Please Sign In

Please enter a valid username and password
  • Log in with Facebook
» Not a member? Take a moment to register
» Forgot Username or Password

How to Prevent a Gunshy Dog

Syndicate

Syndicate content
Google Reader or Homepage
Add to My Yahoo!

Gun Dogs Recent Posts

Categories

Recent Comments

Archives

Gun Dogs
in your Inbox

Enter your email address to get our new post everyday.

February 02, 2010
How to Prevent a Gunshy Dog - 4

 

I cringe when I hear people talk about how to introduce a puppy to gunshots. Advice like "fire a shot over them while they're eating" usually comes out somewhere in the conversation. I don't know about you, but firing a 12 gauge next to me while I'm eating Fruit Loops would definitely get my attention but it would also make me apprehensive every time a gun came out.

Here is a logical progression of introduction that virtually assures your dog won't be gunshy.

I tend to fall into the camp that believes there are no dogs genetically fearful of the gun. After all, the dog doesn't know a gun from a rocking chair. It's the association we build between the dog and the gun (and loud noises in general) that matters. In that respect, gunshyness is a man-made problem, and one that's easily avoided.

First of all, your dog has to be mentally ready to be introduced. I'd refer you to the video Q&A we did with George Hickox on using benchmarks to gauge your dog's boldness and readiness to be shot over.

Secondly, you can't start too small or too far away. Using small guns from a distance and associating them with birds or retrieving will help your pooch connect the gun and its bang with something positive.

Again, you can't get too small or too far away. Cap guns, .22 blanks, 12-gauge primers and the like from 50, 75, 100 or more yards away is what's called for. You can always move in, but once that shot is fired too close and your pup becomes fearful, you can't take it back and you'll have to work harder (and from farther away) to overcome the damage you've done.

You'll need a helper to assist in this exercise. Have them shoot the gun from distance while you simultaneously throw a bird. If you're starting with a small enough bang from a long enough distance, the dog probably won't even react. That's good.

Slowly move in and repeat the exercise. If at any point the dog shows interest or apprehension at the sound, stop and back the gunner up to the point that the dog didn't mind.

After a bit you should be able to move in close to the dog. When you can shoot that cap gun, .22 blank or 12-gauge primer over the pup without him paying a bit of attention to the gunner, then you've achieved one measure of success.

Now repeat the process with a louder, larger gauge of gun or blank and work in until you can shoot over the dog without him giving a thought to it. Repeat with larger and larger guns until you can shoot over the pup with your hunting firearm.

This isn't a day-long process, especially if you have a timid dog or one that's not completely crazy about birds or retrieving. Instead, take it easy and let the dog's body language dictate the progression of firearm, distance and time (from days to weeks) during this crucial step in its education.

For some more excellent reading, I'd suggest this Team Huntsmith article on the subject. It also goes into the use of the stakeout chain and pack mentality to help embolden the dog.

Another great article comes from Mike Stewart at Wildrose Kennels. He wrote this excellent piecefor me when I was the sporting dogs editor at ESPNOutdoors. This is a valuable article that discusses the very concept of gun introduction, but also includes a long list of stupid things YOU can do to create a gunshy dog.

Have any of you Gun Doggers had any problems with gunshyness? Do you believe the dog would have been that way no matter what or did you (or someone else) do something to create that fear?

Enjoy the reading and I'm looking forward to your responses!

Comments (4)

Top Rated
All Comments
from land_cruiser_73 wrote 4 years 21 weeks ago

if a dog shys or cringes at the sound of a shot, don't try to comfort or pet him. that is praise and reinforces his actions. best to ignore him and the sound and carry on like nothing happenned.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from BigBrownDog wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Brian's hit the nail right onthe head. Workingthrough the process of conditioning your dog to gunfire is a tedious task but do it right and take your time. Start from afar with smaller "bangs", work progressively closer and provide rewards (ie birds) - you'll never have a gunshy dog. I also believe gunshyness is a man-madeproblem. Can't tell you how many times I've seen a new dog being brought out to the field and at the first flush of a pheasant and subsequent shots - the owner will spend the rest of the day trying to get his pup out from under his pickup. By conditioning your dog properly - they learn to love the sound of gunfire and fully expect a dead bird afterwards. My apologies to my dog when I miss.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from patrick88 wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

its preventing your buddy from picking you up saying hes just bought a rabbit dog and we go to a grown up field full of rabbits and the first shot the dog heads to the hollow and you have to go chase the dog down thats not good.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

