My dog, Finley, loves hugs, but I’m not always there to give them to her. When I leave the house and her separation anxiety kicks in, she cries out with what’s surely fear of abandonment. I often find myself wishing I could leave a life-sized plush version of me in the house for her to snuggle with whenever she needs it.
Although Finley is highly anxious, physical contact instantly puts her in a serene state. She loves being petted, cuddling up against people and pillows, and diving under blankets to be ensconced in their bulky warmth.
When I first saw the therapeutic, calming Rein Coat for dogs, it reminded me of the heavy lead apron that dentists use to protect patients during X-rays (though the dog coat isn’t intended to weigh down its wearer). I wanted to learn more about how Finley might benefit from the design.
Created by Paula Padgett Hege, the Rein Coat was developed after her English Mastiffs, Rabb and Roz, were bitten by a snake during a thunderstorm. While the dogs were treated for their wounds, Rabb never recovered emotionally. Anytime a storm or loud noise appeared, Rabb was traumatized. As a result, Hege made it her mission to create a product that would calm her 200-pound pooch.
As canine lovers, we’re all familiar with how a mother dog carries a puppy by taking the scruff of his neck in her mouth, which instantly calms the pup, who goes limp. The Rein Coat imitates that response-producing action by putting soft pressure on the nape of the wearer’s neck. It bills itself as a patent-pending “therapeutic calming coat” specifically meant to reduce anxiety, alarm, aggression, and sensitivity in pets. Finley checks two of those four boxes — anxiety and alarm — so I decided to give the Rein Coat a shot.
At first glance, the coat looks like a horse blanket, big and sturdy – just the kind of thing you’d lay across your pet to encourage calm behavior. I secured the Velcro at the coat’s neck so that it would fit Finley snugly but not too tight. Then, I pulled the front strap of the harness through her front legs and clipped either side of the belly buckle to the back clip. I adjusted the straps to fit my long and slender Vizsla.
Unlike other anxiety coats, the Rein Coat is meant to be a fairly loose fit. One interesting feature is that the Velcro strips on the coat’s exterior keep the harness straps in place. This way, they don’t slip up or down on your dog’s body and create any unwanted friction. In the words of the Rein Coat team, it allows your pooch “complete freedom of movement.” Other great features are the two D-rings at the back of the coat so you can leash up and go for a walk.
Finley wore the classic coat, which is made specifically for colder weather or for wearing indoors throughout the year. It consists of a three-layer tricot polyester fleece soft-shell with a wind- and water-guard membrane. (The ultralight coat is the other option, made of ripstop material and also intended for outdoor wear in warmer weather.)
Although she froze for a moment when I first secured the Rein Coat around her body, Finley soon became fairly comfortable in the garment and was able to sit, lie down, and walk around within minutes. She was keenly aware of its presence on her body, but the Rein Coat did seem to have a calming effect, especially during training and our usual game of “find it,” in which I hide treats around the house for her to uncover. In the game, I will sometimes catch Finley “peeking” if she decides she can no longer wait while I search for a hiding spot for a piece of kibble. But she doesn’t cheat when she’s wearing the Rein Coat. And instead of practically tripping over herself with excitement when it’s time to seek, she moves more deliberately – although still with energy!
Each time I’ve put the Rein Coat on Finley, she’s become noticeably less restless. When I ask her to sit, she’ll put her bottom down and keep it down, whereas she usually pops back up within a millisecond. If I leave the house for a moment to take out the garbage or speak to a neighbor in the driveway, she’ll quietly watch us from the window instead of disintegrating into a frantic mess. And when the mailman makes his daily delivery, Finley will bark only once or twice before heeding my call from the kitchen, promising a treat if she’ll sit quietly.
Quality: A-. The coat is made with durable fabric and harness straps that can withstand 800-plus pounds of pressure. While it’s meant to be worn by most dogs and in most circumstances, I found the coat to be a bit cumbersome on my slim dog. She had a hard time hopping up on the bed – her favorite spot in the house!
Style: This isn’t a fashion coat. The sporty blue design looks athletic and utilitarian.
Function: The Rein Coat is dynamic because dogs as small as five pounds or as large as 250 pounds can wear it. It does have a noticeable calming effect.
Creativity: The design takes inspiration from how puppies are naturally picked up by their mothers, which is pretty cool.
Value: At $59.95 to $89.95, the Rein Coat is a small investment, but it’s one that can help dogs with various anxieties, such as loud noises, car rides, or vet visits, along with pain.
The Rein Coat hasn’t stopped Finley’s anxiety in its tracks – we still need to medicate her if we leave her alone in the house for a long stretch of time – but it makes her nervousness more manageable when we’re together.
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About the author: Whitney C. Harris is a New York-based freelance writer for websites including StrollerTraffic, Brides.com, and WhattoExpect.com. A former book and magazine editor, she enjoys running (with her dog, Finley), watching movies (also with Finley), and cooking meatless meals (usually with Finley watching close by). She and her husband (and Finley, too) welcomed a baby girl named Rowan in August.