Remember, remember to prepare your dog this September! | Dogs Trust

Dogs Trust

Remember, remember to prepare your dog this September!

As children everywhere prepare to go back to school next week, Dogs Trust Dog School is urging owners to give their dogs lessons in how to cope with a fear of fireworks. The charity says it can take months to train your dog to cope with fireworks, so the key time to start training is actually sooner than you think. Dogs Trust is offering ‘Firework Fear’ classes for owners across the country from September, and has a host of tips available on their website to help owners prepare their dogs well in advance for fireworks.

Previously published data* suggests that 49% of dogs show some behavioural signs of fears of loud noises such as fireworks, and a recent YouGov survey** commissioned by Dogs Trust, suggests that 89% of people believe domestic pets, like cats and dogs can be negatively affected by fireworks. Some of the frightened behaviour that owners identified their dogs or cats doing during fireworks include hiding (42%), shaking or trembling (31%) and cowering, refusing to go outside and becoming alert, vigilant or agitated (all 30%).

A fear of fireworks can often mean that worried owners will try everything to ensure their beloved pooch is comforted and calm during fireworks, which can impact on their day-to-day lives. 79% of owners of affected pets admitted to keeping their dog or cat inside during fireworks night, 62% closing the curtains and 44% turning up the TV to drown out the noise of fireworks in a bid to help their four-legged friend feel calmer. However, owners could be better prepared come 5th November if they use some simple training techniques ahead of time, to help their dog overcome their firework fear.

Top tips to start preparing your dog ahead of firework night

  1. Download the Sounds Scary recordings of firework sounds available from www.dogstrust.org.uk/fireworks. Check the tracks first without your dog present, and select one to start with which is just one element of the full firework noise.
  2. Start with your dog relaxed in a familiar environment. Have toys and treats ready, and if you have more than one dog, enough people to keep them all occupied! 
  3. Set up the track you have selected in advance, so you are sure that it will play at such a low volume that you can’t hear it – dogs can hear higher pitches so it’s important to start very low.
  4. Get your pooch interested in playing or eating treats before you start playing the noises.
  5. Watch your dog very carefully as you start to play the noises. If you think he or she is worried, stop the sound immediately, but carry on playing with him until he is relaxed again. When you start again, have the volume set lower!
  6. As long as your dog carries on playing or searching for treats and ignores the sounds, you can increase the volume very gradually over subsequent sessions – it’s vital to do this very gradually and always watch for any signs of worry.
  7. Keep repeating, each time building up the volume as long as your dog is relaxed.
  8. Visit your nearest Dogs Trust Dog School to attend our special Firework Fear classes – running throughout September-October

Rachel Casey, Director of Canine Behaviour and Research at Dogs Trust says:

“We all know the saying, remember, remember the 5th of November, but for dog owners, the key time to train your dog to cope with fireworks is actually sooner than you think. Fireworks can be incredibly distressing for dogs, with the combination of bright lights and loud, unexpected bangs causing negative and often lasting effects on our four-legged friends. Dogs have approximately four times more sensitive hearing than humans, and they can hear much higher frequency sounds than we can, so a firework bang for a dog can seem terrifyingly loud. Dogs don’t understand that the whizz, pop and bang of fireworks is just temporary, so a fireworks display can feel like endless torture to a frightened pooch, and this can be incredibly worrying for owners too.

“To avoid the unspeakable distress and anguish many dogs will go through during fireworks displays, it’s so important that owners plan ahead. If owners take time to help their dogs with their fear well in advance of fireworks night, it will help them and their dogs feel prepared and comfortable when 5th November comes around. Summer is the ideal time to do this as people often have a bit more time on their hands, and it’s far enough in advance of fireworks night for consistent training to have a big impact on dogs when it really matters.

Rachel continues:

“If your dog is frightened of fireworks or loud noises or you have a new puppy, 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 the Sounds Scary programme available to download on the Dogs Trust website or finding out more tips and techniques at your nearest Dog School ‘Firework Fear’ class.”

For further advice about preventing and dealing with fear of loud noises please visit http://dogstrustdogschool.org.uk/behaviour/noise-fears/. The Sounds Scary programme is available to download for free at www.dogstrust.org.uk/fireworks. To find your nearest Dogs Trust Dog School ‘Firework Fear’ class, visit www.dogstrustdogschool.org.uk

* 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. http://www.appliedanimalbehaviour.com/article/S0168-1591(12)00367-X/abstract
** All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2006 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th - 13th April 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).