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Fireworks: How To Prepare Your Puppy For A Fearless July 4th! – With A Real-Life Example

June 28, 2021
June 28, 2021

Fireworks are a problem for a lot of dogs, so July 4th can be a stressful point for humans and canines.

I know how this is. Our coonhound girl Shelby is one of these dogs that has a fear of thunder and fireworks. We’re slowly training her out of it, but her progress isn’t where I’d like it to be and I’m not confident that she won’t take any steps backwards in her training. 

But it doesn’t need to be this way.

So, I’ve put a plan into place for little Shelber (an affectionate nickname!), and I figured it might be best to share it with you, because as a new puppy parent you’ll probably want to make sure that they don’t create negative associations during this. 

Fireworks Can Be Problematic

There are ways to create positive associations with fireworks, and they don’t need to become a problem! This is simply another step in socializing your puppy. So please don’t think that it is something you’ll have to struggle with forever, or that all dogs are doomed to this fate and that it’s acceptable for it to be this way. Because it’s not. There’s no need for cowering, huge stress levels, and god only knows some dogs even run away… 

So be prepared, be on it, and let’s get this right. 

Let’s just say this first. This works too if you have an adult dog and are trying to work them through a fear, by the way!

Here’s the Fearless For Fireworks plan.

Using youtube videos like this? Whether it’s socialization, desensitisation or counter-conditioning for fireworks? You can do it, and do it easily!

1 – Train

Now, I know, I’m a trainer and I will be biased about putting this at the very top of the list. However, desensitising and counter-conditioning firework noises for your puppy (if desensitisation is even necessary!) will help mean that your puppy will become happy and confident at these times, and accept them as part of what human life is in the real world.

Which is what socialization is all about! 

So, to do this? I’d recommend engaging in a play session with your pup, and putting fireworks noises on in the background, softly. You can use Youtube for this, Youtube’s a surprisingly great training tool, huh?

Play, create confidence and happiness, and you’re going to begin to associate those noises with play time. 

You can also create confidence with treats and rewarding. But play will be more effective if you can.

As you see your pup relax and get into the play for a period of time and not worry about the whizzes and bangs of the fireworks, you can increase the volume next time, then try closing the curtains, and then try doing it after dark to contribute closer and closer towards simulating the exact scenario your pup will face on July 4th. 

How I’ve Shelby-fied this tip 

We’ve been doing this slowly with Shelby’s fear of fireworks and with thunderstorms, it’s coming along really well. Between play and duck jerky, she’s really getting quite confident. The only thing we’ve yet to wean her off, is the human company. She needs one of us there to feel safe. But to be honest? She’s come a long long way and I’m really proud of that progress. 

Historically, she’s been hit or miss with fireworks, so we’re going belt and braces on July 4th, we’re planning on taking the training back a few steps and starting with more liberal treats and play to ensure that we do not lose progress in her noise sensitivity training.

collie puppy being left home before july 4th fireworks
Fireworks can be scary, staying home with your pup is a great idea.

2 – Don’t Leave Your Puppy Home Alone.

This one’s pretty obvious but a dog stressed out from fireworks is not one you want to leave in your home unattended – let alone the fact that you’d be pretty mean to do that… Still! A stressed dog is unpredictable and I’ve known dogs to scratch through solid wood doors to escape a room they’ve been closed in because of fireworks. 

So, stay home, relax, and enjoy your pup’s company! 

How I’ve Shelby-fied this tip 

We’re going to be at home, we’re going to have the three dogs in separate spaces (this should prevent anyone else leaning on the firework anxiety of the other, and allow them to take their respective most comfy spaces without it being nabbed by another), and to be honest? This is the easiest win of all of the tips in this piece! 

This is Shelby’s crate – and the very cute Shelber, herself! We’ll be adding extra blankets (the AC will be on!) and super special Kong for her to distract herself with!

3 – Close Curtains & Cover crate

A big part of fireworks is the sound. Closing the curtains will dampen sound and the flashes of the lights, covering your dogs crate will also achieve a similar goal. It will help your dog to feel safe and secure and take advantage of their tendencies and fondness of dens too.

Generally, actually, lots and lots of soft surfaces will help to dampen sound. And the more of those you can create, the easier this will be for your puppy, because those booms will be less boom-y, and things that are less intense are less scary. 

Oh! and make sure your windows are shut!

