Living with an anxious dog can be challenging and a big worry for you. A dog vest can prove to be a positive choice to help a dog with anxiety.
Your dog may be afraid of loud noises like fireworks and thunderstorms, or he may suffer from fear aggression whereby he is anxious around people and other dogs. Even if your dog is only mildly anxious, this can escalate over time.
Sadly, anxiety in dogs isn’t something that will go away on its own. Regular anxiety causes negative effects on an anxious dogs’ immune system and can result in health problems. It’s important therefore, to take the problem seriously and formulate a positive process to help your dog to deal with his anxiety.
How to Calm a Dog's Anxiety - The Top 5 Dog Anxiety Vests
It takes consistency and effort in order to help your dog cope with his world in a confident way. The right training can help and, for this, we recommend Behavior Adjustment Training (B.A.T), which is a training programme that progressively teaches your dog coping skills and calming protocols. We highly endorse this training process, as we have witnessed many success stories.
To manage anxious behaviour, as you progress through training, we have found wearing a dog vest helpful in reducing the symptoms of dog anxiety.
Today, we are going to review the top five dog vests, so that you can make an informed choice as to which vest to purchase for your dog.
How does a dog vest work?
A dog vest is made of tough, stretchy material that wraps snuggly around your dog’s torso. The material is usually breathable, so your dog doesn’t get too hot, and it is secured with front and middle fastenings, usually Velcro.
Wearing a dog vest helps your dog to feel safe, similar to when he was inside the womb of his mother. Science has shown that wrapping an anxious dog can make significant improvements to his behaviour.
Typically, dog vests are referred to as anxiety coats, vests or wraps.
When would my dog wear a vest?
Your dog can wear his anxiety vest any time he feels anxious. To help with separation anxiety, he can wear it if alone, or travelling in the car. It is ideal for thunderstorms or firework noise and useful to wear when out walking if your dog is fearful of people or other dogs.
Here's our Top 5 Dog Anxiety Vests
Thundershirt Anxiety Coat
The Thundershirt is a well-known dog vest for anxiety. It is breathable, durable and hardwearing. Made from a machine washable material, it is easy to keep clean and does not tend to retain dog hair in the fabric. Day to day, you can wipe the vest clean.
The correct fit is vital for success. Thundershirt comes in a wide range of sizes from XX small to XX large, so you will easily find the right size for your dog. Thundershirt provide an excellent sizing chart to enable you to measure your dog sizing.
Most dog owners find that their dog adjusted well to wearing the vest and became calmer. Whilst a Thundershirt cannot guarantee a miracle solution for dog anxiety, we would expect that you would notice a reduction in the level of your dog’s anxiety. This may happen immediately, or over a few days or weeks of regular wear.
Strong Velcro secures the fastenings.
Below are two documents from Dr. Grandin on the subject of the Thundershirt for dogs
We rated the Thundershirt dog anxiety coat as number one because we believe it is the best on the market.
American Kennel Club (AKC) Calm Anti-Anxiety and Stress Relief Coat
Another popular dog vest, the AKC coat is easy to put on and take off. It comes in sizes from Extra Small to Extra Large. With the AKC dog vest, it is better to measure the chest size for an accurate fit. Sizing is vital or the vest will not work efficiently.
The AKC is durable, machine washable, and comes in a variety of colors and is a good value price.
Strong Velcro secures the fastenings.
Anxiety Calming Wrap – Mellow Shirt
The Mellow Shirt anxiety vest is durable, lightweight, breathable, and machine washable. The material is soft and flexible. As number three on our list, we would say that the material isn’t as hardwearing as the first two dog vests reviewed, but it works well for anxious dogs, helping them to experience a reduction in their stress levels.
The Mellow Shirt is a competitive price and comes in a range of sizes from XS to XL, based on your dog’s weight.
The vest secures with hook and eye fastenings.
The Original Anxiety Wrap – Company of Animals
Like the other dog vests, this wrap fits comfortably around your dog to create pressure on the acupressure points. A professional dog trainer created the design.
The dog vest is breathable and lightweight material that is machine washable. Our honest opinion is that the material and design is a little flimsy, compared to other dog vests and we would question the long-term durability.
As it is number four on the list, it is notable that the vest isn’t the same high quality as the previous vests. Sizing can be a little unreliable, in that the adjustment straps were not in the right place on the vest with a few sizes that our reviewers tested. Company of Animals do offer returns, but we advise you to choose your sizing with care.
ZenPet ZenDog Anxiety Wrap for Dogs
The Zen dog anxiety vest has four way stretch materials and comes in sizes X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large, XX-Large. It is the lowest cost of the dog vests on our list.
