Julie Schmickle learned the hard way one July 4th that her pet Lab, Ziggy, would get very scared by loud noises.
"We had left him home alone to [go] watch fireworks,"the Plymouth resident recalled. "And when we got home, he had torn off the door frame of our front door with his paws and his teeth. There was blood all over, and he was visibly shaking."
After that, Schmickle said, the family made sure to stay home with Ziggy when loud noises struck.
"Not all dogs have the same response," said Dr. Kristi Flynn, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. "There are plenty that are comfortable through storms or fireworks, [but] signs of nervousness or anxiety in dogs can be subtle."
The signs can include pacing or panting, folded ears, yawning when not tired, licking their lips or looking away. Hiding under a bed or in the basement is a clear sign that the animal is frightened, she said.
The best cure is a little TLC.
"There's a misunderstanding that you can somehow reinforce fear when comforting your dog," she said. "There's the common recommendation of ignoring the dog when it's afraid because you don't want to reward them with their fear.
"But just as if you're watching a scary movie with your significant other and they comfort you, it's not more likely to make you more afraid next time," she said. "You're not going make the dog more afraid if you reassure them."
Comforting them before loud noises begin is the best approach. When some dogs get anxious, they no longer want to be cuddled. In those cases, giving them a favorite bone or treat might help them to relax, Flynn said. In severe cases, it might be necessary to go to your veterinarian for anti-anxiety medications.