Maya is a Belgian Malinois mix we got from a local shelter when she was no more than 12 weeks old. When we met her she got our attention by being a bit aloof and indifferent to all the activity of the 14 other puppies in the shelter with her. We had no clue she was a Malinois and really knew nothing of the breed. And we’re certainly not making any claims about her behavior being indicative of the breed. They are wonderful working dogs trusted by many for such high stress jobs such as rescue, guard, police, and even bomb sniffing and combat. In fact, they are the dog of choice of the US Secret Service and also serve on Seal Teams.
Our beautiful and sweet Maya the Malinois is not suited for any of those jobs. She does not like noise and too much excitement is very disturbing for her. She hates thunder and fireworks, and can’t even handle when small groups of folks get loud, such as when playing games, watching sports, etc. We often tease her that she was at the shelter since she immediately flunked out of police-dog school. We like to say she carries the weight of the world on those big beautiful ears of hers. She is incredibly sweet, loves meeting new people, is extremely intuitive and can pick up on the energy of the room in an instant.
Unfortunately, her sensitive nature also means she suffers from anxiety. We’ve been fortunate that we have not needed to resort to medications, but it has come close. We’ve done the natural treats, both edible and liquid. We’ve tried the pheromone oils and sprays. All of these have worked to an extent, but nothing has been as effective and reliable as her ThunderShirt.
We lovingly call it her tactical vest. We could call it her snuggy or blankie, but that’s just demeaning for such a bad-ass dog. We first used it for it’s original intent – thunderstorms. It worked so well we now use it whenever she starts getting stressed over any other situations. Just this past week we had her beagle-cousins staying with us for seven nights. Everyone gets along just fine but it is a disruption to the usual routine and attention must be shared. On the last night we guess Maya had had enough and she started stressing. It manifests as trembling, whining, and often trying to stay right between our legs – even when we’re walking.
This incident, however, got a bit worse and she was acting as if every step hurt. We actually thought she had maybe broken her back or at the very least had taken a serious hit to her ribs or something. Since the vest is kind of like a compression wrap, we put it on in an effort to help with what we thought were these other possible injuries. As soon as it was on she started to calm down. Turns out she wasn’t injured at all, and it was all just stress, and the ThunderShirt helped.
Fastening side of ThunderShirt
Some ThunderShirt tips
- Get the right size. Maya is 60 lbs and wears a Large. It fits perfect and given the design she could easily be a few inches plus or minus in all dimensions and it would still fit.
- Don’t only use it when needed. In fact, first start to use it on random occasions and ideally associated with fun activities. You don’t want to have it come out only when there is a storm or other frightening situation. Then, whenever possible, put it on before situations arise. If it’s the 4th of July, or your neighbors are doing construction, or a storm is in the forecast, be proactive.
- Put it on snug/tight. It’s made of mostly cotton and can stretch and is really quite easy to put on. It’s adjustable and uses several strong velcro strips to hold together.
Wonder if it will work for your dog?
Try this. The next time your dog is exhibiting signs of anxiety see if wrapping your arms around them and giving them a hug by holding them firmly and close to your body, has a positive effect. When Maya is trembling, we would do this and notice she would calm down, even for just a little bit. The ThunderShirt is like a continual hug. Just be careful and don’t also start using your sing-song baby voice telling them everything is okay, will be alright, etc. (This actually has a negative effect and your use of this new voice confirms with your dog that there is, indeed, something to be worried about. Just speak to them in a normal and calm voice.)