Mild anxiety in dogs means some barking, but if a dog's anxiety is severe, they may get destructive, aggressive or seriously ill. One of the proven (and natural) ways to relieve this is with an anxiety vest for dogs.
Why and How Dog Anxiety Vests Work?
Some owners are skeptical about using anxiety vests for dogs because they do not understand how a piece of clothing may relieve anxiety in their pet, and how exactly does that work. That's a good question. Luckily, there are many studies available on the effects of anxiety vests, telemetry jackets, and other compression garments and body wraps.
Body Wraps Soothe Anxiety in Animals
Physically touching a dog – petting them and stroking their body – induces a physiological relaxation (McGreevy, Righetti and Thomson, 2005). Touching a dog (and other animals, people) have also been shown to provide a calming effect due to certain pressure points being affected (Grandin, 1992, 2007).
This technique triggers changes in a dog's nervous system and chemical responses, and as a result, endogenous opioids, prolactin, oxytocin and other hormones are being released within the body (Lloyd, 2014). All of these hormones exist in animals and people, and are designed for bonding and nurturing (Odendaal and Meintjes, 2003).
Body wraps like jackets and vests also wrap tightly around your pet to, psychologically, give them a sense of security that you as a person would. You can think of them like a constant hug that will keep a dog calm and reassure them that they're alright.
Anxiety Vests are Not Your Only Option
So what it all comes down to are two things: physical touch and pressure. This means that dog anxiety vests and jackets, be it Thundershirt or any other brand, are not in any way special. They simply provide the needed pressure for the release of hormones within a dog's body, which helps to physically relieve anxiety in dogs.
This exact same effect can be achieved with a cheap elastic bandage like this one. Then, all you need to do is wrap your dog, something like this. This is a much cheaper yet effective option than buying anxiety vests. Where dog anxiety vests are better is that they're more convenient and easier to put on and off than using a bandage.
Most commonly, dog anxiety vests and jackets are used for
- Long car rides
- Trips to the vet
- Thunderstorms, fireworks
- When the dog is left home alone (separation anxiety)
Some Brands are Scientifically Proven to Work
Theory aside, there have also been some research done specifically with a few brands of these best anxiety vests for dogs. The two types most commonly tested in studies were Thundershirt and The Company of Animals vests, and it was concluded how these wraps are effective at relieving stress in dogs caused by different factors (1, 2, 3).
Furthermore, the leader among the best dog anxiety vests, Thundershirt, have conducted several surveys with pet owners and veterinarians. They found that anxiety vests for dogs have an 80% success rate for relieving anxiety in dogs and cats. You can see the full survey report conducted by Washington-based GMI company right here.
The Best Dog Anxiety Vests
1Thundershirt Anxiety Solution
The Thundershirt is the most well-known on this list of anxiety wraps, and they're the current leader in the market. It is made by a company that understands the effects of body wraps on dogs, anxiety, and supports animal rescue organizations. This vest from Thundershirt is made of durable fabric that hugs the dog’s body, yet allows comfort and movement, both of which are important.
Superficial dirt can be easily wiped off, and the fabric does not accumulate fur. It’s a no-fuss, easy-care material that is also machine-washable. This vest comes in grey, blue and pink variations, with sizes ranging from XX-Small to XX-Large. It’s a no-fuss, easy-care material that is also machine-washable.
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This was an effective vest for our pets, and many other pet owners (though not all of them) reported the same results. Many edgy dogs took naturally to vest. The whining and nervous symptoms during thunderstorms have been significantly reduced in our pet. With others, dogs that were previously easily agitated started behaving normally, got quieter and calmer. The extreme reactions to noise, like trembling, have promptly disappeared, although with some, it was observed that they remained unhappy about sensory stimuli.
We highly recommend using the Thundershirt sizing chart. The effectiveness of this shirt relies on how good it fits the dog (see the explanation with studies above) and how it provides uniform and deep pressure for a dog's body. An ill-fitting vest would be ineffective. The use of many of these best dog anxiety vests has gained worldwide acceptance by dog owners and professionals alike.
2AKC Calm Anti-Anxiety and Stress Relief Coat
by American Kennel Club
The second anti-anxiety vest, otherwise known as calm coat for dogs, is very similar in design (as most of them are) to Thundershirt. It was effective at relieving stress in our hyperactive pooch, and in one instance during his fear of loud noises. Created by the American Kennel Club, this vest comes in a variety of colors and different sizes from X-Small to X-Large.
