Our research to date on fireworks
Dog behaviour and the sound characteristics of fireworks (2022/23)
Project Leads: Dr Sara Owczarczak-Garstecka (Dogs Trust), Dr Jane Murray (Dogs Trust), Dr Zuzanna Podwinska (University of Salford)
Dogs Trust are conducting a study in collaboration with the Acoustic Research Centre at the University of Salford to study dog behaviour in response to firework noises. You can be involved even if you don’t have a dog and we will be very grateful for your help!
Why is this study important?
Dogs’ hearing ability is different from human hearing. Dogs can detect sounds from four times farther away than people  and perceive sounds with higher frequencies than humans .
Nearly half (49%) of dogs in the UK  are estimated to be negatively affected by fireworks. Despite this, we simply don’t know what fireworks sound like to a dog: Are dogs responding to the sound level (objective measure of how loud fireworks are) alone, or perhaps to a combination of a sound level and other acoustic characteristics, like frequency?
This study will help us to understand how firework sound levels and other acoustic characteristics relate to dog behaviour. We hope that this information will help us to improve the advice we offer to dog owners and create an evidence base regarding the impact of fireworks on dog behaviour that can support Dogs Trust campaigning in the future.
Dog behaviour and fireworks: Seeking help and advice (2021)
Project Leads: Prof Rob Christley, Dr Naomi Harvey, Dr Jane Murray
Key People: Rachel Kinsman, Dr Sara Owczarczak-Garstecka, Dr Ben Cooper.
Please find the Fireworks project objectives, publications and papers below.
Project background and summary
Nearly half of UK dogs are scared by noise, particularly fireworks . Some animals are even injured when running scared from fireworks or because they are hit by fireworks. It is unclear how many dogs are injured for these reasons in the UK. Only about a quarter of owners seek help for their dogs’ fear of fireworks [1, 3]. Where owners seek advice and what advice they receive is not fully understood . Reasons for not seeking help or advice are also unknown.
Owners of dogs with severe fear of fireworks are most likely to seek help, particularly if their dog was injured during a fireworks display. In New Zealand, the most common reasons for owners not seeking help included :
- cost of treatment
- seeing treatment as ineffective or too difficult
- not being aware of treatment options
- believing that they know how to help the dog or thinking that their dog's fear was not bad enough to need help
We now need to know whether these same barriers, or others, prevent UK owners seeking help – this is one of the things we will address in this study.
A 2013 study showed that those who do seek help contact their vet, a behaviourist, a trainer, friends, others, and/or multiple sources . Whilst it was good that experts are among the most sought-after sources of help in that study, owners are increasingly relying on social media for health advice for their dogs [4, 5] so it is possible that sources of information regarding behaviour have also changed since 2013. Therefore, an updated understanding of where owners seek help for fireworks is needed. In addition, we plan to evaluate the advice owners receive and their perception of its effectiveness.
 Kumiko, I. (2006). The nature of noise fear in domestic dogs. Masters thesis, University of Lincoln. http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/id/eprint/4513/
 Heffner, H.E. (1983). “Hearing in large and small dogs: Absolute thresholds and size of the tympanic membrane”. Behavioral Neuroscience, vol. 97, no. 2, pp. 310–318, doi: 10.1037/0735-7044.97.2.310.
 Blackwell, E.J., Bradshaw, J.W.S., Casey, R.A. (2013). Fear responses to noises in domestic dogs: Prevalence, risk factors and co-occurrence with other fear related behaviour. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 145(1-2):15-25.