C. Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind

Fireworks can have a “Devastating Effect” on Guide Dogs.

Dogs forced to retire due to trauma

As Halloween approaches many pet owners will be painfully aware how fearful pets, in particular dogs, can be of the sudden loud noises made by fireworks.

Gript spoke to Lèan Kennedy of Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind, who is trying to raise awareness of the negative impact fireworks have on guide dogs. 

“Fireworks can have a devastating effect on guide dogs to the point they become unwilling or unable to work because of the stress that they incur from dealing with the bombardment of fireworks going off in their area”. 

Kennedy, who is herself visually impaired,  gave an example of a recent case where an “amazing” working guide dog had to be retired at age four after  “The dog became so affected by the constant fireworks going off in the area.” 

“It was becoming afraid to leave the house and was becoming spooked by doors opening and closing”. 

Kennedy says that despite the best efforts of trainers, the dog could not be helped to “overcome the traumatic stress” from the fireworks, and a “decision had to be made to rehome him as a pet dog”

Se says the dog is now “having a great life but unfortunately for the vision impaired person, who had an amazing level of independence and mobility with the help of that dog, she had to go back on a waiting list for another few months until we were able to have a dog ready to fit her needs”. 

Kennedy says each guide dog has their individual skill set assessed in order to best meet the needs of each individual visually impaired, or special needs person.

Training for the dogs takes about 2 years. 

“Every guide dog and assistance dog is different so the matching process is very important” 

The dog’s strength, weaknesses, and personality are all carefully taken into account. 

She pointed to the use of fireworks “without a permit” saying people are “using them in community areas” again stressing that the effects on guide dogs and their owners is “devastating”.

 She said children with autism who have assistance dogs are also affected as retirement of dogs is “not uncommon”. 

Kennedy says Irish Guide dogs for the Blind receive calls from concerned owners “every year” as dogs deal with the effects of long term stress, 

“It’s a fright reaction from the stress of the fireworks” adding “we really just want people to be aware of the effects that it is having on the dogs”. 

Irish Guide dogs for the blind offer advice for owners on how to manage their dogs stress level over the Halloween period including; 

 

  1. Exercise your dog during the day so they will be more relaxed and tired in the evening. 
  2. Keep the dog in the home, in the living area so they have company, as this will provide reassurance.
  1. Keep the radio and TV on as the sound helps drown out the noise from the fireworks in the distance. 
  2. Keep curtains closed to help minimise exposure. 
  3. If the dog is panting, shaking, or showing other signs of stress from the fireworks, call your vet, as they will be able to give natural stress remedies to help the dog cope. These may include plug in diffusers to emit calming scents. 
  4. If the dog needs to go outside in the evening to go to the toilet make sure the area is secured in case the dog bolts out of fright. 

 

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