Thursday, August 23, 2012


I believe that there will be some of you who have purchased the Thundershirt who are not sure how to put it on. So here's a video to show you how it should be done.

The neck straps should just fit comfortably, while the body should fit very snugly.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


This afternoon, while I was at my vet's office, a sweet little cocker spaniel came up to me for a cuddle. He looked really old. I thought he must have been at least 12 or more. Anyway, his owner and I started chatting and I discovered that he was only 6 years old but was suffering from epilepsy, which clearly has taken it's toll on this poor dog.

I personally have used the Thundershirt on a couple of my rescued dogs that were critically ill and saw amazing results. I also knew that the Thundershirt has been used by many trainers and holistic practitioners overseas to help in the healing process of dogs that were seriously ill.

Anyway, in this post, I am republishing an article by Mary A Gilbreth (Ph. D) in which she describes how the Thundershirt was used to help reduce the effects of seizures in epileptic dogs.  

Please note that the Thundershirt is not to be used as a replacement for medications prescribed by your vet.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety Associated with Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders

As the owner/care-giver of a dog who has experienced seizures since 2004, I am very familiar with the medical and emotional challenges presented by this complex condition. While a caregiverʼs primary focus is controlling the frequency of seizures, a second yet equally important focus is reducing the overall stress and anxiety of our epileptic pets. Maintaining overall health is still another important focus since many epileptic animals take high doses of anti-seizure medication(s) on a daily basis and usually do so for the rest of their life.

In addition to the seizures themselves, many epileptic dogs exhibit stress and anxiety behaviors such as general restlessness, periods of pacing, interrupted sleep during the night, a constant search for things to eat, and periods of neediness, staying “extra close” to their care-giver. Unfortunately, and similar to the seizures, these stress behaviors often persist and/or re-appear even after a dog begins a regimen of anti-seizure medication(s).

Given that many epileptic dogs are on high doses of anti-seizure medication and/or already take a combination of two or more drugs, the identification of safe, effective, stand-alone or supplemental care-giving methods that do not require additional medication is highly desired. The following approach to reduce epilepsy- and seizure-related stress and anxiety is drug-free and involves use of a Thundershirt either by itself or with an engaging food toy. This information comes directly from my experience in helping my epileptic Golden, GingerPeach, and has successfully reduced the intensity and duration of her:
  1. general restlessness and pacing;
  2. inability to sleep through the night;
  3. general anxiety (e.g., pawing, a need to be “very close”);
  4. restlessness and pacing associated with the post-ictal phase; and
  5. mild to moderate seizure activity/symptoms (e.g., twitching of eyes, ears, ” and/or mouth, involuntary jerking of the head and paws, snapping ” of the jaws, staggering and loss of balance).


At the first signs of stress behavior, seizure activity, or after a grand mal seizure - place the Thundershirt on your dog (details on Thundershirt packaging) and keep it on him until the stress behavior or symptoms diminish (e.g., 30 minutes to overnight).

Please remember YOUR energy and mood affects your dog. Please do your best to stay calm and relaxed during your dogʼs seizures and stress behaviors. Also, be sure your dog is already accustomed to and enjoys wearing his Thundershirt.

For post-ictal phase, and for mild seizure symptoms or mild stress behavior (e.g., twitching of ears, eyes, minor panting, minor pacing) – simply wrapping your dog in his Thundershirt will often suffice. Within several minutes, your dog should settle and might also take a nap.

For restlessness during the night - have your dog wear his Thundershirt to bed at night (doggie pajamas!). Experiment to see how many nights a week work best for your dog.

For prolonged post-ictal phase, and for moderate to intense seizure symptoms or stress behavior (e.g., loss of balance, stumbling, odd gait, jerking movements of the head, limbs, jaws, crouching, prolonged pacing) – place the Thundershirt on your dog, and help him become engaged with a treat-filled2 food toy. My current choice is Kongʼs Wobbler3, its movements are very engaging, the treats dispense with relative ease, and the “jingling” sounds of the dry treats inside seem to really capture the dogʼs attention.

To see real-time before and after effects of a Thundershirt and a Kong Wobbler on GingerPeachʼs moderate seizure symptoms, see (youtube channel “plumwoodposse”, video “Focal Seizure GingerPeach Thundershirt, Kong Wobbler”).

~ Best Wishes to you and your Dog ~

About the Author

Mary A. Gilbreth, PhD, CPDT, is passionate about improving the relationships and communication between humans and their canine companions.  The owner of SMART DOGS Dog Training in Van Buren, Arkansas, Mary specializes in the modification of reactive and fearful behavior but also teaches a range of dog training topics.  Mary is an active member of many organizations including Association of Animal Behavior Professionals, Association of Pet Dog Trainers (State Greeter for Arkansas), Therapy Dogs International, and Dog Scouts of America (Troop Leader).  She currently shares her home with five clicker-trained rescue dogs and one northern diamondback terrapin who patiently awaits his first clicker training lesson.  SMART DOGS offers group classes, private sessions and seminars, and is the first clicker training facility in the Van Buren/Ft Smith AR area.

