Thundershirt HoOo

Published December 19, 2011 by Shearaha

So Wilfred’s had yet another busy week. No walks except for potty unfortunately. The weather has just been miserable, rain, snow, sleet and slush. Makes hiking in the woods nearly impossible and Wilfred can’t really walk on the bike/hike trails since he’s still too reactive. But we’ve had lots of fun with puzzle toys; tug and we’ve started on a new trick that requires him to exert some control over himself, and lots of long trips.

 On Wednesday the 14th we went down to Columbus Ohio with Jennifer, my mentor and Will’s trainer, her dog Tova her foster ACD puppy Artie (since adopted) and one of her client dogs Handsome Rob. We were going to PosiDog ( for a trainer get together that Jennifer attends almost weekly. It’s a time for the trainers there and other professional trainers to get together and work on their own dogs for a change. Wilfred needs to get out more and meet more people so it was a perfect opportunity for us.

Our goal was much the same as it was for our trip to the Behavior Clinic, get in the door and try and get his excitement level down to the point where he may listen to a cue. PosiDog has a wonderful training space that allowed Wilfred and I to have a decent amount of distance between us and the peanut gallery.

First trip in we went to the far side and just did click and treat for looking at the people period. We did 2-3 minutes and then went back to the van while other people worked their dogs. These dogs put me to shame. Of course these folks are also training their dogs for competition, and they’ve had their dogs much longer then I’ve had Wilfred.

Second trip we went to the same spot in the room and started with the same click and treat for looking at the scary people. Then I asked him for a sit. And he did it! I was so proud. I let him get out to the end of his 6ft lead and he recalled back! I know 6ft isn’t that far, but for Wilfred under that much stress from new people to not only recall but sit afterwards was awesome! Then he went back into the van for a break.

Third trip I upped the ante big time and halved the distance between us and the people. He was much calmer to start with this time and this time I had Jennifer post for us. Just in case it was too much for him and therefore me to handle him and all my treats and clicker. But he did great. He sat on cue, looked at the people without major reactivity and just before he left he leaned into me into belly rub posture and asked for a belly rub. He got one and then back out to the van. Thought about bringing him back in for a fourth visit, but we had a 3 hour drive ahead of us to get home and I had work the next morning, so that’s where we ended with Will. Jennifer had a chance to work both Tova and Rob (the client dog) a couple of times as well. I can’t wait for our next trip down!

Thursday and Friday were fairly uneventful. Just lousy weather and work. Saturday my MIL and I went to the annual dog show at the IX Center. We always have fun and I have a blast meeting all the different dogs. It seems like every year there’s a new breed I haven’t met yet, either an import or one that’s been around but not all that popular. I came home with duck feet and filled beef tracheas for Wilfred. He’s been playing around with the duck foot, but hasn’t really crunched it yet, and I’m planning on a piece of beef trachea tonight.

Sunday morning as I was getting ready for my day with Jennifer, Bella Cocaine, one of MILs cats got her head through the handle of a plastic bag. Don’t worry I did get it off of her before she hurt herself. She frightened herself and after 3 laps around the house had everyone else in the household frightened as well. Shearaha ran through Will’s tether area and when Hubby tried to stop him from chasing her Hubby’s had got smashed between Wilfred’s thick head and the computer chair Hubby was sitting in.

Hubby was understandably upset, so I called Jennifer to see if I could bring Will with that day. She had a full van with all of her dogs and her long term foster in it, but she agreed to drop off Asher, her 8yr old intact male Rottweiler, and Shay, her goofy Collie, at her house after puppy class. So Will got loaded up into my car before he’d really had a chance to calm down after the cats went nuts(mistake number 1), he hadn’t even gotten a chance to eat his morning Kong yet, and off we went to puppy class. Wilfred stayed in the car and then we followed Jennifer to her house.

