Fast Focus

How to introduce your dog to neighboring gunfire.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

You think your pup is ready to hunt," says Ken Osborn, one of today's most innovative trainers, "but it's opening day, you're calling ducks and he's in your face trying to understand these weird new noises. Shooting starts from neighboring blinds, and now your dog's bouncing around flaring ducks, trying to get to the gunfire. Or you're after pheasants in the hunt club's field No. 46. Someone shoots in field No. 47, and now your pup is over there."

Annoying problems, to be sure, but Osborn has a training sequence that solves neighboring gunfire and more. For young pointers, he starts with planted pigeons. When the pups realize they can break point and catch those birds, Osborn switches to remote launchers. When most points are being held, "shots" (shotgun primers fired in homemade firing blocks) are triggered by the launchers. This all happens out in front of the dog, and everything is tied to the excitement of birds. Next, occasional dead pigeons are launched for retrieves. Finally, some of the launched live birds are shot.

At this stage with pointers, silhouettes are added at a distance to introduce neighboring gunfire. (Osborn copied the silhouette from my book Speed Train Your Own Bird Dog; see endnote to order or view it at www.outdoorlife.com/hunting.) He also adds a hunter silhouette to the scene, plus birds and primer fire from launchers. From the same distance, a CD player repeats the final, all-gunfire segment of the Master's Voice gun-shy cure recording (800-520-8463, ext. 00). "As we train, the dogs keep looking toward the neighboring 'group,' and I can steady them against going after somebody else's birds," says Osborn.

With retrievers, neighboring gunfire is taught in a blind with the CD player perhaps 20 feet away. At first, the dogs go crazy looking for pigeons because they, like the pointers, have learned that "a gun is a shot is a bird." Osborn now steadies them by saying, "No bird." Eventually, they learn it's their fetch only when Ken swings and shoots. The "weird noise surprise" is avoided by playing a duck-calling demonstration tape in the blind. Finally, to help the dog adapt to new circumstances, Osborn takes it to visit the duck club a day before the first hunt.

Speed Train Your Own Bird Dog is available from the author at Box 255, St. Jacob, IL 62281 ($21 postpaid).