Dogs can develop anxiety for several reasons, from loud noises and other dogs to being away from their owner for long periods. Whatever the case, there are fortunately many ways to help our furry friends cope with all types of anxiety, one of which being sweaters.
Sweaters help relieve anxiety in dogs by applying pressure to certain areas of their body. The pressure deactivates the sympathetic nervous system responsible for dogs’ natural fight or flight response. The parasympathetic nervous system is then activated, which encourages relaxation.
As you can see, the therapeutic pressure a sweater can provide a dog can gradually reduce your pet’s anxiety. And if your dog is not a fan of sweaters, do not worry; there are similar solutions, such as vests and wraps, that offer the same benefits.
Types of Anxiety in Dogs
Before we cover how sweaters can help dogs with anxiety, it is worth reviewing the types of anxiety dogs have. The method you ultimately use to help calm them—and whether it is successful—may depend on what kind of anxiety they are experiencing.
According to the American Kennel Club, there are three types of anxiety in dogs:
Fear-related anxiety can be caused by several situations, including:
- Large crowds of people
- New locations
- New or overpowering smells
- Uncomfortable or unknown surfaces
These situations have something in common: they all overwhelm the dog to the point that the dog’s sympathetic nervous system activates. This nervous system is the one that activates the “fight or flight” mentality in both humans and other animals.
Separation anxiety occurs in roughly 14% of dogs. Several things can trigger this type of anxiety, but the most commonis a situation in whicha dog’s owners leave for an extended period.
Dogs with separation anxiety are generally going to whine or howl to display their displeasure of being left alone. There is also a potential for:
- Excess accidents in the home (even they are house-trained)
- Outlandish anger periods (chewing furniture, clothing, etc.)
- Increased panting and pacing
- Potential self-harm if left in certain situations (like in a crate or enclosed area)
The final type of anxiety that dogs can have is related to their age. Some older dogs can develop a canine version of Alzheimer’s known as Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS). Dogs with CDS can show signs of decline in training, learning, awareness, and perception. All of these declines can understandably freak a dog out and can lead to that dog getting anxiety.
How Sweaters Help Dogs with Anxiety
For some dogs, wearing a sweater can help when it comes to their anxiety levels; this is usually the case for dogs with separation and fear-based anxieties.
However, not just any sweater will be sufficient for lowering anxiety in your pet; you will need to use a specialized sweater, like those designed by ThunderShirt. These sweaters are designed to reduce the amount of stress your dog experiences in certain situations. They are like security blankets; they envelop the dog and apply pressure to all areas of their body.
Much like a weighted blanket for a human, the pressure a sweater provides for a dog relieves stress and anxiety and encourages relaxation.This is because the sweater’s pressure deactivates a dog’s sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for triggering its fight or flight response.
Are Sweaters Effective for Reducing Dog Anxiety?
Sweaters have not been totally proven to be completely effective across all dogs. Still, according to a survey done by ThunderShirt, 87% of respondents said their pet’s sweater or vest helped ease their dog’s noise-related anxiety levels in at least some capacity. For separation anxiety, 77% of respondents said it helped.*
With that said, sweaters and vests are better at potentially controlling a dog’s anxiety levels in the long term because they are more likely to be used over a more extended period. However, they are only effective if they are the correct size. A sweater or vest that is too small might harm the dog because it is too tight. In contrast, if the sweater or vest is too big, there will not be enough pressure to deactivate your pet’s sympathetic nervous system.
*Note: Sweaters usually do not have a large effect on dogs with age-related anxiety. For these cases, it may be recommended that you try a pressurewrap instead, which less resembles clothing.
Do Pressure Wraps Help Dogs with Anxiety?
While sweaters and vests may seem like a more reasonable look for your dog because they resemble clothing, there is another option for dogs with anxiety: pressure wraps. These wraps are not as stylish as the sweaters and vests, but they provide similar benefits.
Pressure wraps are easier to put on a dog to help with their anxiety levels, and they are also easier to take off when no longer needed.
As far as effectiveness goes, studies have shown that wraps can reduce the heart rates of anxious dogs, which is a similar result to dogs that wear sweaters and vests. (Scientists have found a correlation between anxiety levels and heart rate; if a dog can control its heart rate, it can potentially have fewer anxiety attacks.)
However,it is also worth noting that wraps have not been proven to help much with other anxiety-induced reactions in dogs, such as excessive barking, going to the bathroom in the house, excessive chewing, etc. For these symptoms, a sweater or vest may be a better alternative for addressing them.
Other Techniques to Help with Your Dog’s Anxiety
If you are not too keen on dressing your dog in a sweater or vest every time you have to leave the house, or your pet shows discomfort while wearing it, you can use other methods to help your dog cope with their anxiety.
One common way to help your dog overcome anxiety is through training. There are a couple of training techniques you can try:
- Counterconditioning – Counterconditioning involves taking what the dog’s reaction is to a particular event, situation, person, etc., and encouraging them to have a more positive reaction. The goal is to turn the dog’s anxiety-driven reaction from being negative (barking, whining, etc.) to positive (focusing on the owner, playing with a toy, laying down, etc.).
- Desensitization – The other thing you can do to help with a dog’s anxiety is desensitize them to the anxiety-driven event. You will need to slowly introduce your dog to whatever is causing the anxiety attacks, whether that is a loud noise, particular smell, or separation.
Dogs canhave anxiety, just like humans do, and the source of their anxiety can be driven by fear, separation, or age. Fortunately, there are a few things that owners can do to help their dog’s anxiety levels.
There are specially designed sweaters designed to help lower the heart rate of dogs and deactivate the sympathetic nervous system responsible for their fight or flight response. As long as the sweater is the right size, it can effectively reduce anxiety.
Along with sweaters, there are a few training methods you can try to incorporate with your dog to help teach them to have a more positive reaction to certain anxiety-driven situations and feel less anxiety.
And, if all else fails, veterinarians are great resources for putting together a plan of action to determine what stressors trigger anxiety in your dog. From there, they can offer suggestions on how you can help your pet overcome it further.
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