Once there she took Asher and Shay inside and I loaded Will into the crate Asher had just vacated (mistake number 2) As soon as we started moving to go to the first in-home appointment of the day Wilfred started with his most pitiful whining and crying. Which really is unusual as he normally loves car rides, has ridden with Jennifer dozens of times and had just been in her van for the Columbus trip a few days before. So we put on some classical music to try and calm him down. It didn’t work.

Went to the first appointment, as soon as we were back in the car he started up again. And we’re both going “Why is he doing this?” There was a decent break between appointments so I decided that we should stop and try a Thundershirt for him ( the first place we stopped was closed on Sundays. So we headed to the next place a wonderful family owned specialty pet store The Pet Loft ( where they also sell Thundershirts. As we pulled into the parking lot Wilfred had diarrhea in the crate. All over the comforter and out into the back of Jennifer’s van as well. So I took Will out behind the store for a potty break while Jennifer cleaned ( I felt so bad I should have been the one cleaning up my dogs mess ) Then we popped him back in sans comforter and went to get a Thundershirt.

We got inside and they were all out of larges, Wilfred’s size, but lucky for us the owner came in shortly after and pointed out the 2 returns they had in back getting ready to be sent back to the manufacturer for repackaging. I didn’t care at that point I just wanted one so I bought it. Jennifer and I put it on Will in the parking lot. You could see how much more relaxed he was as soon as it was on. Put him back in the crate and he was laying down taking a nap before we left the parking lot.

After all that crying had stopped (thank you Thundershirt) I thought about it and realized that I had put my anxious neutered male in the same crate that Jennifer’s’ uber confident intact male had just come out of. Right next to her intact female who’d just come out of heat and was still being “bitchy”. I hadn’t given him his own crate mat, or anything with his smell on it, on a day where he was already freaked out thanks to Bella Cocaine that morning. No wonder he was crying and anxious and miserable.

I left the Thundershirt on until we got home Sunday night. I let him eat his dinner from a bowl, he’d had enough mental stimulation that I wasn’t going to make him work for his dinner that night. And just as I was about to take off the Thundershirt our neighbors came home. Now Will does not like the neighbors, simply because they’re the neighbors. They come and go on no discernable schedule and make lots of noise at odd hours. I don’t know how much was the Thundershirt and how much was Will just being tired, but he didn’t even seem to notice them. No visible reaction whatsoever, when normally their departures and arrivals are met with incessant barking, intermittent growling and standing as close to the door as his tether will allow. Nothing. I don’t think he even glanced at them. And when I went to take it off of him he kept turning his head around like he was going to grab my hands and stop me. I don’t think he wanted me to take it off.

This morning I decided to put it on to see if he reacted to MIL differently when she comes in to potty him at 11:30. I opened it up to put it on him and he dove into it. He acted like he couldn’t wait to get it on. I’m sold. Completely. I was sold on them before just because of what I’ve seen with some of Jennifer’s client dogs, but Wilfred obviously loves it. Now to see if I can talk MIL into using it for her dog Phoenix…

I’ve been bad though and we haven’t gotten any farther with the muzzle training. I keep leaving it in the car since I take it with me just in case every time we go somewhere where Will may be in a confined space with unfamiliar people.


2 comments on “Thundershirt HoOo

  • Hey! Good work! Glad to hear you care so much about your dog! I also have a reactive dog blog, and it can be stressful, but totally worth it! Yes, the thundershirt def does help! At first my dog didn’t like it, but after a while she was so calm and would fall asleep every time I put it on! Good work!

  • You seem to have your hands full but are working to help Wilfred become a calm and secure pup. Good for you! I’ve been wondering about the Thundershirt since seeing it on TV. I never trust those ads–and wait, there’s more. You’ll get 2 for the price of 1, free shipping, and a trip to the Bahamas–so I appreciate hearing from people who has actually used it.

    My 6 yr old lab mix is wound as tight as a top, and like a top she spins everywhere, literally. She barks at the neighbors and anyone and anything that moves outside our front window. She becomes so frantic, I can’t even get her attention. Maybe I’ll try the thundershirt.

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