Some guide dogs retiring due to ‘devastating’ impact of fireworks, says charity

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind said the impact of fireworks can be so severe for working dogs that some are no longer able to support their owners
Some guide dogs retiring due to ‘devastating’ impact of fireworks, says charity

Halloween fireworks are having a “devastating” impact on guide and assistance dogs and their owners, according to Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.

The charity said the impact of fireworks can be so severe for working dogs that some are no longer able to support their owners and therefore must be retired.

The charity, which supports those who are vision impaired and the families of children with autism, said fireworks are now heard from early September.

“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,” Tim O'Mahony, chief executive of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind said.

“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 the independence and mobility which had changed their lives.”

Owner forced indoors

One guide dog owner, Tina Lowe, said she is forced to remain indoors for the days surrounding Halloween as “it is too unnerving and unsettling for my dog.”

“The incidents of fireworks have increased over the last two to three years, and Covid restrictions were no deterrent last Halloween,” Ms Lowe said.

“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. [This] means I tend to remain indoors for a few days before and after the Halloween.”

Another guide dog owner, Nadine Lattimore, said she had conducted nationwide research on the incidents of fireworks over the Halloween period last year.

“With 152 responses from 36 locations, only four responses had no concern for their dog. A phenomenal statistic that there were 148 instances of concern for a dog’s welfare were logged,” she said.

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind has issued the following advice to dog owners around the Halloween period:

  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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