Safe and Sound During the Holidays


Anxiety can disrupt the human-animal bond.


How to manage noise aversion in dogs and strengthen the human-animal bond

The holiday season seems to last longer and get more hectic every year. Whether cooking the Thanksgiving feast or doing last-minute gift shopping, everyone can get a little stressed out. Even our furry family members can suffer anxiety during these celebrations.

According to an online survey conducted by Harris Poll and commissioned by Zoetis, 46

Mixed-Breed dog under Christmas spruce  tree
Even furry family members feel stress during the holiday season. Photo credit: alexei_tm

percent of dog owners reported their dog showed symptoms of stress during the holidays. The survey also found that 44 percent of dog owners said their dogs suffer from noise aversion.

Noise aversion is the set of fear-based behaviors that dogs display when subjected to “noise triggers.” During the year-end holidays, such noise triggers might be the doorbell, boisterous family gatherings, children playing with loud toys, or New Year’s fireworks.

During the busy holiday season, common behavioral signs of canine noise aversion include: panting, trembling or shaking, pacing or restlessness, vocalizing, hiding, owner-seeking behavior, cowering, refusal to eat, excessive vigilance or hyper-vigilance, and escape behaviors.

Although noise aversion is common, dog owners often do not seek help from their veterinarians. One reason may be that pet owners recognize their dogs overreact to noise, but do not recognize that these behaviors are a demonstration of fear. This fear can disrupt the human-animal bond by causing anxiety for the dogs and stress for their humans.

Therefore, it is important to seek treatment for your dog if he is displaying signs of noise aversion. Not only are these dogs distressed and suffering, but when left untreated, noise aversion can progress to a more severe state.

Holidays can be tough on pets. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

“It is crucial to understand the level of physiological suffering that occurs with the stress and anxiety of noise aversion,” said Dr. Lynn Honeckman, a Florida veterinarian. “Ignoring the fearful pet during a noise event or using prescription medications as a last resort is not the standard of care as outlined by the American Board of Veterinary Behaviorists.”

There are ways to help an anxious dog feel more comfortable. Dogs always need a safe place to call their own, and that can be especially true when they need comfort from loud celebrations. Sometimes a dim, quiet room or crate can provide comfort, while soft music can soothe other dogs. However, if this is not enough. It may be time to talk to you family doggie doctor about medication options.

Don’t let your dog suffer through the holiday season. If you think your dog is showing signs of noise aversion, consult your veterinarian for guidance on a solution that allows you and your dog to enjoy the holidays together.