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Since it is important for the coat to “hug” the dog’s torso, prioritize the chest size when choosing the correct size for your dog. An X-S size will be good for chest sizes of 13”-18”, while an X-Large will be perfect for dogs with chest sizes of 30”-38”. The vest is easy to wear and take off, and it is machine-washable as well. It’s durably made and looks attractive, with a price that’s a lot cheaper than most anti-anxiety vests for dogs.
Right after the first day of donning the anti-anxiety vest, our dog showed relief from anxiety. Similar to the other best dog anxiety vests, it wraps your pet tightly to make him feel secure. The vest will alleviate most dogs’ fear of thunder, and you're likely to see significantly fewer instances of “pet freak out.”
Looking at other reviews, pet owners who tried American Kennel Club Calm Anti-Anxiety and Stress Relief Coat for Dogs and had previously resorted to drugs have had success (at about 70% rate) with their dogs recovering from anxiety symptoms. Erroneous sizing was the usual reason for a large number of disappointed owners.
3Anxiety Calming Wrap
by Mellow Shirt
This calming wrap for dogs by Mellow Shirt comes in at number three on our list of the best dog anxiety vests. It generates moderate and constant pressure, thereby soothing a wide range of fear and anxiety concerns in dogs. It is durably constructed with breathable, lightweight, and machine-washable material for easy cleaning. This vest's closure is made of hook-and-loop fasteners that make pressure adjustments rather easy.
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Like the other best dog anxiety vests, it does away with the need for drugs or medication to soothe your dog’s anxiety problems. It comes in sizes ranging from XS (10-19 lbs) to XL (76-110 lbs). Comparing with other anti-anxiety wraps, we found this to be of softer and more flexible material. It’s also relatively cheaper. It proved as effective as a more expensive brand, although the fabric used by the other brands looked and felt more superior.
This wrap worked almost immediately. In one case, it has even helped an ageing dog regain her old vibrant self after getting rid of fears over the slightest storms. Success rate may vary (as with most other dog anxiety vests); for some dogs, results will be evident in a matter of minutes, but for other dogs, especially those that had issues relaxing even without triggers, the effect may take weeks to see.
Just like the other products, the Mellow Shirt calming dog anxiety wrap works by using the right amount of pressure on the dog’s torso, which results in the calming effect. Many veterinarians have embraced this method and recommend this wrap as an easy, safe, and drug-free solution that's also cheaper than Thundershirt to relieve different anxieties in dogs.
4The Original Anxiety Wrap
by The Company of Animals
Here's another nice-looking anxiety wrap for dogs that, like Thundershirt, has been scientifically tested and proven to be effective. It covers the full length of a dog’s torso. It was designed by a professional dog trainer for optimum comfort and effectiveness. The Original Anxiety Wrap for dogs uses maintained pressure and acupressure to relieve stress. Like the rest of best dog anxiety vests, it works in the exact same way through pressure points.
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The material used in this product is lightweight and breathable. It stretches in four directions to provide maximum coverage, comfort, and soothing effect. The wrap is available in sizes from Toy to 2XL. We found this wrap practical for various applications aside from truly strong thunderstorms. You can use it on your dogs for almost any activity where the pet feels uncomfortable, such as bringing the dog to the groomer or the vet.
You are likely to be less stressed, too, with reduced need to replace damaged furniture or fewer sleepless nights listening to terrified dogs’ barking. With the breathable material used, dogs are also more comfortable in this one than the other mentioned options, which are not as well-ventilated. We did, however, found issues with the fitting and the straps that went to the dog's butt.
Other pet owners reported their pets simply didn’t take to it and even became anxious after seeing it. The lack of proper conditioning before The Original Anxiety Wrap for dogs was introduced to them could be one reason. However, this is a common complaint with many other best dog anxiety vests too.
5ZenDog Anxiety Vest Calming Compression Shirt
With its durable and attractive two-tone super soft design, this anti-anxiety jacket for dogs from ZenPet highlights total comfort, function and style. The jacket is easy to wear and machine washable. It comes in many different sizes so you'll definitely find the one to fit your pooch. Unfortunately, it's one of the least effective dog anxiety vests among the ones we've tried. It may be a solution that's better fitted for your specific situation and your individual dog.
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The combined deep pressure and comfort afforded by this jacket technically allows for a stress-free and drug-free solution, and it does come with a guarantee – your money back and no questions asked should you not feel satisfied. While it seemed less effective to us, a few other pet owners and reviews have vouched for this product’s calming effect. Their dogs were much calmer and less agitated on long travels and even when in unfamiliar situations using this wrap.
However, most had similar experience to us, where dogs that were severely anxious did not immediately react positively to this jacket. This is a common issue with many anxiety vests but this one seems to be the one that took the longest. Also, other reports suggest some dogs simply will not wear this. It took them a while to calm down and wear the jacket.