In our modern densely-populated and noisy urban society, dogs can often live much of their lives outdoors in a state of high visual stimulation. Surprising encounters at close distances and limited opportunities to escape are part of this picture also. The ThunderCap™ is a tool that can be used to reduce the stimulation of these environments. They can also be helpful in the environmental management program of dogs who have reactivity.
Who can they help?
Reactivity and stress are common situations that many dogs experience, even more so in cities. For some dogs there may also be a genetic predisposition toward over-arousal with things visually appearing suddenly or moving quickly, such as sight-hounds or herding breeds. For others, anxiety can also contribute to a need for additional space or reduced trigger intensity for successful training to happen.
For a reactive dog owners, using a ThunderCap™ can lessen the likelihood of their dog being triggered by these surprising situations. It can be helpful for a person with a larger reactive dog and a smaller car, since putting them in a covered crate to reduce triggering in the car is often not possible. It can also be useful for a person living in a high-rise with their reactive dog, where getting out of and into the building is a bit like “running the gauntlet” past dogs in the environment.
Don’t they blind my dog?
Having had the opportunity to hold up the ThunderCap™ and walk around looking through it, I would describe the experience as being similar to looking through a thin and dark tee-shirt. Closer objects are more distinct and identifiable and further ones are less clear. I have seen dogs (i.e. the sheltie above) who are wearing a cap in a car, have the capability to jump to the ground outside, pee on a tree, walk up stairs and around obstacles like chairs and otherwise act normally. Far from blinding them, it only lowers the amount of stimulation and makes it easier for them to ignore things that are further than a few feet away.
Are they hard to get used to?
If you play the head-dry-off-game under a towel with your dog (is it only me?) or if you have played peek-a-boo with a towel or sheet with your dog (what, only me again?) they will be a natural for this. It really is a lot easier than most people think that it will be as long as you let your dog set the pace and you respect their level of tolerance. By encouraging your dog to “burrow” into the cap to get treats, you can make getting the cap on fun, and wearing it rewarding for them. I’m working on a video (that I will link here) showing how to introduce the ThunderCap™ in a gradual and fun way to your dog.
Do they cause any pain or irritation?
In my experience working with clients who are introducing and using the ThunderCap™ with their dogs, so far none have reported their dogs experiencing any pain while wearing it. A few people (less than a handful) have reported difficulty with introducing it and/or having their dogs wear it. These few people often have dogs that are very anxious or have high anxiety associated with things on their face. Having also trained dogs to be comfortable with wearing head-halters (another face worn management tool) I can say that the time frame for introduction of the ThunderCap™ is a lot faster.
Will my dog have to wear it forever?
Like any management tool or technique, the purpose for their use is to prevent your dog from experiencing situations that are overwhelming to them or in which they currently unprepared to train. Avoiding these triggers prevents them from practicing inappropriate behaviors (thereby making them worse) and can also keep them from becoming even further sensitized to them. There may be many situations that, through training, become more tolerable for your dog and the ThunderCap™ is no longer needed. However, there may be situations (for example, a skateboarding clown parade) where you still think it could be helpful to reduce the likelihood of visually triggering reactivity or fear.