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Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

How to Make a DIY Stress Vest for Dogs

By: Kelli Rascoe

A brown dachshund with hazel eyes wrapped in a knit scarf.

There are a number of reasons why dog become scared or stressed, especially during summer. Between the loud bangs of fireworks and separation anxiety from family members leaving for vacation, your furry friend may be in need of some comfort. This is where a dog anxiety jacket, or ThunderShirt, can help.

What is a dog anxiety jacket?

A pet stress vest—better known as a dog anxiety jacket or ThunderShirt—is a vest that wraps around your pal and provides gentle, constant pressure. It’s basically a shirt that hugs your dog!

While more research is needed on the effectiveness of these jackets, an independent study from 2014 found that they significantly lowered the heart rates of dogs diagnosed with separation anxiety or generalized anxiety. In a different study from 2011, 87% of pet owners who used a ThunderShirt on their dogs reported that the jacket improved their pet’s anxious behavior during noisy events. At the same time, 77% reported that it improved signs of separation anxiety in dogs.

So, there’s a decent chance that a stress vest will help ease your dog’s anxiety symptoms. But instead of breaking the bank on a brand new one, you can try things out first with some easy DIY anxiety wraps at home.

How to make your own DIY ThunderShirt for dogs

A Boston terrier sits on a white bed wearing a blue sweater.

What you’ll need

There’s a good chance you already have some items laying around at home that can help you craft your own DIY ThunderShirt for your pup. For material, consider using the following:

  • Scarf
  • Fleece
  • Ace bandage
  • Blanket
  • Towel
  • Old T-shirt

Of course, you’ll want to take your dog’s breed and size into account here. A scarf may wrap easily around a pug, for example, but you may need a whole blanket for a Great Dane. Choose your material, grab a pair of scissors, and you’re on your way.

Steps to make the pet anxiety wrap

Now that you’ve decided on your material for pet anxiety wrap, where do you start?

  1. Start by holding the scarf or ace bandage out horizontally across your dog’s chest (if using an old shirt, blanket or towel, you’ll want to cut it into a long rectangle first that is twice the length of your pal). Pinpoint the middle of the strip and center it against your pup’s chest.
  2. Bring both ends of the material up on either side of your pal and criss-cross over the tops of her dog’s shoulders.
  3. Bring each end down and around, crossing the loose ends across your dog’s stomach.
  4. Bring the ends back up on each side and tie over the top of the lower back.
  5. Check to make sure your dog can still move and sit comfortably, then tuck and tie any remaining loose material as needed.

Depending on the type of material or your dog’s size you may have to modify steps for the ideal fit. More of a visual learner? There are some great pet anxiety wrap tutorials on YouTube that can help!

Long-term relief for dog anxiety

At the end of the day, you just want your best friend to be happy and healthy. Your DIY anxiety wrap may help comfort him, though it may be more effective alongside other efforts. For example, daily exercise can help ease pet anxiety. Take regular walks with your pet to provide your dog with some much-needed mental and physical stimulation.

Playtime at home is also important. If you know your pet will be around fireworks later in the evening, for instance, try to spend extra time during the day interacting and playing with your dog. Then, wrap them in the ThunderShirt and soothe them with some cuddle time prior to the loud noises starting.

When to talk with a veterinarian

Keep in mind that a dog anxiety wrap or ThunderShirt may be a good way to start addressing your pal’s stress, but it’s no substitute for a professional veterinary assessment. If you notice your furry friend acting anxious on a regular basis or the behavior seems to be worsening, it’s all the more important to make an appointment with his veterinarian.

Want some more useful tips for helping your dog this summer? Learn why dogs eat grass.

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We’re the official blog of Trupanion—chosen by veterinarians as the #1 pet insurance in America. Here you’ll find useful dog and cat care tips, interesting veterinary insights, and fun pet topics galore.

While you’re browsing our pet blog, please note that the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Trupanion. Our articles are reviewed by veterinarians for accuracy, but they are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Always consult with your own pet’s veterinarian for advice.

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