The evening before New Year is a loud, memorable time of parties, house dinners, fireworks, and music. It’s a night we all look forward to, even as we sadly bid another year goodbye. For our pets, it’s a night that suddenly turns scary and threatens the calm safety of their world. It’s reported that the nights before New Year’s Eve and 4th of July are the busiest in all veterinary clinics. Pet parents across the country try and get medication to calm their dog’s anxiety and keep them from hurting themselves. While not all pets react badly to the sound and experience of these nights, some are triggered to an extreme degree. Far too many shelters suddenly find their numbers bloated as fearful dogs escape yards and houses, in an effort to get away from the noise.
While medicating your dog is an option, veterinarians will not usually give prescription anti-anxiety drugs without knowing your dog’s medical history. It’s best to talk about this with your preferred vet a month or more before the problem night. Often medication is a last resort and some other methods should be attempted before that stage.
Always tire your dog out before the night. Take him on a long walk, play fetch for an hour, have him run around till he’s ready to go home and sleep. Tiredness is the best anti-anxiety drug. It dulls your dog’s senses and keeps him from registering the unusually loud noises with his normal sensitivity.
Train your dog to use a crate. Every dog has a favorite spot where they retreat to when they are scared. It can be his dog bed, a couch, a corner of the dining room. Dogs require a den. The quieter, safer the spot, the better. A crate is a wonderful space to get a dog used to. This training is best started early in life. If your dog regards the crate as a place where he can rest safely, you can easily leave him in there with a chew bone or a toy stuffed with treats. Make sure that he has peed and pooped before. This containment will keep him from bolting, and lessen his anxiety.
Always tire your dog.
When crating is not an option, contain your dog in a room with his favorite toys and treat-filled puzzle games. Check on him occasionally, but don’t let him out to mingle with the guests. The energy of a room full of people would only intensify his stress levels. Sound proof his room as much as possible, and put on some calming music to counter the sound of fireworks and ear-blasting EDM outside.
The use of calming music has been scientifically proven to lower anxiety in dogs. There are songs recorded specifically for dogs to help them de-stress. Research these before-hand and expose your dog to them when he’s already feeling mellow. Once he begins associating that music with relaxation, putting it on before the New Year’s celebrations begin, will help keep him calm through the night.
Finally, give him your attention. If you’re at home, stay beside him. You’re the center of his world and your mere presence makes him feel safe. If it’s possible to get out of the house and leave for a quieter area, go visit your family or friends with your dog. It’s the best way to spend the last day of the year, anyway.