Thunderworks Blog

  • Guest Blogger: Mikkel Becker!

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    We’re thrilled that well-known and respected pet behavior and training expert, and contributor, Mikkel Becker is here to share her advice on how to best prevent and treat pet anxiety related to the upcoming 4th of July festivities! Take it away, Mikkel!

    Fireworks are exciting to many people, but our dogs see them differently. The sight and sound of the patriotic displays we love terrify our dogs. They seem like an attack, an experience so frightful that days around the Fourth of July are the ones most likely to lose a dog, as they run away in terror.

    It makes sense from a survival standpoint for a dog to react fearfully to fireworks, because in the natural world, loud bangs and flashes of light may signal a life-threatening situation animals need to avert in order to stay alive.  The fear they experience is obvious:  Our dogs will be shaking, trembling, panting, pacing, drooling, hiding, running away, attempting to escape, whining and vocalizing.

    When dogs are afraid, they can injure themselves when attempting to escape. The people around a terrified dog are also at risk, because a scared dog is more likely to bite defensively.

    Stress and the body’s reaction to it has damaging effects when experienced over prolonged periods of time, damaging the immune system and making the body more susceptible to disease.  Stress also decreases reproductive hormones, increasing a dog’s risk of cardiovascular disease. (

    I know firsthand how horrific fear can be.  When I was a young girl I was afraid of air travel, so much so that I would have panic attacks both in the days leading up to travel and during plane trips. Family and friends would attempt to get me to understand that my fear had little basis, but their words didn’t help.  At the time I had flown to more than 48 countries safely, but I was still afraid.  That fear is similar to what many dogs go through: They experience fireworks displays with no real harm done, but the fear remains. Although we may believe that our pets’ fear of fireworks lacks reason, to the dog, the situation is very real.

    These dogs are in a state of distress.

    To overcome my fear of airplanes and get to the confident state I’m in now as a frequent flyer, I worked to change the way I viewed plane trips, as well as incorporating calming techniques to relax myself during flights. Today as a dog trainer, I help dogs overcome the fear that feels very real to them by changing their perspective and using calming techniques.

    If your pet experiences fear around the Fourth of July, there are some practical ways you can decrease your pet’s panic and help him or her relax. The right training will not only keep your pet safe during the days around the holiday, but will also boost your pet’s quality of life and promote the bonding between you and your pet.

    The top recommendation I give to clients with anxious pets is to use the ThunderShirt, a pressure wrap that’s a non-invasive, natural way to calm pets.  The ThunderShirt is the top anxiety-reducer recommended to pets at the North Idaho Animal Hospital, where I teach training classes. I’ve seen the dramatic difference in dogs and cats on many occasions. Pressure wraps are calming to pets. Just as swaddling a baby or giving a tight hug to a close friend is comforting, pets are similarly comforted by pressure hugs. Dogs respond amazingly well to the gentle pressure the ThunderShirt provides. The ThunderShirt works on 80 percent of dogs. (And if it doesn’t work, as I remind my clients, there’s no harm done to your dog or your wallet, since ThunderShirt offers a money-back guarantee.)

    The ThunderShirt provides immediate relief. I’ve watched time and time again as dog’s whole body relaxes and outward symptoms of anxiety, such as trembling and panting, decrease shortly after the ThunderShirt is on. For best results, I have clients use the ThunderShirt at the onset of stress, such as when the pet first hears fireworks in the distance. The faster fear is addressed and comfort is applied, the less panic a pet will face. But even if the pet is already in a full blown anxiety response when an unforeseeable event occurs, such as when a surprise crackling and bangs when fireworks next door suddenly set off, the ThunderShirt will still do its job and calm the pet at whatever stage of anxiety they are in. The ThunderShirt also works for other stress evoking situations, such as trips to the veterinarian, car rides and thunderstorms.

    In addition to the ThunderShirt, there are training tactics that can help pets remain stress-free during the season of fireworks and thunderstorms. One of the best tactics is to prove your pet with a comforting den-like hideout they can retreat to when fireworks are being set off. When pets are in a panic, many seek out a place of refuge to hide in. Closets and bathrooms make ideal hiding areas, because they’re smaller in size and usually dark. Make these areas as comfortable as possible; giving the pet blankets and even hiding areas inside, such as their regular crate or a chair with a blanket draped over the top for them to hide under. Keep the windows of the area and surrounding rooms closed to prevent the pet from catching the flashes of light that accompanies the sounds of fireworks or storms.

