13.12.22

Call for volunteers to join ground-breaking fireworks survey this New Year’s Eve

Categories: School of Science, Engineering and Environment

The University of Salford and Dogs Trust, the UK’s largest canine charity, are calling on dog owners and non-dog owners to be part of a ground-breaking study into how fireworks and loud noises affect dogs.

The organisations have joined forces for the study, combining the university’s specialist knowledge in acoustics and the charity’s expertise in dog behaviour. They are now calling on the public to help them gather data as people see in the New Year with fireworks.

The ground-breaking research will aim to provide an in-depth understanding of the relationship between dog behaviour and features of fireworks, as well as the methods that dog owners use to try to mask the sound of fireworks. The results will give Dogs Trust’s canine behaviour experts valuable insight for guidance to dog owners, and inform its policy recommendations around fireworks use.

Both dog owners and non-dog owners are invited to take part in the study by completing a complete a short survey, available 31 December 2022 to 8 January 2023.

Dr Sara Owczarczak-Garstecka, Canine Behaviour Research Studies Manager at Dogs Trust is leading on the study. She says: “Research is a vital part of Dogs Trust’s work. It helps us make sure that the work we do and the advice we offer is based on evidence and can benefit and improve the welfare of dogs. All our research is carefully designed to prevent any negative impact on dogs.

“Nearly half of dogs in the UK are estimated to be negatively affected by fireworks. To build on our expert advice to support owners on how to help their dogs cope with the noise of fireworks, we need to develop an in-depth understanding of different dog behaviours in response to hearing fireworks. This includes how different acoustic features of fireworks impact dogs. We hope to have many volunteers take part in this exciting study, which will benefit dogs by enabling us to generate evidence-based advice for owners on how best to help their four-legged friends cope with fireworks.”

The charity has collaborated with the University of Salford on the acoustic elements of the research, which will also involve some dog owners recording the sound of fireworks. The researchers will then extract the acoustic features of the sound from the recordings to determine how sound characteristics affect dog behavioural responses, recorded by dog owners in the survey.

Dr Zuzanna Podwinska, a leader on the project from the Acoustics Research Centre at the University of Salford, said: “There is surprisingly little information or research into this area, so it is a study of vital importance. Dogs can get very distressed by fireworks so anything we can do to make the experience better for them, can only be a good thing.

“There are indications that dogs may be sensitive to sounds that humans can’t hear, so we are interested to find out if it’s not just the loudness of the fireworks or their sound level, but other acoustic characteristics.”

To take part or learn more about this ground-breaking project, visit the Dogs Trust webpage here.

To register your interest in taking part in the New Year’s Eve survey (open 31 December 2022 to 8 January 2023) please complete this form.

For Dogs Trust’s advice on how to help dogs to cope with fireworks, see here.

For all press office enquiries please email communications@salford.ac.uk.