The 10 biggest causes of dog anxiety and the signs to look out for

As we get ready to celebrate Bonfire Night and Diwali this year, 42% of dog owners have voted fireworks night as the worst night of their year.

Monday, 1st November 2021, 12:14 pm
As we get ready to celebrate Bonfire Night and Diwali this year, 42% of dog owners have voted fireworks night as the worst night of their year.

The research for charity Guide Dogs revealed that fireworks were the biggest cause of dog anxiety (42%) coming in ahead of sudden noises (35%), thunder (33%), being at the vet (28%), other dogs (25%) and being alone (20%).

Furthermore, almost a fifth of UK dog owners say fireworks night has a detrimental effect on their pets’ mental health. It is important to look out for warning signs in your dog such as barking or howling, shivering, digging and constant drooling.

As a result, the charity has advised people planning to hold celebrations this year to be a good neighbour and be mindful of dogs who live nearby. With 43% of dog owners suggesting their neighbours should pre-warn them when they are planning to set off fireworks to further prevent distress and anxiety to their pets.

Further measures suggested by dog owners included letting off fireworks in a shorter window of time (39%), opting for quieter or lower decibel fireworks (37%), holding alternative festivities such as bonfires or sparklers (35%) and checking nearby public areas for fireworks that have landed afterwards (33%).

Dr Helen Whiteside, Chief Scientific Officer, at Guide Dogs, said: “With many people attending firework display events and hosting their own celebrations at home – we want to make sure everyone can enjoy the festivities.

“Dogs are more sensitive to smells, sounds and sights than humans, so it is key to be aware of your dog’s different moods and mental state to help maintain healthy mental wellbeing– and it is not just firework season.

“We’ve pulled together an overview of solutions for both keeping humans and dogs happy! As always if you are concerned about your pet, always contact a vet for further advice and support”

When asked UK dog owners voted fireworks as the biggest cause of their dog’s anxiety, ahead of sudden noises, thunder and being at the vet.

Top 10 biggest cause of dog anxiety:

Sudden noises 35%

Thunder 33%

Being at the vet 28%

Other dogs 25%

Being alone 20%

A change in routine 20%

Cats 18%

Sirens 18%

Being in the car 17%

It is important to spot behaviour clues which may point to your dog feeling stressed, anxious, or uncomfortable in certain situations.

Top 10 signs your pooch is feeling stressed or anxious:

Ripping up toys or destroying furniture

Barking or howling when you aren’t at home

Shivering

Running away / or cowering in the corner

Digging

Regular urination in usual locations

Constantly pacing or avoiding relaxation

Excessive drooling

Heavy breathing

Shutting down, and being unresponsive

Like humans, it is important to remember that all dogs are individuals and spotting signs of anxiety can be tough, especially if they are subtle. Remember, you know your dog best - so keep an eye out for any small changes in their behaviour or appearance.

Guide Dogs share its top tips for keeping your dog calm and less anxious at home during firework season and for other situations:

Avoid letting your dog outdoors during times fireworks are likely to go off

Classical Music: several studies have found that playing classical music to dogs is calming and relaxing – so worth putting on during the loudest times for fireworks

Entertainment is key: Using distraction methods is an excellent way to keep your pooches mind off loud noises. Whether it be playing a game, practice training, setting them up with a Kong (hidden treats toy) or giving them a chew guaranteed to last the night

Create a safe space: If your pup wants to hide – why not pop a blanket over a table or their crate to make a tempting safe haven for them go to escape

Drawing the curtains: Bright lights and flashes can also cause distress for dogs, so keep those curtains closed and keep the lights on to minimise any flashes

Full tummy: Feed your dog before fireworks begin – this will ensure aren’t hungry and too stressed to eat later in the evening

Wear them out: Make sure you take your dog for a long walk in the day light to wear them out. It is important that you avoid taking the dog out in the dark, as this is prime time for fireworks

Stay calm: To keep you dog calm, ensure that you are relaxed, if you start to behave unusually you may find that your dog starts to mimic or take on your own feelings of unease.

Escape proof: Don’t confine your dog to one room, so keep doors throughout the house open – but make sure you’ve blocked any escape routes!!

Smells: Smell is important for dogs, so ensure you have a favourite toy or blanket they love to hand. Or go the extra mile, and cook some of their favourite food such as chicken to help distract during peak firework times