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Thundershirts for dogs

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New wearable pressure wrap can help storm phobic pooches

BANGOR - Thunderstorms can be a pet owner's worst nightmare, and this time of year it's almost impossible to get away from them.

"You may have some dogs that hide behind a chair or under a bed. Some dogs may bolt out of any opening, even a window, breaking the glass. Then you can have the real odd dogs, like our Gus, who growled, barked and snarled, wanting to get to whatever it was [making the noise] and tear it apart," explained Don Hanson, owner of Green Acres Kennel Shop in Bangor.

Fortunately, there's now a new tool available locally to help ease the anxiety of pooches who fear thunderstorms.

"Thundershirts are one of the possible things people can try. We've been using them just the past couple of months," said Hanson. "It's helped one of the staff dogs remarkably. She can lay down and rest comfortably next to her owners during a storm. It's helped her traveling in the car as well."

Hanson said it's hard to explain why these shirts, which apply pressure to a dog's torso, seem to work so well.

"Apparently there is a similar technique they use in autistic children to get them to calm down, like swaddling, that brings some layer of comfort. No one really knows why it works, but there's been a lot of experiential knowledge gained from it. This seems to be something that is really helping dogs," he said.

Dawn Kelley-Knapp of Hampden bought a Thundershirt for her 1-year-old border collie/husky mix named Mercy.

"We noticed a dramatic difference in Mercy with the shirt on," said Kelley-Knapp. "Her anxiety dissolves and we get a calm lap puppy who likes to snuggle."

Hanson said it's important for pet owners to realize that this product will never cure a storm phobic dog.

"It's a management tool. This isn't going to make a dog stop being afraid of storms. It's something that'll probably have to be used for life of the dog," said Hanson.

Green Acres Kennel Shop, located on Union Street in Bangor, is currently selling the Thundershirts for $36.99 with a money back guarantee. If for some reason it doesn't work or a pet owner is unhappy with the shirt, it can be returned to the shop within 45 days of purchase along with the receipt for a refund.

"I would certainly recommend it based on the changes we see in Mercy while wearing it," said Kelley-Knapp. "It's worth every penny!"

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