Cora and the Thundershirt

A couple of months ago, somewhat frustrated by Cora’s backsliding over the fall and early winter, we put Cora on anti-anxiety medication (Clomipramine). Several friends were subtly and kindly critical, mostly offering other suggestions: “Did you try this?” “How about that?”

However, we’ve tried many things to ease Cora’s fears:

  • Rescue Remedy
  • Larch
  • Obedience training (to boost her confidence)
  • Asking guests to ignore her (retraining, as explained in Debbie Jacobs’s Guide to Living with & Training a Fearful Dog)
  • Giving her a place of refuge
  • D.A.P. diffuser
  • D.A.P. collar

Cora in her safe spot

And for weeks before making the call to put Cora on Clomipramine, I searched the Internet for reviews of the Thundershirt, which I had thought might be our next step. People with dogs who are afraid of noises, have travel anxiety, or suffer from separation anxiety offered great feedback on it. Some people with fearful dogs saw sporadic results, but nothing that I read convinced me it was the way to go—not with Cora’s level of anxiety (and the fact that it’s more of a generalized anxiety).

After Cora’s first two weeks on Clomipramine, I wasn’t thrilled with her progress. Yes, we’d noticed some improvement, but it was minimal—and there was no improvement in her fear of strangers. I talked to the vet, who had also noticed her backslide over the previous months, and he agreed a larger dosage might help. He had begun Cora on 10 mg twice per day and increased that to 20 mg twice per day. She’s now been at that dose for five weeks.

Three weeks ago, still not thrilled with Cora’s progress, I decided to invest in the Thundershirt after all. I figured it couldn’t hurt and it might just help.

Doesn't Cora look sleek and sexy in her Thundershirt?

I picked up the Thundershirt on the Saturday of the Family Day long weekend. My aunt and uncle came to visit for the day and evening. Dusty and Hogan, of course, welcomed Uncle Paul and Aunt Carole enthusiastically. Cora hid. For five hours. But then she did come out, and she stayed out. On the Sunday, we had our card-playing friends over. Cora has seen them almost every week for nearly a year, and still she’s nervous about making an appearance. In her Thundershirt, it took her just over an hour to leave her safe spot, sooner than usual. On the Monday, we had our niece and her boyfriend over. Cora’s progress continued: She came out of hiding in less than an hour.

So, I give the Thundershirt some credit. Of course, we’re using it in conjunction with the Clomipramine, so it’s impossible to say how much of its seeming effectiveness has to do with the medication finally kicking in. But we’re continuing to put it on her before potentially stressful situations, and she’s continuing to make appearances when we have guests. It can’t hurt! And every little thing that helps ease her anxiety is a step in the right direction.

 

6 Responses to Cora and the Thundershirt

  • Heather (TAGS) says:

    Oh Cora, So many people would love to love you if only you could let them. You have no idea how many of us are so good at tummy rubs, behind the ear rubs, bum scratches. I’ll just hug you from a distance. XO

  • Laura says:

    Yay, that something seems to be helping! I always wondered about the thundershirt for Bandit but never got the chance to try. Good to know that it might be working.

  • Ashley says:

    Good on you Cathy for exploring so many options for Miss Cora – a lot of people wouldn’t do that!
    She is a lucky girl!

    I have read that sometimes it takes rescue dogs up to 2 years to become settled and comfortable in a new home (depending on the level of abuse they had endured prior to coming into a loving environment) so over time hopefully her anxiety becomes less and less frequent!

    Hopefully this beautiful weather is here to stay and we can arrange a doggy play date!

    • Cathy says:

      I hope we’ll see a more significant difference within two years. She’s having an off day today, unfortunately.

      Yes, I look forward to getting out to the TAGS park for a doggy play date!

  • Anette says:

    Hi Cathy
    I read this post because I was curious what a “Thundershirt” is! I, too, adopted a dog about a year ago, and while he isn’t as anxious as your Cora he does show signs of separation anxiety and nervousness around unfamiliar territory. And while I think he would eventually calm down, the whining when people leave or for no reason at all – makes me crazy! So I ordered one of the shirts – I’ll let you know if it works for our Dodger.
    P.S. I was one of your students in the Writer’s Workshop

    • Cathy says:

      Of course I remember you, Anette, and congratulations on your new family member! The Thundershirt might be worth a try. What I didn’t write in the post (but probably should have) is that it works on the same principle as swaddling a baby. It offers comfort. Let me know if it works for Dodger!

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