I want to take a moment to address managing your expectations around dog separation anxiety cures. I have seen many people get a Thundershirt, throw it on their dog in the middle of a thunder storm, or put it on them and leave them home alone immediately if they have dog separation anxiety and then claim that it doesn’t work.
I want to remind you that there is no instant cure for fear-related problems and dog separation anxiety. Fear and anxiety are some of the most powerful emotions that exist. You can’t just make it go away by snapping your fingers, giving a pill or putting a on Thundershirt. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your Thundershirt:
Use Classical Conditioning.
The first time you put it on your dog give them a lot of praise… GOOD DOG! Give them a jackpot of their favorite treat, we’re not talking pieces of kibble here we’re talking dehydrated bison hearts or cheese. Something that is VERY smelly and you dog will do backflips for. Then after 30 seconds or a minute of giving them treats with the Thundershirt on, take it off and stop the treats.
Repetition is Key.
Do the above randomly over the next few days or weeks. Always giving praise and lots of goodies and keeping the Thundershirt on for a longer period of time. The goal is to get your dog super excited when they see the Thundershirt come out!
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Day.
Dinner time! Every time you feed your dog dinner put on the Thundershirt. When he or she is done eating take it off!
Your Dog Isn’t Food Motivated?
Find what motivates your dog… The ball? Tug of war? A dog massage? Freedom in the back yard? Find what motivates them and substitute it for food in the tips above to build positive association with the Thundershirt.
Thundershirt = Happy!
Once you’ve got them to the point where they are ecstatic when they see the Thundershirt you are ready to put it on them when you can predict a scary time or when you predict they will have dog separation anxiety.
Timing is Still Key.
Try to put it on the at least 20-30 minute before this negative event happens. You don’t want them to associate the Thundershirt with the negative event. This is the number one reason why you have to condition them to like it because if you don’t they will associate the hundershirt with whatever they are scared of!
Continue the Positive Association Work.
Keep putting on the Thundershirt randomly in positive situations. You want to keep reinforcing the positive associations!
Manchego the Anxious Dog