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Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind highlights impact of fireworks on working dogs and their owners

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind highlights impact of fireworks on working dogs and their owners

Halloween fireworks are having a devastating impact nationwide on Guide and Assistance Dogs and their owners according to Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.

The charity, which supports those who are vision impaired and the families of children with autism, says fireworks can be extremely distressing for all animals but particularly working dogs such as Guide Dogs and Assistance Dogs. As a result, some dogs are no longer able to support their owners and therefore must be retired.

Tim O'Mahony, Chief Executive Officer, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind explains; "If a dog has an experience which goes beyond a normal level of stress, such as a firework exploding close to them, this can overly sensitise the dog, similar to PTSD in humans. Whilst most dogs can recover, some will overreact to unexpected noise which manifests as a fear reaction. Every Halloween our teams support a number of our Clients whose dogs have been adversely impacted by fireworks. In some cases, the only option is to retire the dog meaning their owner loses their independence and mobility which had changed their lives.”

Guide Dog Owner Tina Lowe says, “The incidents of fireworks have increased over the last 2 to 3 years, and Covid restrictions were no deterrent last Halloween. It starts in early September each year and continues after October 31st!

It is hugely disruptive and frightening to our Guide Dogs. I have a very large German Shepherd/Golden Retriever called Forrest, who is terrified and jumps every time a noise is emitted. The means I tend to remain indoors for a few days before and after the Halloween as it is too unnerving and unsettling for my dog.”

Guide Dog Owner Nadine Lattimore, who conducted nationwide research on the incidents of fireworks over the Halloween period last year says, “With 152 responses from 36 locations only 4 responses had no concern for their dog. A phenomenal statistic that there were 148 instances of concern for a dog’s welfare were logged.”

Tips to protect your dog

  1. Dogs do not like fireworks, so ensure to get plenty of exercise before dark – ideally during school hours or at mealtimes. This will minimise the exposure and tire the dog so that they will be more relaxed and more likely to sleep through the evening.

  2. After dark dogs should be kept indoors as much as possible.

  3. Confine pets to the general living areas rather than quieter areas such as hallways or bedrooms.

  4. Leave the radio and TV on to drown out some of the external noises. Pull your curtains to help reduce visual exposure to fireworks.

  5. Do not scold or fuss over a nervous dog as this only exacerbates the situation and can reinforce the behaviour.

  6. If a dog is particularly stressed, we recommend treating them with natural remedies available from vets and pharmacies.

  7. Remember, no tricks and no treats for your dog. Chocolate is not safe for your pet so do not share any with the dogs.

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