27 October 2020

Press release: Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind ask public to be mindful of the impact of fireworks on working dogs & their owners.

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 helps those who are vision impaired and the families of children with autism, is supporting a number of their Clients whose dogs have been adversely impacted by fireworks and bangers. Some of those dogs may need to be retired as a result.

Tim O’Mahony, General Manager, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind explains; “Most people are aware that fireworks can be upsetting for any animals but particularly working dogs such as Guide or Assistance Dogs. Most dogs will cope with a degree of stress in their lives. Sometimes however a dog has an experience that goes beyond that, such as a firework exploding too close to it. This sensitises the dog to a disproportionate degree, like PTSD in humans. Thereafter, they are unable to cope with even a normal amount of the stress experience. They may recover after the firework season to varying degrees but are now in a state whereby over-reaction to unexpected noise has created a fear reaction. Even if that noise is far away. The dog’s ability to cope is now critical. In some cases, it can end a dog’s working life leaving their owner without a dog which means they lose their independence and mobility.”

Guide Dog Owner Ulla Quayle says; “In a matter of weeks, my Guide Dog Sage has had a mental breakdown from the nightly bombardment of fireworks being set off near my home area. I’m devastated as I don’t know if she will be able to work again due to post-traumatic stress. She is terrified and is unable to leave our house. I’ve lost my Guide Dog until at least Halloween. Sage is now staying with a dog behaviourist who is working to desensitise her to fireworks. Hopefully she can get her over this and get back working again.”

Ulla Quayle & Guide Dog Sage
Ulla Quayle & Guide Dog Sage

Guide Dog Owner Aran Murphy explains how fireworks have frightened her and her Guide Dog; “Fireworks and general Halloween celebrations can be very scary for all dogs but especially Guide and Assistance Dogs. For the owners too, it can be terrifying and isolating. I really fear going out and about during this period, as I don’t feel safe in my own community. Fireworks and bangers seem to be going off earlier and earlier each year. My Guide Dog gets very distressed by the noise and it is so difficult for me to see him get so upset. All I can do is try my best to keep him distracted to reduce his stress but it takes a mental toll on me too.”

Aran Murphy and Guide Dog Buttons
Aran Murphy & Guide Dog Buttons

Nationwide Community research
Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind are asking all dog lovers nationwide to provide input to research which aims to ensure authorities are better informed of the nuisance and damage caused by fireworks each year. The public can access a form on the charity’s website where they can record the date, time and location of all incidents of fireworks in their area. This can be done on a daily basis or more frequently as necessary. This research is the brainchild of Guide Dog Owner Nadine Lattimore. The research form can be accessed here.

Anyone wanting to share their stories of how fireworks have impacted their dogs can email communications@guidedogs.ie.

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 meal times. 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.

 

Written By

Roisin Grant

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