New Year’s festivities are right around the corner! It’s a time to celebrate, be with loved ones, stay up late, and watch the beautiful fireworks bloom in the night sky. It’s also a great time to get out and about with our pups. However, some of us have dogs that are afraid of many things. This can lead to people staying locked inside with their dogs and avoiding all of the fun. You may even have a dog that is afraid of loud noises… Here’s how to ensure you and your dog have the best time possible:
If your dog is afraid of loud noises…
A lot of dogs are fearful of loud noises. We all know that New Year’s is a lively holiday with plenty of ruckus at night. Fireworks, children playing, the neighbor’s party… these can all be stressful on a sensitive dog. But don’t worry! Here’s how you prevent a pup panic attack due to loud noises:
1. Use an anxiety shirt/wrap: Anxiety shirts (also called “thunder shirts”) are often used as a calming mechanism for anxious or fearful dogs. However, most people misuse these shirts. The key to calming the dog is by putting the shirt on them when they are CALM, not when they are already afraid or anxious. When the dog is in a happy, calm state of mind, the shirt should be put on. This makes the dog associate the shirt with bliss and calm. If the shirt is put on during stress, the dog will think the shirt means stress, fear, anxiety, etc. So, please use these shirts or wraps if you have them available, but be sure to put them on BEFORE a stressful situation, not after.
2. Take a walk: Dogs are in their best state of mind when they have been exercised. Just like humans, exercise releases endorphins for your dog and also makes them feel productive and tired. After a good walk, dogs are much less stressed and feel very calm. Be sure to use good walking techniques (no pulling, no barking at other dogs, etc.) so your dog can get the most out of their walk, including a great mental workout. They will thank you for their strengthened body and mind!
3. No coddling: As humans, our immediate reaction to an upset or scared dog is to comfort them. We pet them and tell them everything is alright. Unfortunately, this can actually be very harmful to your anxious dog. We know it’s hard to wrap your brain around, but humans and dogs are different species! When dogs are afraid, it is very important not to coddle them like you would a human child. By petting them when they are reacting to a fearful situation, you are telling them that their reaction (jumping, whining, clawing, barking, etc.) is a good behavior. You are in fact encouraging them to be fearful and anxious, so please do not pet and coddle your dog when they are very reactive to a phobia.
4. Allow your dog to den: Dogs are den animals. They enjoy bedding down in closed off areas just as dogs and wolves do in the wild. Your dogs den area may be their crate, their favorite corner, their bed, or any other space that makes them feel cozy and safe. It could even be inside the bathtub! When they become afraid, allow them to go to this place and calm down on their own.
5. Use a leash if needed: If your dog becomes very physically reactive, you may want to keep them on a leash, even if you are in your home. Some dogs may spin, bite, or frantically run when they are scared. By having them on a leash before any loud noises may occur, they won’t notice or mind their leash and you will be able to keep them safe from harm when they are frightened.
We hope that these five bits of information do wonders for your dog on New Year’s. In any event when you know your dog may have a bad reaction to something, it’s always best to try and prevent the reaction from occurring, rather than waiting until it’s too late. Remember, you have to be a leader for your dog. One that is calm, stable, and confident. If you would like continue learning about dogs that are fearful of loud noises, please watch our YouTube video here: