Happy New Year! Don’t "Ace" Your Pet

New Year’s Eve may be scary for your pet, but don’t “ace” them. Ace is a chemical restraint… BUT IT DOES NOT RELIEVE ANXIETY. So your pet will still be fearful or anxious while unable to move. Remember, to your dog, the experience of fireworks is different than other natural loud noises, like thunder. Fireworks are closer to the ground, more vibrant, and are accompanied by sudden booms, flashes and burning smells. The typical New Years Eve celebration can be overwhelming to them. Here are some tips to help keep your dog calm, making for an easier holiday for both of you:

1. Relocate

If your dog does react badly to fireworks, try to arrange to keep her in a place where there won’t be any loud displays, such as at a friend’s or relative’s house, or at a professional dog boarding facility with which your dog is familiar. If the place is unfamiliar, try to take your dog there a few times before the holiday so it won’t be a big surprise when you leave her there on the day of.

2. Exercise

If you can’t arrange for your dog to be elsewhere, then take him on a long walk before the festivities start in order to drain his energy, making him less likely to become excited when the fireworks go off. By doing this, you will help decrease rapid brain movement so he will not be as concentrated on the noise.

3. Disguise

No, this doesn’t involve putting a funny mask on your dog. Disguise the sound of fireworks by using dog-safe ear protection, like Mutt Muffs, which go over a dog’s ears like headphones. Please do not use any kind of plug that goes inside of a dog’s ear. Since the openings are so much larger and deeper than in human ears, it would be very easy to lose an earplug inside, leading to a trip to the vet. Blocking the noise, though, may help minimize reactions to it. You can also try a noise machine ( make several with calming spa music) or even just turning on the radio might help.

4. Distract

When the fireworks go off, try engaging your dog in obedience behavior, having her do whatever tricks you’ve taught her for treats. If you have a treadmill, now is a great time to have your dog walk on it — the forward motion will re-direct her brain away from the fireworks and focus it on the physical action. Scent is another great way to distract your dog by engaging her nose.

5. Lead by Example

Most importantly, don’t think of this in terms of your dog as your child who is missing out on a great, fun time. That’s human guilt. Your dog won’t know what she’s missing. You’re being a good leader by not exposing her to a situation that will trigger her flight instinct in a negative way. When the booms and bangs of New Years Eve are over, your dog will be grateful to you for having made it a less stressful experience!

Dr. Ashley Geoghegan

Dr. Ashley Geoghegan, known affectionately as Dr. G, has spent a lifetime devoted to animal care. Dr. G graduated from the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine and served in the U.S. Army as a veterinary officer. At VetNaturally™, she practices Integrative Medicine, which is a combination of Traditional Chinese Veterinary medicine (TCVM) , canine rehabilitation and conventional Western medicine.