Logic tells us that dogs can be frightened by fireworks. Loud noises, flashes of bright light for no apparent reason can scare a dog – and their first instinct is to run away – the “Fright, Flight Response”. Their body, fuelled by fear, is capable of jumping a fence which under normal circumstances they would not attempt – and then what? – they will run until they can run no more and then some! They can end up miles from home – scared, hungry and lost. Assuming that a lost dog will always return home is erroneous. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there, they are alone and very frightened.
If you are alert to the problem, you can spot these runaways easily during and after fireworks – catching them can be a different matter! Getting ahead of the dog is essential – a car is the best way. If they are in full flight, they may not stop and just keep on running, wide-eyed, avoiding anyone in their path. If they are growing tired, they may stop and allow you to approach them, grateful for your touch. For years, I have always carried a spare dog lead in the dashboard of my car and have had to resort to using it on more than one occasion! Getting down to the dog’s level makes you less intimidating to a dog. At that point you need to secure the dog’s collar firmly, or if the collar is loose enough to allow the dog to slip it in panic, make a slip loop from a dog lead or belt and get it over the dog’s head quickly – the next explosion might set them running again. Place the dog inside your car – tieing the lead to a head restraint or seatbelt to ensure the dog will not jump out when closing – or opening – the door. Return home and get the dog safely inside the house.
Check them over for injuries – they may have been hit by a car in their panic. Check their collar for an ID tag and check the sex of the dog – if you are lucky, you will ring the owners and they will gratefully collect their pet. If not, ring the police and leave details of the dog – try to avoid specifying breeds, unless it is obvious, stick to a description like “a large, long-haired brown dog / bitch with a black patch on their back, wearing a worn red collar”. Failing this, contact local vets – they will have a scanner to check for a micro-chip, and if all else fails and you are unable to keep the dog until the owners are found, ring the dog wardens.