    Drowning out the sound of fireworks is another helpful tactic. Classical music has been shown to be naturally calming for dogs. Play it loud enough to make the crashes of fireworks less abrupt and to drown out some of the background noise.

    You can also change your pet’s perception of the fireworks to make the noise symbolic of the onset of something pleasurable happening. Depending upon the dog, a food puzzle, a trick training session, fetch or a structured game of tug are all ways to change your pet’s association of the fireworks. Changing your pets focus, such as getting them to work towards getting food or engaging in play, changes their focus from fear to food acquisition and food. One trick I’ve used with my parent’s dog, Quixote, is to howl with him. The act of getting your dog to vocalize in a socially facilitated situation of howling along with a person immediately changes a pet’s focus. The more the pet associates fireworks with something they enjoy, the more relaxed the pet will be.

    Pets should never be left in an area where they can escape or injure themselves when the fireworks are happening. Unattended canines must be left in a doggy proofed area, such as a crate or enclosed area in their hideaway den when left alone. For dogs with a history of escape or panic when left alone, use constant supervision during fireworks season or leave them with a professional, such as a pet sitter, who can provide the comforting techniques to calm your pet while you’re away.

    When taking your pet outside to potty or when going out on walks on the days surrounding Independence Day, keep your pet on a leash or a long line to prevent escape and subsequent harm. Pets can be walked and taken outside with their ThunderShirt to make outings less frightening even with fireworks around. Exercise provides an outlet to channel excess energy in dogs; it also releases calming endorphins. If you use a regular flat collar, you may opt for a martingale type instead that tightens on the neck without choking the dog to prevent the animal from backing out of the collar on walks if startled. For pets who react to the sight of fireworks, consider using a  ThunderCap, which reduces the visual stimuli, making it less frightening.

    The Fourth of July doesn’t have to be a frightening experience for your pet. You can keep them safe and calm by using training tips, providing a safe and secure hideaway, and using the natural action of the ThunderShirt to calm your pet.

    -Mikkel Becker

    Mikkel Becker Low-Res

  • Strike a Pose!!!!

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    Ever tried to catch a picture of your dog and were unsuccessful? Have no fear? Here are three tips to ensure your pooch is picture perfect!

    1. Get ground cover

    Kneeling or lying on the ground to shoot from low viewpoints can be uncomfortable, especially on a wet day. Taking along some plastic sheeting to keep you dry will make the experience more bearable.

    2. Include their favorite toys

    Keeping your pet’s attention while you get your shots is always tricky, but most will have a favorite toy that you can use to keep them occupied. This prop might also give your shots extra character.

    3 Try some treats
    Sometimes your dog might need some encouragement. Arm yourself with a pocketful of treats that will get your dog to play along, and reward them when you get the shot you want.


    Do you have a good pic of your dog? Send it or post on out Facebook page!

  • Guest Blogger: Sandy Robins!

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    We asked our friend, award-winning author and respected Pet Lifestyle Expert, Sandy Robins  to share her best advice for traveling this summer with cats... Take it away, Sandy!

    Sandy and Cat


    With the travel season around the corner, if you are planning a vacation, now is the time to make arrangements for your pets.

    When it comes to cats, most felines are homebodies and don’t really like a change in their domestic situation. So unless you have a reliable family member, friend or licensed pet sitter who can move in and keep them company, or you are comfortable checking them into a pet hotel, its important to make proper plans for them to travel with you too.

    When making travel arrangements for feline family members, it’s a good idea to purchase a second carrier so that your cat can differentiate between vacation travel and trips to the vet. Purchase the carrier at least a month in the advance and leave it lying around the house for her to discover on her own. Cats like to be in charge of their territory!

    If you are traveling by plane, be sure that the carrier meets your airline’s in-cabin specifications. And, further, be sure to make a reservation. Only a certain number of pets are allowed on each flight and you don’t want to arrive to discover that they have filled the pet quota for your flight.

    Even if your feline has sniffed out her carrier, traveling in it can be a scary experience because of the movement and the unfamiliar noises both at an airport and on the road. Also, remember vision from inside the carrier is obscured which can make a cat very uncomfortable.