Sadly, we feel that the Zen dog anxiety vest is not a great option to use for an anxious dog. The quality is not as good, nor is the design. The fundamental flaw is that the shirt does not provide the strong, secure wrap that helps your dog to overcome his anxiety.
How to Calm an Anxious Dog
If you have a dog that suffers from anxiety, you will understand what it means to worry about keeping your dog calm. Sometimes, there may appear to be no good reason for your dog's anxious state of being. At other times, your dog may be anxious about a change in his environment or respond to anxiety triggers like, for instance, fireworks.
Have you heard the expression about locking the stable door after a horse has bolted? Meaning it is too late to bolt the door after the horse has gone. In relation to your dog, and his anxiety problem, we would like to cover what to do BEFORE your dog has himself in a mental pickle with his fears or phobias. If he has already whipped himself up into an anxious state, you will have a lot more trouble calming him than if you had nipped the anxiety in the bud before it started, or just as it starts.
How do I know the signs of upcoming anxiety in my dog?
Good question and one we would love to answer.
By now, you may have identified some of the triggers for your dog's anxious state. This could be a wide range of things such as:-
In your home, you need to create a safe place for your dog, somewhere he will gravitate to at times of anxiety. Typically, a crate is an ideal solution. If you train your dog to see his crate as a positive experience, he will come to love it and will take himself off there to seek his own quiet time.
How do I crate train?
Buy a crate that is big enough for your dog to stand up and turn around. Don’t be tempted to buy one that is too large because an anxious dog may pace which will exacerbate his anxiety.
Put the crate in a quiet part of the house, somewhere you can leave it permanently, ideally where he cannot be stimulated by outside activity like people passing etc. Put comfortable bedding inside for your dog and maybe a few of his favorite toys.
At first, feed your dog his daily meal with his bowl just on the entrance to the cage. Over the course of a week, gradually put his bowl further inside the cage until he is standing inside it to eat. Do not shut the door at this point.
During the day, have short training sessions – no more than five minutes – and throw treats into the cage until he happily goes inside to retrieve them. If he is toy orientated, throw his toy inside. Give him lots and lots of praise. Soon he will be anticipating good things from his crate and will take himself inside to wait for his food or treats. The time span will vary from dog to dog, but we would expect an average time of between one and two weeks for a dog to be 100% happy to enter his crate.
From that point, when he is eating inside, shut the crate door but do not secure it. Over a few days, secure it but open as soon as he has finished eating and praise him. If he seems happy with that, feed him and then leave him in the crate for no more than five minutes. Gradually extend the time he is in the crate after he has eaten.
Most anxious dogs soon come to love their crate. Once he is 100% happy being shut inside, you have a new protocol for his anxiety. If you know there is going to be fireworks or a thunderstorm, put him inside the crate and cover three sides, so he feels safe.
NEVER PUT YOUR DOG INSIDE THE CRATE AS A PUNISHMENT – the crate must ALWAYS be associated with good things or it will fail to work as a positive, safe haven for your dog during anxious periods.
How do I know when my dog is becoming anxious?
Ah yes, back to the signs of anxiety as we promised earlier in the article.
We find that many people do not realise their dog is anxious until the level of anxiety is high, at which point it is a bit too late to switch the anxiety off.
We are going to explain the signs of rising anxiety at exactly the point the signs become only mildly visible. This will mean that you need to watch your dog closely at first, until you become familiar with the physical signals he will show.
The main thing to remember with an anxious dog is never to buy in to his behaviour. Trying to soothe and calm a dog does not work. Pacifying behaviour from you simply reinforces the anxiety and does not teach him to cope.
A huge part of rehabilitating an anxious dog is correct management. The most enterprising thing you can do to calm an anxious dog is to remove him from the trigger. Put him in his crate if at home, or walk him away from his fear if you are out. This builds his trust in you as his protector, as you take him away from his fears.
Over time, you can adopt training methods like Behaviour Adjustment Method [BAT]. This is a training protocol recommending the exact behaviour management formula as outlined above as being the first positive step towards helping your anxious dog to change.
Although some dogs are genetically predisposed to anxiety, we believe, from experience, that you can help him to overcome this issue with careful management and training. An anxious dog does not have to stay that way for life. You can help him to cope more confidently with his fears. Just give it time and patience and use the correct, positive training method and you will reap huge rewards.
For a difficult problem such as dog anxiety, we recommend buying the best quality dog vest that you can afford. A cheap, poor quality dog vest cannot do an effective job of wrapping your dog securely in order that he feels safe and calm.
A quality dog vest can and will help your dog to manage his anxiety, and help him to feel safer when he would usually be afraid or worried.