For most dogs, New Year's Eve is anything but a reason to celebrate. Dogs that are anxious or panicky on New Year's Eve are most likely to be afraid of noise. Sounds that dogs can't identify or where they're coming from are particularly frightening. Fear of noise develops mainly in the first year of life of the dog. The first experiences that a puppy and young dog make with loud noises are therefore crucial for further dealing with loud noises and accordingly with the New Year's Eve fireworks and the firecrackers.
In order to get a dog's fear of New Year's Eve under control, it needs extensive training and good habituation, i.e. getting used to loud noises. There is no more time for intensive habituation training, so we give you 7 last-minute New Year's Eve tips to give your dog a pleasant New Year's Eve.
Before you start with the tips, you still need some equipment to be prepared for New Year's Eve. This includes:
- Cotton balls (you can get them at the supermarket or drugstore)
- Chews that last a long time and taste intense, i.e. dried cattle ears etc.
Treats to spread: liver sausage for children, treat lip paste, goat's milk yoghurt or natural peanut butter without sugar and xylitol
- Lavender or chamomile essential oil from a pharmacy or health food store
- If you don't have it at home: a ceiling to build a cave
Last minute New Year's tips
Tip no. 1: Walkies in the forest
Some regions and municipalities already ban fireworks and firecrackers. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case for every region and despite the ban, there are always people who ignore the ban. To protect your dog from silly encounters and situations, the days around New Year's Eve it can be easier to load the dog in the car and drive far out into the woods. Fireworks are not set off in the forest and a calmer mood can help your dog. Even if driving to the nearest forest is not an ecological tip, it can be beneficial for your dog. You can then offset your ecological footprint in other ways.
Tip #2: Foraging
Food is always a good companion, because on the one hand food can trigger positive feelings and on the other hand nerve food is always a good tip when there is a lot of stress. Not every dog will take food when stressed, so don't force anything. Special favorite treats can help to help the dog with food.
Nerve food is food that gives your dog better stamina in stressful situations. Nerve food is particularly needed in situations in which your dog needs a lot of impulse control or frustration tolerance. Miller et al (2010) showed in their study that dogs have an increased energy expenditure when exercising impulse control. Dogs given a glucose drink were able to double their self-control. Carbohydrates that dogs tolerate well are potatoes, rice and pasta. Rice is often used for gastrointestinal problems because it is easily digestible and therefore well tolerated. For dogs who cannot tolerate gluten, millet, oatmeal and quinoa are good options, as are buckwheat, barley or amaranth. Just try out what your dog likes and what he tolerates. Carbohydrates are the energy source for the dog's brain. You can find more about nerve food in the Impulse Control Blog.
Treat search at home
Sniffing usually has a stress-reducing effect because fewer or no stress hormones are produced during nose work. Most dogs also calm down much better after a sniffing session. Hide food or treats in a food dummy at home and let your dog wait until you have hidden the dummy. Now give the signal that the dog can search.
Food toys or chews
Chewing and nibbling is helpful for the dog to better deal with stress. This is why dogs with high separation anxiety tend to chew on furniture. We can use this natural need to chew by filling the dog's food toy with goat's milk yoghurt or natural peanut butter and putting it in the freezer before New Year's Eve. In this way, the content remains fixed for a long time and the dog is occupied with it longer.
Alternatively, you can put a chewing root in a food storage container with a piece of cheese or sausage overnight so that the root absorbs the smell and your dog can enjoy it longer.
Tip #3: Cotton in the ear
For dogs that are particularly sensitive to noise, cotton wool in the ear can help to muffle the noise. Very important!!!! The cotton should not be inserted too deeply into the ear canal. If possible, ask your veterinarian to help you with this. Since the cotton can be uncomfortable for the dog at first, you should start to get your dog used to it carefully about 3 days before New Year's Eve. Your dog does not need any other stress factors to disturb him on New Year's Eve.
Tip #4: Retreat with blankets
Dogs love caves. For New Year's Eve you can build a den for your dog around his dog bed or cover a kennel or a dog box with a thick blanket. The cave offers security and the ceiling insulates the noise. Make sure that you get your dog used to the cave for two to three days and build it up positively by giving your dog special chews in the cave. Leave the den open so your dog can move freely.
Tip No. 5: Divide stimuli through music
Always keep some background noise the days before and after New Year's Eve by turning on some music. The division of stimuli allows your dog not only to concentrate on the fireworks or the firecrackers. The music will soften the New Year's Eve sounds and allow your dog to relax more easily. Music therapy is very common in some areas in humans. Music can promote relaxation in dogs. Results from Lindig et al. (2020) indicate that animals (not just dogs) appear less stressed or anxious when listening to classical music. So far there has been little research that deals with music and relaxation in connection with animals. Music can offer relief from turmoil in the home environment. In most studies, rest time and barking duration were assessed and measured as indicators of stress. Measured by cortisol levels and heart rate, classical music could induce calm. In addition to the genre, conditioning and the association with experiences and the music can also have a good effect. If your dog always lies relaxed next to you while you listen to your favorite music, the positive experience can calm your dog down.
Tip #6: Aromatherapy with natural oils
Chamomile, lavender and valerian have long been said to have a calming effect - in dogs and humans. The herbs can be given to the dog via food to work internally or as an essential oil via a diffuser. The herbs should be started during a quiet phase. Only use high-quality and gently prepared herbs and essential oils from the pharmacy or health food store.
Tip #7: Mood Transfer
Mirror neurons are responsible for what is known as mood transmission. Research into mirror neurons began with the Italian researcher Giacomo Rizzolatti and his team in 1992 on macaque monkeys and is still in its infancy today. Mirror neurons ensure that action tendencies arise as a result of observation. This is mainly important for survival in groups or herds and therefore very useful. If a herd animal spots an enemy, it will run and the others will follow. Choosing and hunting is made more difficult for the enemy and the survival of the herd members is ensured. Mirror neurons and the transmission of mood are essential to our survival. Mirror neurons are not only responsible for action patterns, but also, as the name "mood transmission" suggests, for mood and emotions.
Mood transmission is intraspecific, e.g. B. between dog and dog and between species at z. B. humans and dogs possible. If you are stressed and restless, you unconsciously transfer this mood to your dog. Your dog perceives your restlessness through different signals: your posture, your voice, chemically through your sweat or through your actions. Dogs are able to sense our emotions. However, mood transfer should not be misunderstood and humanized as "My dog understands me". No, your dog empathizes with your emotions. If your dog does not come to rest, the restlessness may be due to your current emotional state. So always question your emotions to be able to teach your dog to be calm.
Tension can also be relieved by touch. The hormone oxytocin plays an important role in relaxation. Touch activates different fibers in the skin that distinguish between a good touch (stroking) and a bad touch (biting). This information is passed on to the brain and a good touch releases more oxytocin. The increase in oxytocin has a relaxing effect.