My beagle was a rescue. He's got all the drive but was visibly gun shy right from go. I didn't find this out by firing over him. In my area there'll be a shot or six echoing up and down the creek on the weekends pretty much year round. It was obviously an issue when he was in the yard. The first time he encountered a gun out of the case he caught a wiff of it and immediately wanted nothing to do with it. My approach was to take him out first on just long walks, then long walks with a rabbit chase. Later we moved on to an area bordering a game lands during the season. I'd keep us a couple of hundred yards away from the nearest hunting party, but we were out running a game rich environment with shots in the distance. Eventually he lost his flinch and we started, on lead as to avoid him spooking other game, moving in closer but protected from those parties. That too he got used to. Finally after a month of this progression it seemed time to test the waters. I was hesitant to do it, but it was better to find out in a controlled situation than on a hunt. While he was occupied with having just jumped a trail 30 yards away I fired my 20 into an embankment. He never even glanced over at me. That was two seasons ago and I'll confess that I didn't keep up with THAT conditioning through the summer and thought it would just keep. First rabbit taken over him this season he went quiet after the shot and went to working another piece of brush while failing to follow the trail through to us. Audibly, I'd say he was about a hundred yards behind the rabbit during a 5 minute chase at the time of the shot. I strongly suspect that he had backslid on his shyness in the off season and the nearby shot stopped him. I hadn't expected that, but after a day of hunting some relatively highly pressured areas he was back to his old self. It's something for me to keep in mind this year.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

from jcarlin wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

My beagle was a rescue. He's got all the drive but was visibly gun shy right from go. I didn't find this out by firing over him. In my area there'll be a shot or six echoing up and down the creek on the weekends pretty much year round. It was obviously an issue when he was in the yard. The first time he encountered a gun out of the case he caught a wiff of it and immediately wanted nothing to do with it. My approach was to take him out first on just long walks, then long walks with a rabbit chase. Later we moved on to an area bordering a game lands during the season. I'd keep us a couple of hundred yards away from the nearest hunting party, but we were out running a game rich environment with shots in the distance. Eventually he lost his flinch and we started, on lead as to avoid him spooking other game, moving in closer but protected from those parties. That too he got used to. Finally after a month of this progression it seemed time to test the waters. I was hesitant to do it, but it was better to find out in a controlled situation than on a hunt. While he was occupied with having just jumped a trail 30 yards away I fired my 20 into an embankment. He never even glanced over at me. That was two seasons ago and I'll confess that I didn't keep up with THAT conditioning through the summer and thought it would just keep. First rabbit taken over him this season he went quiet after the shot and went to working another piece of brush while failing to follow the trail through to us. Audibly, I'd say he was about a hundred yards behind the rabbit during a 5 minute chase at the time of the shot. I strongly suspect that he had backslid on his shyness in the off season and the nearby shot stopped him. I hadn't expected that, but after a day of hunting some relatively highly pressured areas he was back to his old self. It's something for me to keep in mind this year.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from patrick88 wrote 4 years 25 weeks ago

its preventing your buddy from picking you up saying hes just bought a rabbit dog and we go to a grown up field full of rabbits and the first shot the dog heads to the hollow and you have to go chase the dog down thats not good.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from BigBrownDog wrote 4 years 24 weeks ago

Brian's hit the nail right onthe head. Workingthrough the process of conditioning your dog to gunfire is a tedious task but do it right and take your time. Start from afar with smaller "bangs", work progressively closer and provide rewards (ie birds) - you'll never have a gunshy dog. I also believe gunshyness is a man-madeproblem. Can't tell you how many times I've seen a new dog being brought out to the field and at the first flush of a pheasant and subsequent shots - the owner will spend the rest of the day trying to get his pup out from under his pickup. By conditioning your dog properly - they learn to love the sound of gunfire and fully expect a dead bird afterwards. My apologies to my dog when I miss.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from land_cruiser_73 wrote 4 years 21 weeks ago

if a dog shys or cringes at the sound of a shot, don't try to comfort or pet him. that is praise and reinforces his actions. best to ignore him and the sound and carry on like nothing happenned.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment (200 characters or less)

bmxbiz