    An excellent way of dealing with any travel-induced apprehension would be to put a ThunderShirt  on your feline while she is in transit to ease her anxiety and related stress. The ThunderShirt works on the principle mothers have used for centuries of  “wearing their babies” in a sling or blanket strapped close to the body so that the baby feels secure and bonded with the parent. Cat behaviorists say that this principle works well with cats too.

    But in the same way that the carrier should be left lying around the home for a good few weeks before travel, it’s a good idea to let your cat wear the shirt around the home in advance of the actual excursion. Some cats freeze when any form of clothing is put on them. Start with very short intervals and slowly extend the duration.

    Also be sure to give her treats when it’s on so that she associates the garment with something good! The ThunderShirt comes in different sizes. Be sure to size it correctly because although you want the swaddling effect, you certainly don’t want it too tight!

    Further, whether you are traveling by plane or car make sure that your cat has access to water at all times. It’s a good idea to freeze a bowl of water in advance of travel so that your cat can lick the ice as it melts. This also prevents spillage inside the carrier. It’s also a good idea to add a few drops of Rescue Remedy to the water bowl to further keep your furry passenger calm. Most veterinarians will recommend this over any kind of tranquilizer as pills can wear off and disorient your pet even more. Not to mention that any travel delays en route will only further exacerbate the problem.

    Cats are very clean animals and get stressed if their environment is not clean. So be sure to line her carrier with a puppy pee pad so that if she has an accident, the pad will absorb the mishap and leave the surface of the pad dry. There are also portable litter boxes if you are traveling by road.

    Whether you are staying with family or friends or checking into an hotel, it’s a good idea to let your feline wear her ThunderShirt at her destination to further settle her anxiety of being in unfamiliar surroundings. And, if you are traveling to a part of the country that experiences severe thunder storms, once again the shirt will come in handy.

    Finally, never leave home without ensuring that your cat is micro chipped, her information registered with the company’s database and also ensure she is wearing a collar with an ID tag with up-to-date information. It’s important to double up because people will look at an ID tag first. But collars can come off. That’s where the microchip will kick in. Remember proper identification is a lost cat’s ticket home.


    -Sandy Robins

  • ThunderShirt's 1st Annual Charity Dog Wash!

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    This Friday May 31st from 2:00-5:00 PM we will be hosting a dog wash at our national headquarters to benefit local cause, the Coalition to Unchain Dogs which is dedicated to improving the welfare of dogs living outdoors on chains.  In addition to the dog wash, attendees can enjoy local food trucks and various community partners who will be exhibiting.  We will also have a pet photographer, goodie bags and a raffle!

    Dog wash: $15. General admission is free, and donations of any amount are welcome!

    At our location:

    905 Jackie Robinson Drive Durham, NC 27701


  • Support for Shelter Pets

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    At ThunderWorks, we love all pets! We especially encourage pet ownership when it means that a shelter pet is getting rescued. Additionally, we annually donate funds and products to shelters in need across the nation.

    Looking for some reasons to add a shelter pet to your life?

    5 million animals are killed in shelters every year in the United States. Come to the rescue and be a hero by adopting. It’s more affordable, more convenient, and so rewarding. Saving a dog from the shelter won’t change the world, but it most certainly will change the world for that dog.

    Pets have a way of putting a smile on your face and a spring in your step. Not only do animals give you unconditional love, but they have been shown to be psychologically, emotionally, and physically beneficial. Caring for a companion animal can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment and lessen feelings of loneliness and isolation in all age groups!

    We know choosing a new best friend isn’t an easy decision to make, and by all means requires a lot of attention and work. When visiting a shelter you may not find your next ‘perfect match’ dog on your first visit. But don’t give up! Keep checking back online and in person until you find the one that you think could be a part of your family.

    We often work with Petfinder, and were honored to have been recognized last year with their first-ever “Petfinder Seal of Approval” for our ThunderShirt. This is a great resource for you to learn more about adopting a pet.

  • Be on Your Best Dog Behavior: 3 simple things to keep in mind when training your dog.

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    1. Make sure to get your dog’s full attention when training them. Call out their name and make sure he or she is all-ears. Once they’re waiting on your command, that’s your cue. Make sure they know you have the authority and speak strong, with a steady voice.

