NewsThe impact of fireworks on working dogs and their owners
IRISH GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND HIGHLIGHTS IMPACT OF FIREWORKS ON WORKING DOGS & THEIR OWNERS
Devastating impact on some working dogs resulting in retirement
“She was only 4 years of age; I should have had another 6 more wonderful years with this amazing dog.”
Fireworks heard from early September
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.
Ulla Quayle’s Guide Dog Sage had to retire in 2020 due to the stress of the impact of fireworks. “She was only 4 years of age; I should have had another 6 more wonderful years with this amazing dog. She suffered severe trauma from the fireworks and was never the same dog after, she was terrified to leave the house which broke all our hearts as she was a much-loved family member.
Even the trainers in Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind couldn't get her to overcome her fear of noises to the extent she became terrified of doors shutting. She was retired to a lovely family in Kerry where she is living out her days in peace and quiet. Guide Dogs become part of your family and parting with them is agony.”
Tim O'Mahony, Chief Executive Officer, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind explains; "Situations like Ulla’s are not uncommon. Not only is the impact on the dog heart-breaking but it’s devastating for the owner who must wait to be matched with another dog which can take many months. In the meantime, the independence and mobility which they previously enjoyed is hugely curtailed or completely taken away. 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.”
Tips to protect your dog
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.
After dark dogs should be kept indoors as much as possible.
Confine pets to the general living areas rather than quieter areas such as hallways or bedrooms.
Leave the radio and TV on to drown out some of the external noises. Pull your curtains to help reduce visual exposure to fireworks.
If your dog is showing fearful behaviour remain relaxed. Breathe deeply and calmly around them and do not be afraid to comfort and reassure them. Doing so will not reinforce fear as it is an emotion not a behaviour.
If a dog is particularly stressed, we recommend treating them with natural remedies available from vets and pharmacies.
Remember, no tricks and no treats for your dog. Chocolate is not safe for your pet so do not share any with the dogs.
If you are concerned about fireworks being set off in your area, you can report it to the An Garda Siochana by phoning your local Garda Station or by calling the An Garda confidential line on 1800 666 111.