We didn’t know much about dog anxiety until our newly adopted Rhodesian Ridgeback chewed through her metal crate. The crate wasn’t used often because Abbey clearly hated it. In fact, it didn’t last two months before our one year old girl escaped its clutches. Eventually we realized she wasn’t exactly hating the crate. She was dealing with separation anxiety, and the crate was adding fuel to the fire.
I did some research and learned many dogs deal with separation anxiety issues. Dog anxiety is also prevalent during thunderstorms. The actual cause of the anxiety has been widely debated, but many dogs are medicated to reduce or eliminate it. In our area anxiety is probably at its peak on the fourth of July. Many dogs cannot handle the fireworks, and some neighbors post about sedating them.
How Do You Cure Dog Anxiety?
We decided not to deal with medication. Here in San Antonio, fireworks are illegal inside city limits, but they go off all night nonetheless. The last fourth of July was very hot, but we took an adventure outside of the city. We visited three Texas State Parks in the same day, and avoided the fireworks. Dog anxiety cannot exist, I thought, if we avoid the cause. If you live in San Antonio, there are several places you can take your dog to avoid the fireworks.
- Hill Country State Natural Area
- Guadalupe River State Park
- Lost Maples State Natural Area
- Enchanted Rock State Park
- Medina River Natural Area
- LBJ State Park and Ranch
- Pedernales Falls State Park
Finding places to take your dog where there will not be fireworks is a great way to eliminate dog anxiety. However, thunderstorms cannot be avoided so easily. Many dogs run for cover into bath tubs, or underneath beds. For some reason, Abbey lays down in the corner of the kitchen. The corner she chooses is near the center of the house, but it is surrounded by cabinets and tile backsplash.
The Mellow Shirt
What do you do with your dog when a storm leads to dog anxiety? For us, this is where the Mellow Shirt came in to work its magic. One Christmas we received several doggy gifts for Abbey. The Mellow Shirt was one of these gifts (thanks mom!). The shirt is more of a wrap and is very easy to apply. It wraps around the chest and ribs just like some harnesses. I call it the amazing thunder wrap because Abbey falls asleep instantly during a storm.
Dogs can hear the low rumblings in the sky and feel the change in pressure before we can. It doesn’t storm often here in San Antonio, but dog anxiety gives it away when it does. Before a storm hits, Abbey will stare up at the ceiling while standing still. She will also stand, or lay down in a specific corner of the kitchen. I used to ask her “what’s wrong girl?”, but the rumbles of thunder answered back instead.
Some people believe it is the static electricity making dogs uncomfortable instead of the thunder. I’ve read that some people rub their dogs down with dryer cloths meant to reduce static. However, dog trainers often advise against giving your dog attention because it “rewards” the anxious behavior. I don’t know about either of those things, but I do know the Mellow Shirt is a cure for dog anxiety in our house.
Benefits of Wrapping Up
I cannot tell you how the Mellow Shirt works so well. I suppose it’s similar to being hugged or comforted. It’s a very simple, but spectacular invention. I’m sure there are all kinds of brands out there. You could even make your own version if you are strapped for cash. Simply grab some clothing and a few clothes pins. Dog anxiety be gone! Here are several of the benefits of the Mellow Shirt I have noticed:
- Prevent separation anxiety
- Reduce anxiety during storms and fireworks
- Retains body heat
- Sleep easier
When we adopted Abbey we quickly learned she did not like being alone. She doesn’t seem to have any separation anxiety any longer, but early on we wrapped her in the Mellow Shirt while leaving her at home. In addition to using the wrap during storms, Abbey also wears it around the house in the winter to keep warm. She’s a Texas dog, so she prefers to sunbathe when it’s 90 degrees outside. 50 degrees is kind of cold in her world.
Specs: Our wrap is a large, but Abbey could wear a medium. She is 60 pounds with very short fur. The wrap is 90% polyester and 10% spandex. It connects underneath the body, and around the front with velcro.
The Mellow Shirt allows Abbey to fall asleep during a storm, and that is probably its best quality. Of course, I cannot guarantee it will cure dog anxiety in your house, but it won’t hurt to try. It definitely works for us. It’s inexpensive and easy to use. Your dog has nothing to lose but the anxiety. If you’d like to purchase one for your dog you can find it on our Shop Page.
I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it.
We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site.
Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly. I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.