THE UK’s largest canine charity offers advice to dog-owners for upcoming firework celebrations and is calling for volunteers to take part in ground-breaking study.
With many people planning to see in the New Year with fireworks, Dogs Trust which has rehoming centres in Bridgend and Cardiff, is issuing advice to help owners prepare their pets who might be scared by the unexpected bangs and blasts of fireworks as the clock strikes midnight on 31 December 2022.
Angela Wetherall, Dogs Trust Wales Manager said: “Dogs have approximately four times more sensitive hearing than humans, so the loud cracks and bangs of fireworks can often be a terrifying and confusing experience for them. Fireworks also tend to be sudden, unpredictable and bright. This combination can be distressing and have a lasting impact on dogs.
“There are lots of things dog owners can do to help make fireworks less stressful including having a clear plan, ahead of time, to help their dog cope. Dogs will respond to fireworks in different ways, some will want to find a cosy hiding place, whilst others will want reassurance. It is important to recognise the individual needs of your dog, letting them do what makes them feel most comfortable, if it is safe to do so.”
The charity urges owners to visit its website for full guidance on how to help dogs stay safe and settled during fireworks. The top tips include:
Adapt your routine – To avoid taking your dog out when fireworks have started, gradually change their routine leading up to events. For example, it may be a good idea to start walking them earlier in the day alongside gradually changing their feeding time to allow them time to eat, exercise and toilet before dark.
Keep your dog safe – Make sure your house and garden are secure.
Recognise the needs of your dog – Fireworks can spark varied reactions from dogs, some will appear relaxed and unbothered by the loud bangs; others will show signs of anxiety or fear. They may show subtle signs, such as panting or licking their lips, finding somewhere to hide or seeking attention from their human family. Or they may show more obvious signs, such as pacing, barking or even toileting in the house. Whilst these signs can be related to fear of noise, they can also indicate underlying health problems so please contact your vet for advice if you are concerned.
Enable their preferred response by letting your dog do what they feel most comfortable with, if it is safe to do so. Some dogs will benefit from having a safe place to retreat to should they feel worried by fireworks. Introduce this safe place well in advance and encourage them there by building up positive associations with their new ‘den’. Other dogs will cope best by seeking reassurance, so give them attention and comfort if they seek this out. Some dogs may not seem worried, and it’s best to keep them occupied with their favourite toys or activities so they don’t start to get anxious – experiment before the firework season begins, and slowly introduce them, to find out what they enjoy the most. It is important to remember, fear of fireworks can appear at any time and any age, so it is essential to support your dog throughout their life.
Plan in advance and seek guidance from your vet – they can help with advice and may also prescribe medication if deemed necessary to help your dog cope. Medication can be extremely useful where dogs are fearful as it can not only help them cope during the fireworks event, but also stop their fear escalating after each event.
Angela adds:m “We recommend noting down how your dog reacted during the fireworks and what worked well to help them cope in preparation for the next firework event. We would also advise returning to a normal routine as quickly as possible following fireworks to help dogs settle down. If they were worried during fireworks, it is a good idea to seek professional help well before the next firework season starts.”
Dogs Trust is also carrying out a ground-breaking study this New Year’s Eve, exploring how fireworks and loud noises affect dogs, and is seeking volunteers to take part. The charity is collaborating with the University of Salford, combining the university’s specialist knowledge in acoustics and the charity’s expertise in dog behaviour. Both dog owners and non-dog owners are invited to take part in the study by completing a short survey, available 31 December 2022 to 8 January 2023.