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There's no denying the excitement of New Year's Eve. It's time to say goodbye to the current year and welcome the new one as a fresh start. As the clock strikes midnight, people all over celebrate by cheering, clinking champagne glasses, or snuggling comfortably at home with their families. In some areas, there may also be fireworks.
While many people enjoy setting off fireworks in their backyards or attending a local celebration to welcome the New Year, pet parents often have a different view. Dogs and fireworks don't typically mix. Sudden explosions nearby or in the distance can trigger extreme fear and anxiety in canines, making for a long, stressful night for them and their pet parents. Fortunately, there are a few things pet parents can do to prepare for the occasion and minimize dog fireworks anxiety.
Pet parents may notice that not all dogs react the same to fireworks. Some never bat an eye when firework noises begin, but others bark incessantly, tremble, pace, or attempt to hide. Why are some dogs scared of fireworks while others seemingly aren't bothered? There are a few possible reasons:
They're loud. Dogs have much more sensitive hearing than humans. Pet parents know all too well how dogs can hear the quiet crinkling of a treat bag from across the house. Fireworks sound a lot louder to them.
They're sudden and unpredictable. Even if humans don't know the precise time a firework will explode, they have an approximate idea. Dogs don't have that same awareness. To them, the sounds (and lights, in some cases) happen out of nowhere for no apparent reason. They also go off at irregular intervals.
They may make dogs feel threatened. The perceived threat from fireworks can trigger a dog's fight-or-flight response.
A dog's age, breed, sex, and length of time with their owners may also play a role in their level of fear. Older dogs, for instance, may suffer hearing loss and have more trouble locating a sound's source, which can lead to more fear and anxiety. Some breeds are more prone to a fear of noises, too.
Dogs express their anxiety in many ways. Pet parents can learn a lot about their canine's emotional state by watching their body language. Some signs of anxiety are recognizable indicators of fear, while others are less obvious. Knowing what to look for, including more subtle behaviors, can help pet parents minimize their canine's discomfort and make New Year's Eve (and other fireworks holidays) more bearable.
Signs of fear in dogs may include:
Vocalizations, such as barking, whining or whimpering
Cowering with their tail between their legs
Shaking or trembling
Frequent yawning or lip licking
Expressive behaviors like furrowed eyebrows or ears back
Hiding under furniture or in another room away from pet parents
Clinging to a pet parent's side
Attempting to escape
Having accidents indoors despite being house-trained
Depending on where pet parents live, fireworks may be unavoidable. Here are a few tips for pet parents wondering how to calm a dog during fireworks.
When the loud sounds of fireworks trigger a dog's fear response, they may try to bolt away. If they're outside, they may run from their yard or pull their leash out of their pet parent's hand. Even well-secured yards aren't guaranteed to keep frightened canines contained.
The best thing a pet parent can do is to keep their dog indoors during an audible fireworks display. They may want to take their canine for a walk before the celebrations begin so they won't have to worry about it later. They should leash their canine before going out, even in a fenced yard, and keep a solid grip on it. Some of their neighbors may not wait until midnight to begin their shows.
Pet parents should also ensure that their dog's microchip and tag information are up-to-date. Should the unthinkable happen, that information could help increase the chances of a successful reunion.
Pet parents can attempt to cover the sound of fireworks with background noise. For instance, they may watch a movie or a few episodes of their favorite show of DogTV, perhaps a little louder than usual. They could play soothing music on their television, phone, or radio or turn on some white noise from an app or a sound machine.
Pet parents can create a safe haven that offers a peaceful escape. An interior room with no windows, such as a bathroom or closet, may offer the most insulation from frightening sounds. Pet parents should outfit it with water, a comfortable bed or blankets, the dog's crate, and one or more of their favorite toys. They can also add a radio or white noise machine to help drown out any particularly loud bangs or pops.
An anxiety wrap, vest, or shirt applies light, gentle pressure to a dog's body that they may find soothing in stressful situations. Pet parents might also offer their canines anti-anxiety treats. These tasty snacks contain natural ingredients that may help calm frazzled nerves or prevent severe anxiety symptoms before they have a chance to develop.
Pet parents have a few other calming products to consider, including collars, diffusers, and room sprays. For dogs with severe anxiety, though, they may want to discuss the possibility of prescription anxiety medications. Comparing their anti-anxiety options will help them determine the best ones for their pet.
More severe pet anxiety treatments may be available in the form of medications. Chat with a Fuzzy veterinarian about possible treatment options and training exercises to complement any medication or supplement.
Some dogs may only need a distraction from the sound of fireworks to ease their anxiety symptoms. During the display, pet parents can try playing games with their canine using their favorite toys. Games like tug-of-war, fetch, or puzzles can take a dog's mind off the fireworks.
While the above solutions may not eliminate a dog's anxiety during New Year's Eve fireworks displays, they can greatly reduce it.
Should pet parents need additional assistance dealing with fireworks-related fear and anxiety, they can always reach out to Fuzzy. With 24/7 access to live vets, people can get helpful tips and advice for lowering a pet's anxiety in the moment, even as fireworks are going off outside. That way, dogs and their pet parents can enjoy a calmer, more comfortable start to their New Year.