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Correcting Gun Shyness/ Gun Sensitivity

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Correcting Gun Shyness & Gun Sensitivity

 

A shyness or sensitivity to the gun can be the result of many different situations including; poor socialization, taking shortcuts in training or improper introduction to the sound of the gun.

 

This behaviour can usually be corrected especially if the dog was started and introduced to the gun properly in the first place. Be sure to understand why the dog is acting sensitive or shy. Did he become frightened by an unexpected shot, was he muzzle blasted or did he become hurt on a branch or bramble at the same time you shot that bird? Knowing the cause is the beginning of the cure. Be sure not to recreate the situation while retraining.

 

"Sensitive" is used to describe a level of concern or fear. With the discontinuance of that particular stimulus, the dog recovers quickly and continues with the work at hand. "Shy" is used to describe a much deeper and stronger fear which overpowers the dog, causing him to shut down .

 

How do we overcome these problems? Simple, we help the dog realize and associate the sound of the gun with the joy of chasing and retrieving birds. How long will this take? There is no set time period. It takes as long as it takes. All dog are different. You, as the trainer, must decide when the dog is ready to take the next step. If you take your time; 1 week, 1 month, 6 months, you will succeed. However, if you rush to "make things better" you are setting both of you up for failure. The amount of time is also dependent of the level of shynes or fear. A deeply seated fear will take longer to correct than a simple concern.

 

What you Need

 

I find a .22 cal blank pistol too harsh and sharp for this training. I prefer to use 20 guage shot shells that have only a primer. These give a nice soft "pop" compared to regular blank pistols or shot gun primers. You are also going to require; a check cord, a good supply of training pigeons, a gunner and a thrower, both of whom will need to be well versed in what you want to accomplish. It is also best to work in a relatively quiet area. Unexpected loud noises are not what you need at this point.

 

The How To

 

This article assumes that gun sensitivity/shyness is the only problem that needs to be corrected. Other training issues must be dealt with separately. Training sessions should be approximately 15 minutes in length and always end on a positive experience. Resist the temptation to "just one more".

 

Start by using a clipped wing pigeon and letting the dog carry it around for a while. What if he won't take it from you? Not to worry. Place the bird on the ground in a controlled area (fenced) and walk away, leaving him to investigate. It may take him a while and this may be your first couple of sessions, but his curiosity will get the best of him. Be patient. At first, he will investigate the bird by watching and smelling but soon enough he will pick it up and carry it.

 

Once the dog is comfortable carrying the bird, toss a clipped wing pigeon a short distance, one to two feet in front of him. Encourage him to give chase. At this point, you are trying to build excitement, prey drive and confidence while diverting his attention. When he picks up the bird, do not immediately try to take it from him upon his return. Allow him the reward of holding it and praise him.

 

The next step is to hold your dog and toss the pigeon out a short distance, six to eight yards, so that it lands in the open. Send you dog after the bird, encouraging him to chase, catch and retrieve. Once again, when he returns, allow him to hold the bird while you lavish praise upon him. Next, using your thrower, who understands what to do, extend your retrieves out 15 to 20 yards. Be sure that the thrower has your dog's attention before tossing the bird. This is easily accomplished with a few "hey, hey, hey's" or "pup, pup, pup's".

 

Remember! Do not be in a hurry. You are building your dog's prey drive and excitement at this stage as well as his confidence that there is nothing to be afraid of. Use as many sessions as necessary to build your dog's enthusiasm. There is no gun at this point. Your dog must be 100% comfortable with birds before you proceed. You do not want your dog to associate birds with the noise of the gun until he is comfotable. At this point, you want his full attention and drive on birds. If necessary, use the check cord to guide him back to you, praise and pet him up taking the bird after an appropriate wait. Remember! Use 15 minute sessions up to two times per day to accomplish this stage.

