Glorious autumn is perfect for walking the dog, but it’s a sign that Halloween is on the horizon and the two-month onslaught of fireworks. Diwali, New Year’s Eve, and The Chinese New Year annually also make this season bang out of order for Britain’s pets.
Worryingly the RSPCA revealed that 62% of pet parents confirmed their pet showed signs of distress at fireworks being an acute ‘environmental stressor’. Affecting livestock, horses, and wildlife too, firework fears are the cause of emergencies resulting in over 500 calls a year to the RSPCA.
Amid concerns that the pandemic’s social distancing rules could mean public displays are cancelled, driving folk to stage their own in gardens or parks.
The main issue is that social distancing means random displays and people letting off fireworks in their gardens indiscriminately rather than going to an organized display. Also, lockdown puppies are already showing behaviour issues like anxiety so a lot of puppies’ first fireworks night is set to be a worry. Getting a puppy through their very first fireworks season is yet another issue that those who bought a dog during lockdown are faced with.
Why are dogs afraid of fireworks?
Fireworks scare dogs because of the high and low frequencies that we can’t hear. Alongside that the sounds arrive from nowhere suddenly – the RSPCA reckons 45% of all Britain’s dogs are noise sensitive so prone to being fearful of these sounds.
Recent research by the Kennel Club has found that more than 70 percent of dog owners are worried about the possibility of fireworks moving closer to home and causing anxiety to their pets. Although fireworks celebrations are set to look very different this year with public displays banned due to Covid-19 restrictions, they will remain a cause for distress for pets and animals across the country.
More than two in three dog owners who took part in the survey said that they notice a change in their dog’s behaviour during fireworks, including showing signs of anxiety and fear. With almost a quarter (23 percent) of people saying they plan to attend or host a private fireworks display this year due to Covid-19 restrictions, many owners worry about their dog’s reaction to the big bang right next door.
How to calm your dog during fireworks
Tips on how to calm your dog during fireworks are to try and desensitise in advance. Exercise your dog well in the day. Feed a stodgy meal. I always roast a chicken to have distracting cooking smells going on. Turn up the TV. But above all act NORMAL as dogs pick up on anxieties, and by being over comforting we can exacerbate a dog’s fear, especially for puppies’ first fireworks night.
Over 85% of owners concurred that Fireworks should be restricted to specific dates, displays should be licensed and the manufacturers should reduce decibels, even make them noiseless, making them less scary to animals.
With thousands of puppies purchased through lockdown, already displaying anxiety from a lack of ‘normal’ socialisation, coupled with 37% of pre-lockdown dogs also showing increased anxiety as a result of Covid restrictions. If displays become random in gardens, even if you know how to calm your dog during fireworks, it might not be possible to be at home with your pets as advised when an onslaught occurs, unlike if you can diarise and plan around public displays.
Turn up the TV and cook a delicious meal, distracting your dog with sights, sounds, and smells inside. Exercise your dog really well in the day and provide lots of chews, stuffed KONGs as a focus away from the onslaught outside. I’ve tried desensitising with special sound CDs with limited success.
Last year I was asked to test a new device called RelaxoPet on Prudence my Miniature Bull Terrier who is noise sensitive like 45% of the dog population. For Prudence fireworks clearly make her very edgy. If I were not at home when a random display kicked off, Prudence’s anxiety would tip the barometer. I was intrigued to see if RelaxoPet would make a difference as Prudence’s noise sensitivity has had an impact on her overall albeit happy, but very excitable behaviour.
It took a few days for me to notice, but Prudence definitely dropped down a gear on her excitement graph and became calmer and more confident. Remember our answer to “Why are dogs afraid of fireworks?” Well RelaxoPet works with that understanding. It is s a very clever ‘sound system’ for dogs that uses subliminal high sound frequencies to calm your dog mentally and emotionally.
Inaudible to the human ear, the specially configured ‘soothing high frequencies’ emanate beneath the meditative melody that we can hear. It’s the inaudible frequencies that work to re-tune your dog’s thoughts into being relaxed, so you can watch TV, tune into the radio with RelaxoPet on in silent mode.
Last year fireworks were easier for Prudence to cope with and this success has meant I’ve used RelaxoPet when I am out to deflect from any exterior sounds that might promote barking, and calm Mr. Binks too in the event of any anxieties setting in. Ironically it’s the ‘bad’ high and low frequencies in Fireworks, inaudible to the human ear, that induce fear in dogs: these are synonymous with erratic firework explosions.
Are Dog-Friendly Fireworks Possible?
Dog-friendly fireworks would be easy to make, manufacturers would simply have to reduce firework sound levels by just 30 decibels, or to make them totally silent!! Despite Government acknowledging lobbying and over 400,000 petition signatures, its new report on fireworks and their impact on animals’ states that it could go a lot further.
It agrees that the existing law is inadequate and recommends that local authorities should be empowered to limit the number of displays through a permit system. Plus it advises that the government reviews the noise levels of fireworks. Currently, the average level is 120 decibels. That’s the equivalent to a plane taking off, whereas, at 90 decibels, it’s equivalent to a car door slamming.
Last year Sainsbury’s was the first supermarket to ban the sale of fireworks. Their decision came in response to a customer’s tweet urging the supermarket to ban fireworks sales for the sake of her dog. Animal welfare groups commended their decision and urged others to follow suit.
By Anna Webb