All dogs have their own stress-inducing stimuli and sometimes, even with the best training, they just can’t fight it. The best dog anxiety vests and stress-relief wraps are here for these situations where only a reassuring touch will soothe the dog, a bit like swaddling an infant.
No miracle here, there is actual science behind these stylish yet magically soothing anxiety vests for dogs. We’re first going to explain to you how they work and finish the article with our recommendations for the best thundershirt for dogs!
What Is Dog Anxiety?
Stress can occur not just in humans, but also to pets such as cats and dogs. Anxiety can occur in your pet if he or she has gone through some sort of traumatic experience or a lack of socialization. This is usually displayed through anxious behaviors such as shaking, urinating in the wrong place (such as in the house), easily running away, constantly licking or biting and other odd habits. Destructive behaviors are the worst but also the rarest from my experience.
Dog anxiety is something that not most beginner pet owners know, and yet it is very important. Just like us, dogs can get scared, angry or sad over something, and it is usually hard to calm them down because animals can’t speak human language.
This is why the dog anxiety vest has been invented.
How Do Dog Anxiety Wraps Work?
Dog anxiety vests work by helping your dog stay calm when they are anxious, using compression to offer a sense of reassurance. A bit like a calming hug for your pet, the vest has a specific sensation that dogs find very soothing even in times of stress or when at places that he or she doesn’t like (crate, alone at home, etc.)
Dog anxiety vests make dogs feel like someone is holding them all the time to keep them safe and sound. It’s pretty similar to the concept of a mother holding her baby for reassurance.
When To Use a Dog Anxiety Vest?
Dog thunder shirts or anxiety vests are perhaps best used when a big thunderstorm is coming up, during the Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve, or basically in any situation where loud noise would be a potential source of stress. Fear of the storm is not something only kids have – even dogs and pets show signs of distress when it’s happening!
Most pets can be easily startled, and it’s not just dogs and cats, most animals have the same natural reflex that gets triggered because it’s an instinctive survival mechanism. However, in some dogs, reactions are exaggerated and measures have to be taken: these can be through drugs and calming aids, or using a drug-free solution like a thundershirt.
Training is a great long-term solution but often, these stress-inducing events happen all of a sudden and it’s hard to get dogs used to them.
In addition to that, some dog shelters, veterinarians and professionals often use a dog anxiety vest to help calm down an anxious dog, therefore, avoiding a prescription pill. For instance:
- Dog shelters can use it for canines they have rescued, who may be victims of abuse.
- Vets can use it to help calm down their dog patients when administering medicine or shots.
- Trainers will benefit from these vests to help a socially awkward dog gain self-confidence.
- Dog breeders might also use it to help correct their pet’s shy behavior.
- In the same way, owners may also use it for a dog who has separation anxiety.
How To Choose the Right Dog Anxiety Vest?
Even if one brand is clearly driving and leading the market, there are some important characteristics you should have in mind while considering your options. Ideally, you want a dog stress relief jacket that includes all the below.
Fitting and Compression
Make sure the dog anxiety coat is not too tight nor too loose for your dog. Having an overly tight dog vest can actually cause more tension for your dog and may restrict its movements. A lot of vests out there have size indications stated for the weight of your dog, so it pays to know how heavy your dog is.
Do consider a weighted vest that has a wide range of sizes available, so that you can pick the one that is just right for your dog breed and weight. Some simply indicate “small” or “XL” but you won’t know what it means until you find a size chart from the manufacturer, listing both the size name to the height and weight of the dog that would fit it.
Velcro straps are the best way to fasten up your dog to the anxiety vest. Buckles don’t really exist anymore because the buckles themselves were somewhat uncomfortable for the dogs. Nonetheless, having reliable closing straps ensures that your dog’s vest stays put and keeps your pet wrapped in comfort and relief at all times, especially when outdoors.
Materials and Fabric
Like what we mentioned above, it pays to know what kind of material your dog anxiety vest is made of.
Perhaps the best kind of material to have for a dog anxiety vest would be polyester. This is because it can stand up to rough wear and tear yet provide flexibility for your dog. Cotton is a good choice for those who value comfort the most while nylon is ideal for extreme durability.
Having a little bit of each of them in a dog vest is regularly the case and totally fine. Also, it is important that you put a balance between breathability and durability so that your pet won’t feel bulky all the time with the anxiety vest.
The softness of the dog anxiety vest depends on its material composition. Cotton-based vests are the softest while polyester and nylon fall to second and third place. Having a soft anxiety vest for your dog is a good thing because it will put some comfort for your pet, making it easier for him or her to stay positive at all times. Remember that the magic of dog anxiety wraps is in the compression, not the softness.
