylon are the most common materials. We are keen on the higher polyester base since it is such a strong an durable fabric. Most of the vests and wraps contain a variety of these fabrics – just be sure it clearly notes that the material is “breathable” so you can ensure your dog will be comfortable on those warm days.
Because it is a dog – it will get dirty and it is important to make sure that you can easily wash your vest. Most of the ones we reviewed for our own use were in fact machine washable – although a few required gentle cleaning with no dryer use.
Most of the options do use velcro for keeping the vest on your dog – the one important note is that some dogs HATE the sound of the velcro. Mine did that is for sure. So this may be an issue with your dog. I tried the ThunderShirt and it was LOUD – I cannot state if they are all that loud but it is something for you to consider.
Although we think this should not be a concern at all – as long as the product works as you need it, I know some of you fashionista’s care about looks. Most of these vests are not very pretty but a couple have some options for colors that may make you a bit happy!
Dog Anxiety Wrap and Vest Options
There are a few very popular options for wraps and coats to help your pooch with their stress and anxiety. We are going to talk about the differences of each so you can decide which may be the best for you.
ThunderShirt – Classic Dog Anxiety Jacket
Probably the most popular of the bunch and the name everyone most recognizes in the dog anxiety vest world! The ThunderShirt features a durable fabric that hugs your dog but is flexible enough for them to feel comfy and move easily.
You can see what people say about the ThunderShirt on Amazon, clearly it is a great product based on the reviews.
Product care: the ThunderShirt is easy to care for and is machine washable.
Sizing: there is a range of sizes available from the smallest to the largest dogs. Their sizing ranges from xx-small to xx-large which covers dogs under 7 pounds to over 110 pounds. Sizing is done by chest circumference and it is very important to make sure you measure your dog properly or the vest may not work the way it should.
Material: the classic Thundershirt is 35% rayon / 60% polyester and 5% spandex with velcro and snaps for closures. They have other styles that use different materials as well.
Personal experience: this is one we did try for our girl Cleo, but it did not work for us. We do also think she has excessive fear issues that most dogs do not have due to a history of abuse and realize that something like a pressure jacket may not work as well for more sever issues like she has.
Other threads about the Thundershirt: here are a few more links about the ThunderShirt so you can get a more unbiased look at whether it is a right choice for your dog.
Giving back: this is one of the reasons we really like them too, ThunderShirt has a give back program where they donate money and product to various animal welfare organizations.
The Anxiety Wrap utilizes an acupressure technique with gentle and constant pressure that helps lessen fear and stress in dogs. Their focus is on alleviating 5 of the most common dog conditions including fear, anxiety, shyness, insecurity and hyperactivity. This brand has actually been around since 2001 and was the original pressure wrap for dogs.
A study done by Tufts University found that 89% of pet owners found the wrap effective for thunderstorms.
Recent reviews of the product around the web seem to not be so great so we personally did not try this one, but some people do still find it works for their pets so it may be worth trying since they do offer a return policy of 45 days on their website.
You can check out some more recent reviews on Amazon.
Product care: the Anxiety Wrap is can be washed in cold water and then air dried for best care.
Sizing: the Anxiety Wrap is available in sizes Toy to X-Large fitting dogs with chest sizes from 10″ up to 39.5″ in circumference.
Material: the material is noted to be a custom blend of breathable, 4 way stretch fabric.
AKC Calming Coat
The AKC calming coat is a great option for your rescue dog who may come with some anxiety and fears. This was designed and created by the American Kennel Club and says it is effective in providing relief on car trips, vet visits, crate anxiety, thunderstorm fears and more.
You can check out some more recent reviews of the AKC Calming Coat on Amazon.
Product care: the AKC Calming Coat is easy to care for and is machine washable.
Sizing: there is a range of sizes available from the smallest to the largest dogs. Sizes run from XS – XL and fit dogs from 10 pounds to 100 pounds as per their sizing guide.
Material: the calming coat is made of spandex and cotton and features velcro closures
Mellow Shirt Anxiety Wrap
The Mellow Anxiety Wrap is the most affordable option in our summary but there are some who feel the quality is definitely affected by that lower cost as compared with the more expensive options.
You can see what customers think of the Mellow Shirt Anxiety Wrap – there are some mixed reviews as expected with a product like this.
Product care: the Mellow Shirt is easy to care for and is machine washable.
Sizing: the sizes available range from xxs – xl and fit dogs from under 7 pounds to 110 pounds with a chest circumference range of 9″ to 37″.
Material: the Mellow Shirt anxiety wrap is 90% polyester and 10% spandex with velcro closures.
This one is a little different in that it is not a vest or a body wrap of any type but basically it is a head wrap that uses a more gentle compression to calm dogs. The Happy Hoodie was originally created by groomers for groomers but it has become more popular as an easy option to help calm dogs.
The Happy Hoodie was created to help alleviate the stresses that come with a dogs grooming experience, most notably the blow drying experience which can be loud and scary to dogs.
You can see what customers think of the Happy Hoodie on Amazon – and it is safe to say most are pretty happy.
The reviews show that a few have tried the Happy Hoodie to keep the anxiety down during fireworks and thunderstorms – and although on its own may not keep your dog stress free, when combined with other options it can help a great deal. A few did not that just using this on their pooches made a big difference.
DIY Anxiety Wrap For Dogs
While this is not an option we would recommend, we did want to include this since we found a lot people have tried it and have had some success. Some of the reasons we do not really endorse it include:
- The compression may not be consistent enough to help your pet
- Materials can cause issues with your pets skin or fur – like chaffing or pulling
- It is more time consuming to do it yourself than have a pre-made wrap or vest
- You do not get the “full” body coverage that vests do which can minimize the purpose of it
Many have used a scarf or some type of stretchy fabric like an ACE bandage to create their own wrap with some success and we found a great article on BarkPost with techniques you can use to make your own.
Here is a video that also shows how to do it on your own – looks might easy doesn’t it — well if you have a dog that behaves as well as the one in the video does!
How Do I Properly Measure My Dog
For most of these anxiety vest options – measuring your dog can make all the difference in whether the vest will work or not. If the vest is too small your dog will be very uncomfortable – it it is too big they will not get the full effect of the pressure they need to feel the relief.
This video will help you understand how to properly measure your dog to purchase the right size!
Have You Tried A Vest For Your Dog’s Anxiety And Had Success?
Like I mentioned earlier – I tried the ThunderShirt for Cleo – but it had not affect on her. I am confident we had the right size and placed it on her properly, but she was still a nervous wreck. We tried a few different times before giving up.
Have you had any luck with any of the above options?
We want to hear your stories so we can offer an unbiased view of what is working or not working int he world of anxiety vests for dogs!