Dogs are man’s best friend, and they bring a whole lot of joy to many of us. They are the perfect cuddle companion, they bring people together, and they are very loyal. In return, owners often dote on their pets, and are horrified when animals are unloved. Indeed, the public were outraged when it was revealed recently that Katie Price sold her dogs online after going ‘off them’.
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The following story is much more tragic. Beau was a five-year-old Maltese beloved by her family. They enjoyed taking her for walks around their neighbourhood in central Scotland, but on 3 November, one of these outings ended in disaster. Beau was spooked by fireworks, and ran off. The family searched for her to no avail and eventually discovered that their pet had been killed in an accident on a local road.
What happened to Beau
The Elwoods have spoken up about what happened. Katie Elwood’s husband, Stuart, had taken Beau out for a walk in Cumbernauld. A firework was set off and startled the dog, but she came back to Stuart. However, after the second explosion, she bolted. Stuart explained:
The area is popular among dog walkers and [Beau] wasn’t one for leaving your side so we didn’t have her on the leash, and we’ve had people saying she should’ve been on a leash.
I understand that and hindsight is a lovely thing. It had been a really peaceful day we hadn’t heard any set off.
Katie and Stuart set off to look for their pet, along with the help of neighbours. A member of the public got in touch to let them know their nephew had spotted Beau, but wasn’t able to catch her. Later, the Elwoods received terrible news: Beau had been hit by a van.
Katie was obviously distraught, but didn’t blame the driver. She said she was just really glad no one was hurt in the accident, adding ‘there was a young chap in a car that stopped for her and he was really upset.’
The couple are grateful for the amount of support they have received following Beau’s death:
We’d gotten to know a lot of people through having Beau and even people we don’t know have reached out, it’s been lovely.
How to keep your dog calm when fireworks are set off
Many dogs are afraid of fireworks, and owners dread nights of the year when they are celebrating but their beloved pets are trembling in the corner with their ears pressed back. So, how can you help soothe your pet in these stressful moments?
Stefanie Riemer studies dogs with the University of Bern’s Companion Animal Behavior Group in Switzerland. Riemer worked with 1,225 dog owners to analayse whether dogs became more or less afraid when owners used treatment methods to calm them as fireworks were going off.
The owners of dogs who had already shown a fear of fireworks used a variety of techniques, including playing music loudly to cover the noise, prescription oils and medications, and - notably, ‘counterconditioning’. This involved owners playing with their dogs, giving them treats and expressing positive emotions.
Dogs who received this ‘counterconditioning’ treatment were 70% less afraid during fireworks than those that did not. Riemer concluded:
Counterconditioning - I think that would be probably the most important advice to any owner especially with a new puppy or a new dog.
Naomi Harvey, Research Manager in Canine Behavior at Dogs Trust, added:
There’s a myth that by reacting positively you’re reinforcing fear, which you can’t do because fear is an emotion not a behaviour.
So, if you are the proud owner of a pup, make sure to follow this advice whenever fireworks go off!
STV News: Family 'heartbroken' after pet dog struck by van while fleeing fireworks
Smithstonian Magazine: Why Fireworks Scare Some Dogs but Not Others