How do I know if it’s working?

Name a technique or device intended to reduce dog anxiety or aggression and I’ve tried it. Acupuncture, Dog Appeasing Pheromones, Prozac, Thundershirt, Tellington Touch, Calming Cap…

Have to say, the Calming Cap was my favorite. The stretchy blue fabric over Isis’s head made her look like a superhero. We put it on her, sat her on her bed and Rob fed her treats while I paraded Leo past her. Her vision was sufficiently filtered that she did not stand and bark and lunge at Leo. Unfortunately, Leo, while still a puppy, had by then discovered his “big boy voice,” so those sessions usually ended with him barking at Isis.

At the time, Isis was also on Prozac and wearing a Thundershirt, but I think it was the Calming Cap that made the biggest difference. How can we know for sure? Maybe the Prozac was finally kicking in. As far as I can remember, though, she never lashed out while wearing the Calming Cap.

The Calming Cap was on loan, so we don’t have it anymore. Maybe I should get one for Leo. If he can’t see the bicycle, he can’t bark at it. We do have a Thundershirt, two actually, but I can’t tell if it works! He still is capable of having an explosive reaction while wearing the shirt; if he weren’t wearing it, would the reaction have been worse? What about the times he doesn’t have reactions while wearing the shirt? Would he necessarily have had one if he hadn’t been wearing it?

On Leo’s last birthday, his teacher asked if we’d ever tried a Thundershirt. I felt silly saying we had one but weren’t using it. Actually, I’d forgotten about it entirely, and then summer came, and it seemed cruel to make him wear another layer, but now that it’s fall, we’re using it again. He doesn’t mind it, so what can it hurt?

Same with Tellington Touch. When I told a trainer that I wasn’t sure whether it worked, she said, “Oh, you’ll know if it’s working.” But I really can’t tell. I enjoy petting my dogs in prescribed patterns. Sometimes it seems to relax them, but sometimes it gets on their nerves and they get up and move.

What do you think, fellow parents of reactive or anxious dogs? I’d love to know your experiences with Thundershirts, Tellington Touch, Calming Caps, and the like.

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9 thoughts on “How do I know if it’s working?

  1. It’s so tricky, isn’t it? Rosie’s anxiety has gotten bad enough that we are doing medical solutions now. But there have been plenty of panic attacks that have ended after a little time in a thunder shirt, with a pheromone soaked bandanna around her neck, having eaten a few herbal composure treats. On the other hand, did time end those panic attacks? Used to be, we could just do one of those, or two and she would be OK. Or take her in the car around the block, which would change the subject in her head after a freak out because of something beeping in the house. But these days are different. We are pretty sure this is her version of senility. With her newest medication combo, she has had just one panic attack in two weeks–that is a major victory. But still I wonder, maybe it’s just because we haven’t had any wind storms in the last two weeks…

    • Oh, poor Rosie. Did she have anxiety when she was younger? Mia has problems with beeping in the house. The smoke detector sends her quivering onto our laps, all 85 pounds of her.

  2. I have two hounds that are terrified of certain noises. One is terrified of gunshots while the other is terrified of thunder. I have tried the thundershirt on both of them. I believe it takes the “edge” off, but that’s about it. I believe it is a combo of having their safe spots as well as the thundershirt that helps keep them the most calm. I am afraid to use it unsupervised though since it fits so snugly. Best of luck to you and Leo! I hope you find a solution that works for you guys!

  3. We have never tried any products with dogs that have bouts of anxiety/panic/fear. Just lots of petting and soothing, as well as letting them hide in whatever they perceive to be safe places. Sometimes they want to cover their faces/hide their eyes, so we cover them temporarily with a blanket or maybe the bottom of our shirt if they decide to stick their head under there :).
    When I say we haven’t tried any products, it’s not for any specific reason… we just haven’t (yet). Sort of like I only just tried hummus for the first time recently… there was no *reason* I hadn’t tried it before, I just hadn’t. It was tasty and made me wish I’d tried it sooner. Anyway.
    Our dogs only have anxieties about certain things, and their episodes are self-limiting. They don’t have all-the-time, ongoing anxiety. If any of them started to experience it chronically, I would definitely be looking into everything conceivable thing that could possibly help. Even for just episodic bouts, I have almost purchased a Thundershirt more times than I can count, but just never went through with it. I have never seen the Calming Caps before… I don’t know if I would one of those at home, but for vet visits, nail trimming, etc., it may be ideal. Some dogs are so relaxed at the vet. They plop down on the floor and nap in the lobby while waiting for their turn… not mine… oh Lord… sometimes I think they might simply explode with panic. By the time we get into an exam room, they want NO part of it. Thankfully vet visits aren’t terribly often… but nail trims are (or need to be), so I might just be looking into the Calming Caps for both… thanks for talking about them!
    Oh, and T-Touch! I’ve heard of it, but need to look more into it/learn more about it.

  4. We’ve been pretty lucky with ZuZu not being too scared by anything. When she was younger she had some anxiety issues and I tried giving her the calming pills but she just spit them out. If she gets scared now she goes to her cove under our bed. She’s taken stuffed animals and other things under there and made quite a home for herself.

    • I think self-calming techniques are the best solution, sot it’s great when dogs figure it out on their own. I also love it when they carry their toys around with them!

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