    2. Patience is key, for both of you. Dogs in training most certainly won’t get the trick the first time around, or the 10th time around, but they will eventually so bear with them. They won’t initially know what’s going on either, so just keep calm and have fun with it! Don’t let them get frustrated; stay happy and positive so they’ll enjoy training sessions and look forward to more.

    3. Treats, treats, treats! Everyone knows that rewarding your pup with treats give them the incentive to repeat their trick. Make sure that the treats you’re rewarding them are healthy and in small amounts so they don’t get sick. Here’s a great snack to try! Grab some whole chicken franks and cut them into small pieces and throw them in the microwave until they puff up!

  • Doggone Games: Play Hide and Seek with Your Dog!

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    Not only is Hide and Seek the perfect game to play with your kids, but dogs love it too! This is a fun way to interact with your dog as well as build the bond between dogs and humans!

    Here are a few tips to start a game of Hide and Seek with your dog!

    1. The trick to get it started is to start easy in the house. Go ahead and hide until they find you, then reward them with a small and healthy treat. Gradually start doing longer distances until they get the idea.
    2. Whistle or call for them to keep them interested in the game and to avoid distractions.
    3. Once comfortable in a house or yard setting, try playing in the park or outdoors, just make sure they don’t wander too far away!

    Not only is this a fun pastime to do with your dog, but it teaches them obedience and the importance of finding you. For example, if you’re out on a hike together and you happen to lose each other their instinct will automatically tell them to go and find you. Good dog!

  • Introducing The Revolutionary ThunderLeash!

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    That’s right! We’ve done it again and developed a revolutionary “no pull” solution for dogs!

    The ThunderLeash can be used as a standard leash, or quickly and easily converted into a “no-pull” harness when pulling becomes a problem. Simply wrap the leash around the dog’s torso, and secure using our specialty hardware design. It’s that simple! The gentle pressure on the dog’s torso when they pull will cause them to stop, making walks with your dog more enjoyable than ever! Extensively tested and reviewed by professional dog trainers, we know you’ll love our new ThunderLeash.

    Ready to try a ThunderLeash?

    Order risk free here!

  • Fun Things For Doggies To Do During Barbeques

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    Barbeque season is just around the corner! Here are some fun activities to do with your dog during these family get-togethers.

    Bring some bubbles. These are always a huge hit with the kids, have your dog play with them! The kids can blow the bubbles while your dog can chase after them, be sure to not use too much soap and that the bubbles are non-toxic.

    Make a scavenger hunt. Hide some fun treats and toys for your dog while he spends the afternoon looking for them. This will give you some freedom to socialize while your dog has a blast of its own.

    Doggie “pup”-sicles anyone? Freeze some toys and goodies in a water bowl with some chicken broth. What better way for your dog to cool off in a delicious way!

    Kids love dogs. Dogs love kids…. in moderation. If your dog is comfortable around youngsters, arrange some fun activities they can do together. Playing fetch or throwing a Frisbee is always a great choice and both the kids and dogs are entertained. Make sure to pick a light-weight ball just in case they hit someone!! And pay attention to your dog to see if they’ve had enough playtime in case they need a break.

    As always, be observant of your dog if they are becoming uncomfortable with large crowds or strangers in the house- consider their stress levels and make sure they have a place to retreat to if needed.

  • Teach your Dog to Stay Out of the Garden

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    With spring in the air, flowers and plants are finally budding and blossoming. Although we all love our pets dearly, sometimes they don’t make nice with our beautiful gardens- and even worse, some plants can make our dogs sick! Here are some tips to keep them out.

    First and foremost, if you haven’t yet built your garden, try to plant on a raised platform. The higher they are out of reach, the better.

    If having a raised garden isn’t an option for you at the moment, try to find a spot for your dog to do all of its digging. Differentiate the difference and make it known. Do this by burying some goodies and this will give them that initiative to dig in their digging spot. They’ll start to really like that spot and hopefully not like the spot where you are planting.

    Try leash training. Walk him or her around in the yard and tighten your grip when your dog gets close to the garden. Show and communicate that the garden is a no play zone.

    Hopefully these quick tips will get you excited about the warmer weather and get “fido” less excited about the garden!

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