SMART DOGS Dog Training & Behavior Consultation

For online information about canine epilepsy try, or

NOTE: the present information is not intended to be, nor should it replace, medical advice from a Veterinarian. If your Veterinarian has instructed you to give medication to your dog during any of the situations described above, please continue to do so. Do not modify any of your Veterinarianʼs instructions without his consultation and consent.

* There are many excellent food toys and puzzles on the market and you may need to try a few to find the one that works best for your dog in these situations. Introduce it to your dog when he is not already stressed or anxious.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dealing With Fireworks Anxiety

We are now half way through the month of Ramadhan, and most of us dog owners have already had to deal with our dogs' fear of fireworks in the evenings. With the Hari Raya celebrations fast approaching, we can be assured that the amount of fireworks that will be set off will only increase, and therefore potentially causing our dogs to experience high levels of stress and anxiety.

We would like to share with you an excerpt from Victoria Stillwell on how to deal with Fireweoks Anxiety.


Dealing With Fireworks Anxiety
By Victoria Stilwell

A lot of your dog’s misery can be avoided (or at least reduced) if you think ahead and begin the desensitization process with her well ahead of the big day. There are several steps you should take if you think your dog will have a bad reaction to the booms, whistles and pops that are the soundtrack to what the rest of us all consider a fun night.

Working with dogs that have a fear or phobia can be complex because even though some common fears can be successfully worked with, others are deeply ingrained and are therefore highly resistant to change. Recent reports have shown that 93% of dogs with noise phobias involved fear of thunder and other loud noises, including fireworks.Whether fear of fireworks is elicited by a singular traumatic experience or prolonged exposure, the result is often highly distressing for dogs and owners. Without extensive behavioural therapy and management strategies, phobias become deeply ingrained and even harder to change.

Unfortunately even one noisy celebration can turn a dog into a quivering wreck. Some dogs are so badly affected that they have an inability to function during and after a fireworks show. Many fireworks-phobic dogs adopt self-management strategies in order to cope. These strategies include attempting to escape the home, digging into carpets, seeking out dark den-like spaces to hide in, or crawling behind a bathroom sink or toilet. Others will pace back and forth during the episode, unable to focus on owners who are desperately attempting to calm them down. Stress is also manifested through excessive panting, pupil dilation, sweating paws, raised heartbeat, loss of appetite, whimpering, trembling and an inability to settle.

One thing that can sometimes make behavioral modification in fireworks cases a bit easier than with thunderstorms is that thunderstorms are not easy to predict or control. A dog usually knows that a storm is coming long before an owner and becomes increasingly panicked as the storm approaches. Regardless, as with all training techniques, I have learned that treating every dog as an individual is of utmost importance and that modification and management is more likely to succeed if time is spent tailoring the training to each specific dog.

Conditioning a dog to feel differently about the sound of fireworks can be achieved by gradually exposing the dog to audio recordings of fireworks at low volume levels and, if the dog appears relaxed, playing his favorite game or feeding him his favorite food. Allowing the dog to play and relax in the presence of the soft noise for a period of ten minutes, taking a break of five minutes and repeating the exercise ensures that the dog doesn’t become bored with the training. Introducing the audio at a low level again and slowly turning up the volume if the dog continues to be relaxed and able to concentrate on playing the game or eating the food allows the dog to habituate to the noise without a fear response. If the dog shows signs of stress, going back to the previous level and building up the noise level again will take pressure off the dog. The object of noise desensitization is to gradually expose the dog to louder and louder sounds over a period of time, progress being determined by the dog’s reactions. Going too fast might make the dog even more frightened, so taking things slowly will ensure maximum benefit from the process.

Gradually exposing the dog to flashes of light that grow in intensity can be another part of therapy, but one that can be harder to implement. I have found that these therapies are often not as effective as noise desensitization. Some dogs will respond well to all of the above therapies, but will become panicked when the real fireworks start. It is therefore important to tackle this phobia in other ways by using effective management strategies and by masking any audio and visual stimuli that elicit a fear response during an episode.

The most important thing an owner can do for their fireworks-phobic dog is to provide them with a bolt hole – a place where the dog can escape to when the festivities begin. Providing the dog access to this safe place is essential at all times, particularly during an owner’s absence. This might be a closet, bathroom or a basement, the best places usually being the ones that have no windows, but with plenty of artificial light (to mask flashes of fireworks). Music can be played close to the safe haven so that sounds can be masked. It is also essential that if an owner is present, time be spent with the dog in the safe haven or attention given to the dog if it comes to seek comfort from its owner. Far from reinforcing fearful behavior, an owner’s comforting arm and presence can help a phobic dog to cope as long as the owner remains calm at all times.
Some phobic dogs benefit from calming therapies such as T-touch, Thundershirts, and Bach Flower Essences, while others do much better on anti-anxiety medication that can be given just before the fireworks start. It is vital, however, that behavioral therapy and management are always given along with any medications in order to give the dog the best possible chance of rehabilitation.

I’m very excited about some pretty groundbreaking work that I’ve been doing lately on a project to help dogs with phobias like these, and I hope to be able to announce something about that soon. In the meantime, fireworks phobia can be a tough condition to treat, but trying a variety of therapies and techniques can improve a dog’s ability to cope when the big ones come.