Dogs Trust

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Fireworks set to cause distress to millions of animals this NYE

Dogs Trust offers advice for owners to minimise suffering for four-legged-friends

An estimated 4 million dogs are likely to be showing signs of fear or anxiety this New Year’s Eve.

To help make fireworks less stressful for our dogs on New Year’s Eve and beyond, we are offering some immediate tips and long-term advice to dog owners.

  1. Walk your dog before dark
  2. Make sure your house and garden are secure
  3. Reduce the impact of noises and flashes (e.g. by playing other music, closing curtains and having the dog in the middle part of the house.)
  4. Stay calm yourself and don’t tell your dog off or force him outside
  5. Build a den or ensure your dog has a quiet place to retreat to – tips on building a den!
  6. If your dog comes to you for reassurance, give him a fuss. In the past advice has sometimes been to ignore dogs and not give them a fuss if they are scared – but if you suddenly withdraw reassurance when they are terrified by noises it is likely to cause them to be very distressed. In the long term it is better that your dog is not reliant on your attention when he or she is worried – but changing this is a long term aim, not something to start when he or she is panicking with fireworks going off!

Published data* suggests that 49% of dogs show some behavioural signs of fears to loud noises such as fireworks. Dogs Trust Director of Canine Behaviour and Research, Dr Rachel Casey explains,

“Many of us enjoy the experience of fireworks, especially when it comes to ringing in the New Year, but for our dogs it’s often a terrifying and confusing experience. Dogs have approximately four times more sensitive hearing than humans, and also have a more extensive range of hearing – they can hear much higher frequency sounds than we can - so just imagine how loud a firework bang is for a dog.

“The smells and flashing light of fireworks are also unusual for dogs and can cause extreme distress to our four-legged friends. Fireworks tend to be sudden, unpredictable and bright. This combination of effects can often have a profoundly negative and in many cases, lasting impact on dogs. We would urge anyone thinking of putting on a fireworks display to consider their four-legged friends and give notice to owners in the area to ensure they can make plans to keep their dog safe and happy.”

Further advice about preventing and dealing with fear of loud noises can be found here. Don’t forget to plan ahead for next year. If your dog is frightened then start teaching them that firework noises are nothing to be scared of, by gradually associating the noise with something nice. You can do this by introducing them to our Sounds Scary programme.

* 49% of dogs show some behavioural signs of fears to loud noises such as fireworks. Emily J. Blackwell, John W.S. Bradshaw, Rachel A. Casey , Fear responses to noises in domestic dogs: Prevalence, risk factors and co-occurrence with other fear related behaviour.