The use of anti-anxiety vests, calming wearables and body wraps for dogs with anxiety and other ailments have grown increasingly popular.
There are various brands and styles of wearable anxiety relief, from DIY versions to T-shirts to full body suits. Just how effective are these wearables for helping your anxious dog?
Anti-Anxiety wraps are vest-like garments designed to calm anxious dogs. The vests work under the theory that pressure applied to the dog’s torso causes a calming effect like swaddling a crying infant or hugging a distressed person.
What causes anxiety in dogs?
Anxiety in dogs can be triggered by a great number of external stimuli. Dogs often fear loud noises (e.g. thunder), household visitors, nail trimming, car travel, vacuum cleaners, or separation from their owners. Fear of thunderstorms is a common cause of anxiety in dogs because there are so many stimuli associated with bad weather.
For starters, a thunderclap is as scary as the bang of a firecracker. In addition, dogs become anxious when they see lightning bolts or hear the constant pounding of rain on the roof. Dogs can detect changes in barometric pressure and the ozone content of the air (a side effect of lightning) that occur during storms. And if they receive a shock from the buildup of static electricity, dogs really become nervous. It’s no wonder why so many dogs suffer from “storm phobia.”
What are the results of anxiety?
When it comes to anxiety, there are just as many responses as there are sources. Anxious dogs may tremble, pant, whine, or bark. Many are restless and pace constantly. Others become destructive and paw the door, windowsill, or floor. Some seek the comfort of their owners while others hide in the closet or bathroom, preferring to be in confined areas. Outside dog’s scale fences or can breach the boundary of fences and bolt.
High anxiety is miserable for dogs and the results can be dangerous. Dogs that break out of the house may get lost or hit by a car. Even inside dogs can be hurt by clawing incessantly, injuring their nails and paws.
Will a Calming Vest Work for Your Dog?
If you are looking to try an anti-anxiety vest to help your dog’s separation anxiety, you may see some improvement in your dog’s behavior when left alone or you may not. Based on independent studies done by manufacturers, owners reported varying success with the use of these products, and anxiety symptoms have not been measured with specific data points, rather simply relying on owner evaluation.
Wearable Anti-anxiety vests and wraps have been shown to be effective in lowering a pet’s heart rate, so if your dog suffers from other medical issues this can be a helpful stress reduction tool, but there has been no proof of actual resolution of separation anxiety. A calming wrap might not be enough of a relief if a dog suffers from a more severe level of anxiety or fear. However, there is no harm in using an anti-anxiety vest on your dog since it has no known harmful side effects.
It is important to keep in mind, when exploring calming wearable options for your anxious dog, they must be wearing it for it to have any possible impact on their anxiety levels. If you forget to put it on your dog before you leave, they will still feel anxious when you are gone, no matter how many times they have worn the calming vest before.
How to Help Your Dog Feel Comfortable Wearing an Anti-Anxiety Vest
In most cases, you can introduce a calming vest to your dog with ease and
minimal conditioning needed for your dog to feel comfortable wearing something new. If you have a dog that is uncomfortable wearing a harness or other types of dog clothing, you should take some time to introduce the calming vest in a positive way.
Start slowly, just showing the vest to your dog and then pairing it with something positive such as a treat, a game of tug or a belly rub. The first time you put it on your dog, simply lay it over their body and then take it off, all the while providing them positive reinforcement. You can start to increase the amount of time they are wearing the vest and introduce tighter pressure by adjusting the fit slowly.
Ensure that your dog’s calming shirt is fit properly. You do not want them to chew on, rip or swallow it, as this can cause dangerous gastrointestinal obstructions and an expensive trip to your veterinarian.
If you are using a calming vest for separation anxiety, avoid making it a trigger for your dog’s anxious behaviors. If you only put it on your dog before you leave, your dog will make the association that the vest means you are leaving them. To prevent this, have them wear their vest at various times when you are not leaving them alone.
What’s the best approach?
Handling phobias is difficult for pet owners and for the anxious pet. After watching a terrified dog struggle through a thunderstorm, people are willing to try just about anything.
Here are some tips to help you help your nervous dog:
Be there. Most dogs panic even more when they are all alone. If your dog is afraid of nail trims, car rides, visitors or fireworks, stay at their side as they endures the stressful event. Talk to them in a soothing voice and pet them. Of course, you can’t be there every time it storms, so you have to be proactive. Watch the weather forecasts and consider doggy day care or placement with friend or family when bad weather is predicted, and you can’t be home.
Create a soothing environment. Designate a private spot in the house where your dog can retreat when visitors arrive. When it storms, place your dog in the most sound-resistant part of the house (an interior room without windows, such as a bathroom or closet).Sit with them if necessary or give them a favored toy. Turn on the TV or radio to deflect outside noise. Try a nesting style calming bed, where they can curl up and feel safe. Install a calming pheromone diffuser in the house.
Stay calm. Your dog will respond to your emotional state. If you are frightened or frustrated, keep it to yourself. Be upbeat as you speak to your dog and don’t make a big deal out of the situation. Your dog will look to you for reassurance, but don’t overindulge them with hugs and kisses which will only reinforce the behavior.
With a little effort, a lot of patience, the advice of veterinary professionals, and a new anxiety wrap, you and your dog may successfully weather the storm and find their calm happy place.