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A Masterclass In Fireworks Success – For Shelby’s Fear-Free 4th Of July!

July 5, 2021
July 5, 2021

Fireworks are really hard for dogs, but does it have to be? Spoiler alert! No, Fireworks don’t have to be hard.

Shelby, our coonhound, has historically had a fear of fireworks and thunderstorms — a pair that quite often go together. We have been slowly desensitising our little lady, but it takes time and she wasn’t quite where I wanted her to feel confident that she’d be set up for success as she was meant to be.

So, with the 4th of July coming up, I hatched plan for fireworks success!

The plan for Shelby’s fireworks success (covered here, along with the methodology, so I won’t go too deep into that here) is something I thought through in detail. And actually, I did a little further testing and altered the plan slightly from what I discussed to make sure we were on the right path. 

I’m going to cover what we did, what works, and what didn’t work so that you can see the adjustment process from plan to implementation and hopefully replicate these successes for yourself. 

I do just want to caveat that fireworks and thunderstorms are not something you can fix overnight. You need to do a number of these things (and do them consistently!) in order to see success.

Before – The Fear Of Fireworks

Before training, Shelby would be a trembling mess of a puppy, stressed, pacing, drooling and panting, wouldn’t go outside and wouldn’t be able to settle. She would howl, and howl and howl, squeaking and panicking the whole night through. Her fear was probably a conservative 8 on the scale of fine to blind panic. 

Shelby’s Method For Fireworks Success

1 – Train

The first and fundamental step for all aspects of making this journey towards Fireworks Success. 

This is the simple bit, but the time-consuming bit. 

We took Shelby, and every time we knew a storm was coming we would train. We played fireworks sounds over youtube and build up her confidence, and slowly, slowly tried to make a positive association between her and the potentially terrifying noises. 

2 – Managed Light and Sound

So, we dampened the room with plenty of soft surfaces, from rugs to blankets, and even moved what room she was in. 

I had planned on crating Shelby (because she adores her crate) and letting her relax in there with the ‘curtains drawn’ – but apparently the sofa reflects a place of calm for Shelby. This was one of the big adjustments we made to my initial plan. 

Shelby was allowed to roam the kitchen with her favourite sofa in, and that safety really helped.

3 – CBD 

So we used Bailey’s No More Wiggles from Austin & Kat — we had the treats and I had tested them out but wasn’t seeing the desired effect, certainly not to the degree I wanted. So, I upped it to the tincture (10mg vs 450mg, biiiiiig difference!) 

Then, I actually seen a post from Austin & Kat about this on the ‘best use’ of their CBD for fireworks. 

I actually upped it from here. 

So, with that advice? What I actually did was to feed it every 6hrs from Friday through to Sunday. 

I actually started on low dosage, so my schedule looked closer to this….

DayTimeDoseNote
Friday9am0.25mlLower Dose to measure effects
Friday3pm0.5mlLower dose to measure effects
Friday9pm0.75mlLower dose to measure effects
Saturday9am1mlFull dose to begin the build up. 
Saturday3pm1mlFull dose to continue the build up. 
Saturday9pm1mlFull dose to continue the build up. 
Sunday9am1mlFull dose to continue the build up. 
Sunday3pm1mlFull dose to continue the build up. 
Sunday8pm1.5mlThis one was moved forwards slightly to account for the fact that we knew our neighbours were letting their fireworks off at 9

Please note that the recommended dose for a 75lbs Shelby-hound is 1ml – but it allows for a double dosage for particularly stressful scenarios. 

It’s good to note that I also tested this beforehand for any adverse reactions. Adverse reactions would have been things like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy (that is not relaxation), lack of appetite, lack of desire to play, lack of coordination. Any of this is reason to head to your vet.

Then I built them up slowly on the intake. The more time you can keep this pattern up, the more effective it will be. There is no denying that!

The important part here is that I brought the dogs level of relaxation down considerably before the fireworks happened. We monitored for stress points throughout (so, coonhounds are born hunters and we monitored this too).

Multi-dog households & Fireworks Success

We have three dogs, in the 75-100lbs range, so we were dosing all three despite only one having noted issues with fireworks. We decided this was the best course of action for our family on the instance that the proximity of the fireworks scared one dog, or one dog got a large stressor during the day and undid our work and build up. 

Essentially? We covered our bases.

Again. I want to stress for anyone reading this: 

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

Ali Smith

4 – Exercise For Fireworks Success!

We headed to Tractor Supply! It was … fun…. And we also found out our local tractor supply has at least 4 mice and 1 chipmunk in there – because Shelby found them! Yep! She howled at the chicks too (luckily none were that scared) but she got all her sniffs in and a bunch of exercise too in a really interesting and different space for her and that PowerSnoot of hers. 

This worked really well because it got her all curious, working and hunting (the latter was accidental but beneficial!).

5 – Music 

We actually didn’t use the music in the end – because I can be a little ditsy and it totally blanked. Still a great option, but just one we totally lapsed on.  It’s still a great option for you, I just goofed! We had practised with it! It just didn’t … work.

Delicious Kong Recipe for july 4th fireworks success
Delicious Kong Recipe for July 4th fireworks success

6 – Kongs Are Great For Fireworks Success

Our Kong game was great. Raw beef (this was a balanced meal from Indie’s normal dinner, and not something Shelby gets), a milk bone and capped with peanut butter (who says you can’t have dessert first?!) – and I even laced the beef with CBD! – Shelby was the happiest puppy in America I think whilst those fireworks went off.

Shelby’s Fireworks Success And One Proud Puppy Mum!

I’m impressed with her and how this all went if I’m honest, I was expecting to hit a snag (which I always am, regardless how robust my plan is!) – but this worked so, very well and I’m massively proud of this daft red coonhound right now!

With all the right prep completed? Shelby was absolutely fine – the fireworks success was definitely something we achieved.

She didn’t bat an eyelid and was so not stressed that even after we went to bed, and a few mortars went off? There were no howls, just a content, and confident puppy. Which you know is what I love!

Because that’s what all dogs deserve. 

If you need a plan like this for your dog, for fireworks, thunderstorms or anything else? Contact me, and let’s make your plan in one of my Puppy Power Hours and let’s achieve fireworks success together!

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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