How I’ve Shelby-fied this tip 

Shelby’s crate is covered, her blankets are remaining dirty (not actually dirty, but they smell like comfy and we won’t be laundering them before this event), her crate will be swaddled in blankets and we’re throwing down some extra rugs, closing the curtains, we’ll be in the room 

4 – Invest in Quality CBD 

Now, for puppy owners, I would only recommend this if the mother or father has a predisposition to being scared of fireworks (ask your breeder!), this may have been passed on via epigenetics, and is something to consider. 

However! CBD treats can be really useful training aids — note this says training aid, and not a way to avoid training. We do not avoid training! Laziness will bite you in the butt and that may be literal when it comes to puppies and dogs.

So, Cbd treats (not just hemp treats, they’re different) are treats that contain Canabidiol – this is  not marijuana, and it is not hemp seed. It comes from the hemp plant (a cousin of the marijuana plant). But please do be aware that hemp seed or anything labeled ‘hemp’ is not necessarily CBD based. So don’t be tricked by labels and try to know what you’re buying.

They work in such a way that they just help your woof to relax. That your pup can find serenity much easier than they otherwise might. During the fireworks of July 4th? That serenity is pretty hard to find, especially for those with existing anxiety.

CBD treats can be really useful training aids — note this says training aid, and not a way to avoid training.

Ali Smith

It’s very important that you follow the instructions on the package, they will advise a dosage, and I would recommend working up to the at dosage and monitoring the effects as you increase. Make sure you’re home, and you’re looking for signs of distress, vomiting, sudden lack of coordination, increases in anxiety, or a racing heart or similar. If you notice these, call your vet. 

Typically though? They’re really safe, user friendly (especially the treats!) and they really help your dog to relax. 

The best time to give these is about 30 mins before you know the fireworks will go off, this way you can let the CBD take effect and get the most out of them.

Warning: if you are unsure, if you don’t know, talk to the pet store, talk to the treat maker, talk to your vet, because this isn’t my decision! It works for us, and for dogs I’ve worked with, but as always I am not a veterinary professional. Just a trainer sharing my results, stories and methods.

How I’ve Shelby-fied this tip 

She has had CBD treats before and they’ve worked really well to help take the edge off of some stressful situations (coonhounds are known for being quite stress-y, sadly!) For this July 4th, we’ll actually be using Austin & Kat’s, Bailey’s No More Wiggles, they’re actually arriving today and I’ll be giving them a test before the night to make sure they all agree and everyone’s calm and happy using them. There will be a full review coming up and I’ll make sure you’re posted on my findings and why I opted for Austin & Kat’s as a brand.

dog in a shop, helping tire him out ahead of july 4th fireworks
dog in a shop, helping tire him out ahead of July 4th fireworks

5 – Exercise

Earlier in the day make sure to get plenty of exercise with them, or try a place like a pet store, somewhere that will work their nose and challenge their brain all in one fell swoop. Tiredness may help sway the vote in favour of relaxing your dog or puppy and create another tally in your favour when it comes to fear later on in the day. 

If you’re looking for ways to get an extra mile out of your dogs normal exercise?

  • Try a new walking route
  • Go on a long hike*
  • Go For a Run
  • Get a new toy and play together!
  • Go swimming
  • Try a doggy backpack*
  • Visit a local store that’s full of smells
  • Arrange a play date in a secure field with a great puppy friend.

*May not be puppy appropriate depending on puppy’s age.

How I’ve Shelby-fied this tip 

We’re planning on going to a local farm shop and to a local pet store to get her nose really working, Shelby is a coonhound, so the best way to tire her out, is to work her nose. She doesn’t play much and she can’t go off leash due to an unreliable recall (that nose overpowers everything, honestly, ask a lot of coonhound owners, very few are ever trustworthy) – so running her engine dry is hard to do, but her nose… that is something we can work until the cows come home! 

this little frenchie is listening to some classical music to settle in before the fireworks start later.
this little frenchie is listening to some classical music to settle in before the fireworks start later.

6 – Music

Not only does it help to drown out the sounds of the fireworks but it’s been proven that music can have a wonderful relaxing effect on our canine compadres, and it’s something that you and your puppy should avail of because it’s an easy win for you both. Shelby and I certainly will be! 

There are a couple of things you can use depending on your desire to spend money or not (no shame either way!)

RelaxMyDog

There are hundreds of tracks or videos that you can use, that span for a lot of hours, so you definitely won’t fall short. They work on a feedback system with their clients and are finding that 86% of their users find the music relaxes their dog. Now, this is of course is just customer feedback and not a scientific report. 

RelaxMyDog Free on youtube with ads, or without with youtube Membership (or prime or whatever its called, you know what I mean!), or available on Apple Music’s streaming services – just pop “RelaxMyDog” in the search bar and they even have specific fireworks tracks!