The materials that are usually the backbone of your dog anxiety vest would be something that is a mix of cotton and polyester and may also contain nylon, or any of those materials individually. Cotton-made vests require a different cleaning method than polyester and nylon vests.
Always consider the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean it up without damaging it. Machine washable dog anxiety vests are the best to have and are ideal for people who even rarely have time to do laundry and want an easy to maintain dog vest.
While not really important for some people, it can actually make a difference for most owners in a neighborhood with similar dog breeds, so that it will be easier for you to tell apart from your dog from the rest through the color of his or her anxiety vest.
Because such item is closer to a medical piece of equipment rather than a fashion accessory, we really recommend you to put zero weight on the style of the jacket but instead focus on budget and additional features.
Top 5 Best Dog Anxiety Vests
Usually, we go for a top 5 but this time there was no need since all the best contenders are here, and there are only four of them plus a do it yourself. The best dog anxiety vests are looking mostly the same but it’s all about the manufacturing quality, fabric, and little extras. Obviously, a compression wrap has to offer the perfect fit, and touch, to keep your dog reassured.
1. ThunderShirt Classic Dog Anxiety Jacket
If somebody recommends you to buy your dog a stress-relief coat, they are talking about this exact brand, ThunderShirt, and this particular model, the Classic. They sold tens of thousands of them with incredibly positive ratings all over the web. The ThunderShirt Classic is the basic model that will suit most dogs with 7 sizes and 1 one color, black.
Over the years, ThunderShirt has managed to perfect the product:
- easy to put on and off — two parts to wrap and attach through pressure and within seconds
- anti-hair fabric — they used a particular fabric that doesn’t collect much dog hair
- machine washable — easy to clean to keep the ThunderShirt fresh for longer
- years of usage — the brands says it should last for your dog’s lifetime as a minimum
- perfected snuggling — years spent perfecting that soothing touch and it’s simply the best
If there was to be a single item to recommend, it would be it, and it’s not even close. The ThunderShirt brand is committed to having that niche expertise which in turn, translates into dominating their market.
2. AKC Stress Relief Calming Coat for Dogs
Vouched by the American Kennel Club and branded with its logo, this is to me a copy of the great quality of the world-famous famous ThunderShirt. This model works very well, but the branding might have inflated the price quite a bit. The American Kennel Club is the most famous dog-focused organization in North America (perhaps in the world, too). They can easily get away with bold prices.
The quality is good, with a similar two-spot wrapping to offer a firm and comforting hold for anxious dogs. A lot of veterinarians have started recommending this model over the ThunderShirt, but something is telling me that it has nothing to do with manufacturing standards.
If you can afford it and have your dog proudly registered with the American Kennel Club, feel free to go ahead, you won’t go wrong.
3. ThunderShirt Sport Dog Anxiety Jacket
The above anxiety coats are mainly for regular dogs who aren’t very active, mainly staying indoors at home. If your dog is the running type, you may want to favor the Sport fit from ThunderShirt, our favorite brand for dog calming vests. The cut and materials used have been slightly altered in order to allow for easy movement. Here, the idea is to make sure your dog can exercise as much as he/she wants as we all know the activity is the best drug-free stress-relief.
People really are skeptical about calming shirts for dogs but plenty of reviews (just check on Amazon) will clear your doubts. It does work and if your dog stays outdoors, for example overnight, this is the perfect anxiety wrap!
4. Mellow Shirt Dog Anxiety Calming Wrap
If budget is an issue and every dollar bill matters, you may want to get one of Mellow Shirt’s dog anxiety vests. They are roughly half the price of ThunderShirts and a third of the American Kennel Club’s price.
The system is very similar to the models previously reviewed and the consensus, from what we understand after reading hundreds of other customer reviews, is that the quality of manufacturing is slightly lower. It may last year a year or two rather than your dog’s lifetime.
If you are going to need a calming vest for dogs occasionally (e.g. few nights of a thunderstorm a year), the Mellow Shirt Anxiety Wrap might do just fine! However, if money isn’t an issue (we’re talking a few more dollars), then just go with the ThunderShirt Classic!
5. DIY Dog Anxiety Wrap
Making your own DIY thundershirt is usually not recommended for a handful of reasons:
- the quality of the compression is dependant on you therefore irregular
- the compression isn’t constant and will loosen after minutes
- the materials used aren’t adapted to a dog’s hair
- the minute or two it takes to make it can be annoying
If you still want to go ahead then it’s a matter of having a lot of bandage roll left or a scarf, and get the order of each movement right.
Detailed instructions and sewing tutorials are to be found online (Pinterest, YouTube) for those very much into a DIY thundershirt. Again, we recommend buying one of the above models: they are relatively cheap, well-conceived, and anxiety isn’t something to experiment with.