T is for ThunderCap

Leo rocks the ThunderWorks brand Calming Cap, a.k.a. the ThunderCap

When we were first introduced to the Calming Cap, our trainer, Shannon, lent us a bright blue one.

“The idea is that it reduces visual stimuli by filtering a dog’s vision,” she said. “I held it up to my eyes and you can still see through it, but it just makes things kind of indistinct.”

Rob approved of the look. “Isis looks like a superhero.”

Of the pictures above, Rob said, “Leo looks like he has a bag over his head.”

True, the gray one isn’t as cute, but at least it matches Leo’s ThunderShirt. I’m thinking of sewing a superhero insignia on it. What I like about the pictures is that Leo looks happy and calm. The dog model on the ThunderShirt site looks a tad depressive.

Oh, sorry, did I bury the lead? What I really want you to know is that the ThunderCap WORKS.

As I’ve described, the Calming Cap was the ONLY thing that noticeably reduced Isis’s anxiety around Leo.

Even though Leo’s barrier frustration in the car had gotten really bad, Rob was reluctant to put the ThunderCap on him for their drive to and from the jogging parking lot. He thought 1) Leo wouldn’t like it because he wouldn’t be able to see anything, and 2) It would be embarrassing if anyone saw him.

I asked, “More embarrassing than having people see him bark like crazy inside the car?”

After their second car trip with Leo wearing the ThunderCap, Rob said, “I will never doubt the power of the Calming Cap again.” Leo can see movement outside the car window, but he doesn’t bark at it. And that makes for a more relaxing jog.

I highly recommend the ThunderCap for dogs who are nervous during car rides, or visits to the vet, or any other scenario where they bark at visual stimuli. Some dogs might not tolerate having the mask over their faces. Leo has been trained to wear a Halti or a muzzle, so he doesn’t mind it at all. If your dog has never worn anything on its face, I suggest taking the time to build positive associations with the ThunderCap, perhaps by following this handy step-by-step process (and intro to clicker training) to training a dog to wear a muzzle.

T is for ThunderCap


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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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