Thursday, May 31, 2012

Thunder shirt knockoff

My Mother-In-Law asked me to help her make a "Thundershirt" for her dog Norman.  He can get overly excitable and she didn't want him to be too anxious when she had to board him.  Apparently the shirts work much like swaddles do for newborn babies--the feeling of being held snugly makes most dogs calmer and can help during thunderstorms, when the doorbell rings, etc.

See how docile he looks?

We were able to get ahold of a Thundershirt and I traced it and marked all the Velcro positions.  I used 3/4" and 1 1/2" Velcro, though I think the actual shirts use 2" for the wider strips.  I cut up some old t-shirts I had to make a muslin for Norman.  The actual Thundershirt is made from a rayon/poly/spandex blend, but the t-shirts worked just fine.  I forgot to flip the pattern when I cut the second side out, so the two straps that go around his chest (one is long and one is shorter) are reversed from the real deal, but it doesn't matter.

Norman doesn't care what it's made of or if I goofed,
as long as it's comfortable :)

The bright green shirt is a men's 3XL and I could cut the entire piece out of it.  The yellow I used for the underside was a women's L and I had to sew a seam where the chest straps meet the main body because the shirt wasn't big enough to cut it all in one piece.  Norman is a size "medium", for reference.  It could be cut out of a yard of knit (assuming 60" wide).

The shirt is just two pieces of knit sewn right sides together, then flipped right side out and cover-stitched (I used a twin needle instead since I bought a new sewing machine rather than a coverstitch).  It has straps that Velcro around the body and around the chest, and the flap you can see in the picture above is to cover up the exposed Velcro.  It's a pretty neat design, but $40 was out of my MIL's budget.  This homemade version took about $6 worth of Velcro and works just as good!


  1. csn u post a template please?

  2. I would also love to see a template for this.

  3. I cannot email either of you, so I don't know if you will see this, but I am not comfortable doing a template, since I didn't come up with my own shape. Thank you for understanding!

  4. First, please tell Norman that he is a VERY handsome, young man, especially when wearing his one-of-a-kind, specially tailored anxiety jacket. My service dog, Phoebe, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, would love to meet Norman and she'll even bring the treats (even with her surgery years ago, she's a bit of a flirt, but so very sweet)!

    For anyone making or using any type of shirt or coat for canines (or felines, for that matter) I hope that the following info will be of use. After discovering what fantastic family dogs pit bull type dogs truthfully are, they became the dogs of my heart and the only breeds that I've rescued/owned since then. Because most of them don't have thick coats and I lived where there was a lot of snow, I was used to dressing them in coats. When I started using a service dog and became used to putting on her vest, which only has to be attached with the straps going under the belly, not the ones around the neck, I realized that I might be able to eliminate the neck closures completely. So, I put her coat on so that it fit her nicely and comfortably and then tried to remove it without undoing the neck/chest strap - no problem! It easily slipped over her head and slipped right back on, also. So, I gathered up all her clothes that had neck or chest straps and experimented with them. After that, the pile was hauled over to the sewing machine and, since the neck/chest straps were already closed, I just stitched through all the layers and permanently attached those straps to each other. Now, there is no problem with cleaning fur out of those Velcro straps, it's faster to put her clothes on her, and there is no worry of those Velcro closures wearing out before the coat does (that situation had also inspired me to try this).

    Even though it's necessary for the anxiety jackets to fit snugly, I'm guessing that the fabric just might stretch enough to go over the dog's head even if there are no straps to adjust for the neck/chest. It also keeps the garment looking much neater in front and it's so handy that I stitch every neck strap that comes into our house before it's even washed the first time.

    That's really a great job you did for your MIL and I know she's very grateful. Norman looks like a well loved fellow and I know that he returns that love in 100% devotion and loyalty.


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