 

When your dog is excited and happily retrieving birds at a distance, approximately 50 yards, it will be time to start to introduce the gun. Caution: Take care with the placement of your gunner. You do not want to put additional pressure on your dog by sending him into the source of the gun sound. Have the gunner at a 45 degree angle to the dog's line of retrieve. Once again, I like to use a 20 guage shot shell with primer only, as this delivers a soft sound compared to the harsher snap of a .22 cal starter's pistol of shotgun poppers. Our purpose now is to work your way up to these harsher sounds. Set your thrower out 20 yards and your gunner out 75 yards. Toss a couple of pigeons yourself to get the dog excited. Signal the gunner to fire a shot on your next toss. When you throw, allow the dog to chase immediately so he is in full chase while the bird is in the air when the gun is fired. Remember! This is not the time to be working on steadiness training. You want your dog's full attention on the falling bird; this way he will not even notice the shot. Be sure to have a second bird ready to be tossed in front of the dog if he shows any indication of noticing the sound of the shot. End of session.

 

If your dog is not showing any problems at this point, continue tossing birds out but have the gunner shoot earlier in the throw, progessing to the point that the shot comes just before the bird is thrown. We want the dog to associate the sound of the gun to the joy of birds. Once the shot is coming at the start of the throw and your dog is not exhibiting any signs of distress, it is time to start extending the retrieves; while bringing the gun closer. Assess your dog every time you move your shooter in. If there are any signs of distress; move your shooter back and repeat the process. Do not bring the gun more than 5 yards closer at a time and keep your thrower no more than 25 yards from you.

 

Continue these exercises until the gunner is standing beside you. At this point, your dog has become comfortable with the soft pop sound of the 20 guage primer. It is time to put your gunner back out to the 75 yard mark and repeat the exercises using a .22 cal blank pistol. Do not rush! Take your time and allow your dog to become accustomed to the harsher sound. After several sessions, you will once again find your gunner standing next to you. It is now time to start over at the 75 yard mark with the 12 guarge working your way in slowly over several sessions. Once the gunner and his 12 guage are standing with you, you can start to steady your dog off.

 

Be sure to take your time and not to rush this training. It is also important to mix in obedience training, swim training and just plain fun time.

 

Remember: Keep it fun!

 

NTTF

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very good post :drool:

 

 

 

ps can you train dogs other than gundog breeds for this (im interestd in rough shooting/pigeon shooting)

 

i have a border terrier whos a keen hunter/retriever but i am worried of her reaction to gunshots?

 

 

martin

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TagWag:

 

If she is showing any form of gun shyness than it is best to run her through this program.

 

If you have not yet introduced her to the gun than you will use a differant approach. Let me know if you would like an introduction to gun fire.

 

NTTF

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TagWag:

 

If she is showing any form of gun shyness than it is best to run her through this program.

 

If you have not yet introduced her to the gun than you will use a differant approach. Let me know if you would like an introduction to gun fire.

 

NTTF

 

 

hello

 

not introduced her to gunshot as yet as i was unsure of a suitable method.

i would be greatful for any tips for sure.

 

thanks martin

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NTTF;

 

I need your help fella, the springer I recently aquired (11mth old) is very shy of guns, I've never fired a shot near her but the sight of a gun when I'm going out shooting really worries her and I need to sort it out - I can see how the above will help but she won't come anywhere near me or follow commands if I've got anything resembling a gun in my hand.

 

Could you suggest a way I can start putting this right please? She's also quite nervous of a few other things - strangers (especially men), things that move (plastic bags in the wind for example) and other dogs. She's getting much better with all of these however, but not guns.

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Hi,

 

I currently work a Spaniel and although he is very good at flushing and is getting better at retrieving he is gun shy and doesn't look up. He is far more of a beaters dog than a picker. I have read this thread and know to take it in stages re the gun and gun noise but how do I get him looking for falling birds after the gun is raised. He is happy to retrieve it if he hears or sees it fall but he doesn't look for the bird when the gun is raised. I have thrown birds and hid them and he is happy with both of these.

 

Cheers.

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Very helpful as always nttf, can the mods sticky this please ? My labs not ready for this yet he is still to young at 8 months but this has given me the idea if how it works.

Chees nttf

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hi mate thats a cracking right up,, NEW TO THE FLOCK how can i get that printed

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Very interesting post, however here is a challenge for you

 

If you can cure my spaniels gun shyness so I can take her shooting and picking up I will give you £350

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