Relaxopet 

This isn’t something I’ve invested in yet, if I’m honest, but it’s had some great reviews from friends in the industry whose opinions I trust. It’s the most expensive option, but could actually also be the most effective and most intelligent of them all. It works through your dogs fur I mean… what?

Yep! It stimulates the nerves and triggers a reaction in your woofs brain – so it doesn’t even matter if your dog is deaf… I’m slightly baffled by it? But talk about a potential game-changer for dogs with fears and anxieties… Fireworks be damned if it works only half as good as I’ve heard.

It does have mixed reviews on amazon, but I have a feeling that’s more because of a lack of customer understanding, so don’t hesitate to give it a try! 

Available on Amazon

Reggae Music 

Well in the study above, it was found that out of 5 music genres ( Soft Rock, Motown, Pop, Reggae and Classical) that reggae was the most effective in decreasing stress, and encouraging your puppy to relax, so whack on some Bob Marley & UB40, and make a bit of a jam out of it?! 

How I’ve Shelby-fied this tip 

Sadly, we’re not opting for reggae (because I’ll be too busy singing along to buffalo soldier to be paying attention to the woofs), we’re going to be trying RelaxMyDog’s music. I’ve moved one of our high quality speakers into the room where we’ll be, and it will be playing music from after dinner (she’ll have an early dinner to make sure it’s deep in the digestive tract) and the music will go on after this to naturally get her to settle. 

golden retriever practicing with a kong toy for puppies.
Golden Retriever puppy enjoying a blue puppy Kong. Kong’s are not only great enrichment but a wonderful way to encourage your puppy to relax.

7 – Something To Lick.

Licking is incredibly soothing for puppies and for dogs, it helps them to create a happiness hormone within them that helps make them to relax. You’d truly be surprised how powerful this is when it comes to anxiety in dogs, allowing that lick, that motion and those hormones, allow your dog to self soothe. And giving them a yummy and highly rewarding outlet for this is just great. 

Things you may want to consider for Fireworks distraction:

  • Kong stuffed with sticky yummies! (even freeze it!)
  • A Buffalo horn similarly filled (again, freeze it!)
  • A licki-mat 

Chewing and sniffing do work too, but licking is much more relaxing! This can be another tool in your tool box to help stop the fireworks from getting scary

How I’ve Shelby-fied this tip 

Now, this is going to have to be the best stuff. So, we’re planning on using some of Indie’s raw food, inside a kong for Shelby, Shelby rarely gets actual meat and getting raw is a real treat for her. It is our highest option on the High Value Treat rankings! 

Adding this to Shelby’s crate will help her to bring herself down, and should help her manage her own fears. The same will be the case for your puppy.

8 – Anxiety Products

Thundershirts and Happy Hoodies are rhumoured to work? But in my opinion they’re effectiveness depends on the dog, and typically they’re the ‘lowest value’ of all of the options discussed? For a highly anxious dog perhaps, but it shouldn’t be necessary for your puppy! I’m only including it to be full and complete! 

Bonus! 

Make sure you try all of this before the event, and for things like CBD, music and other calming aids, they’re best applied before the stress comes – not after. To make the most of these tips, dedicate the day to your dog and to calmness as much as possible.

if fireworks scare your dog, ID tags and microchips are something you need to make sure are up to date and worn
if fireworks scare your dog, ID tags and microchips are something you need to make sure are up to date and worn – they may just be your Hail Mary if things go wrong.

Safety First 

Please be aware that it’s a good idea to make sure your dog is wearing their collar with ID tags on, that their microchip information is correct and up to date or even use a tracking device. Because if they do decide to flee? This could be the thing that gets your dog home.

Don’t Become a Facebook Preacher, Just Work On It.

In the past, I’ve seen people get up in arms on facebook about fireworks, that they should be banned for the stress they cause our pets, or just have bang-less fireworks! Or whatever… but the fact of the story is that that isn’t happening, and likely won’t ever happen. So, train your pup to be comfortable and happy. And do it from a young age. This way, you’ll know what to do, you’re looking out for your woof, and you’re not going to need to be one of those grumbly pet parents who hate celebrations like this. 

Fireworks Don’t Need To Be Scary! 

If you do need more help, or want to know a little bit more about implementation, drop me an email! I’m always happy to help, or book you in for an online 1:1 where we can discuss yours and your puppy’s specific needs!

Author, Ali Smith

Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.

Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021’s worlds’ best pet blog!

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