An alarming study by UK dog welfare organisation, the Dogs Trust, has revealed that more than 70% of UK dogs are scared of fireworks.
The charity’s survery has revealed that 72% of pet dogs are frightened of fireworks and of these, 1 in 10 have been so severely affected that they have required veterinary treatment . Over 90% of dog owners surveyed say they alter their routine during the November celebrations around Fireworks night and during Diwali to try to minimise the trauma on their petrified pooches.
If you are among the millions of dogs owners whose dogs cower at Catherine Wheels, are spooked by sparklers or rattled by rockets, Dogs Trust is on hand to help calm those canine quivers. The UK’s largest dog welfare charity is offering advice to help petrified pooches and their owners enjoy a fright free November. Many dog owners are simply unaware of the affect that firework fear can have on their dogs and each year the charity is inundated with calls from dog owners who simply don’t know how to calm their pets
It can be difficult for owners to calm their dog’s nerves once the loud bangs begin, but Lynn Barber, Head of Canine Behaviour and Training at Dogs Trust explains how you can help relax your canine companions:
“ As our survey suggests, November is potentially a worrying month for dog owners as so many dogs are sensitive to sounds. They hear much higher frequencies than we do and the whizz, bang, pop of fireworks can be too much for them.
If your dog chooses to hide then that is where he or she feels safest and it’s important that they’re allowed to stay in their hide-out as long as needed. Often owners will try and drag their dogs out for enforced cuddles and affection; this should be avoided as it will only confuse your canine. Try and make your four-legged friend as comfortable as possible..”
Dogs Trust has some simple advice to help make the firework season less stressful for dogs this firework season:
Before the fireworks begin:
Walk your dog before dark – make sure your dog is well exercised and has had a toilet break before the fireworks begin.
Feed your dog before the fireworks begin as he may become unsettled and not want to eat during the fireworks.
Make sure your house and garden are secure during the fireworks as fear may make the dog act out of character and he may try to escape.
Try to settle your dog before the fireworks start – if your dog is in familiar safe surroundings it will help him cope with the noise.
Provide a safe hiding place – at noisy times around Bonfire Night, make sure your dog has somewhere safe in his or her favourite room, perhaps under the table. Close the curtains and turn up the volume on your TV or radio to drown out the firework noises.
If your dog responds well to certain music, make a compilation and play it at a reasonable level to drown out the sound of the fireworks. Alternatively, put your radio on.
During the fireworks:
Don’t punish a dog for cowering or reacting to the fireworks as this will intensify his or her fear. Owners should aim to remain relaxed and therefore provide a good role model to the animal when it is afraid.
Don’t leave your dog alone in the house during the fireworks period – he or she may panic and this could result in an injury.
Keep your dog busy – play games or enjoy some reward-based training to keep their mind off the noises.
Be careful not to reward your dog for reacting to noise – if he or she is upset giving them lots of attention may inadvertently reward him for being afraid. It is better to act as if there’s nothing to worry about. However, if your dog comes to you for comfort is best not to ignore him – very gently stroke him along his flanks and his ears – this may help to calm him.
Never force a dog outside when fireworks are being let off, and even if your dog enjoys Bonfire Night, never let them off their lead outdoors when fireworks are being let off.
After the fireworks:
If your dog does react badly to fireworks seek advice from your vet regarding desensitisation programmes to help him or her cope more easily next time. As these programmes generally take several weeks or more to complete, they are not something that can be started in the final run-up to firework season and must be carefully planned. You should also ask about Adaptil collars which contain a Dog Appeasing Pheromone -a scent that can comfort your dog and help him or her cope with their fears
It is also important that in the long term your dog becomes less scared of loud noises. It is most effective to prevent noise phobia developing by ensuring that puppies are desensitised to loud noise.
For more information visit http://www.dogstrust.org.uk/az/f/fireworks/to download a free ‘Firework Fear and your Dog’ factsheet