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Introducing Gun Fire to Your Dog


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One of the hardest problems to correct is gun shyness or gun sensitivity once it is instilled in a dog. Unfortunately, introducing a dog to gun fire is the one place most people make mistakes. Like all other aspects of field work the introduction of the gun needs to be introduces in steps, with positive rewards and praise. There are varying degrees of gun shyness, from the dog that flinches or runs from the sound of the gun, to the dog that hides behind the furniture at the mere site of a gun. The common thread to any of these behaviours is that the dog has had a bad experiance with a load noise be it gunshots, thunder, or fireworks.

 

So how do we over avoid these problems? The best way is to deal with a breeder who takes the time to introduce his puppies, from the time they are born till the time they go home with their new owners, to the sound of load noises. Personally, when I have a litter of pups on the ground from the time that they are a week old things progressively get louder in the nursery. In the beginning I will tap a metel pie plate with my fingers for 3 or 4 days until everyone is comfortable and taking no notice. I then start banging two pie plates together increasing the noise they make over the course of a few days. Once the pups are starting in on their own food I progress to banging empty food bowls together as the pups dive into the food placed down for them. By the second week of them eating on their own, I will have an assistant firing a childs cap gun 20 meters away while they dive into the food. When I am sure that none of the pups are having any problems to the noise I have the cap gun come closer and closer, until it is right in the puppy pen as well.

 

Another step that I like to add with young pups or with an 8 week old pup that I have bought is the sound of gun fire to music, which can be left playing. There are a number of products on the market for this purpose, but the best that I have found is from "Starfire" and is produced as a cure for your dogs fear of gun fire.The cd has 14 segments with gunfire set to music. The key to its success it that the music is set to the dogs heart beat, and the gun fire is added very softly and slowly. What I have done for my use is broken the cd down further into 14 seperate cds so that I can leave it playing softly in the back ground with out fear of it moving forward to quickly. I will normally take a pup ahead 1 cd per week untill we have gone through all 14 disks. At the end of the 14 weeks I have a pup that is listening to a pump action shotgun being fire, and the action being worked and has no fear of the sound. I then proceed to introducing him to the sight and scent of the gun, and then onto the introduction of the gun in the field where everything comes together.

 

Now the above is great if you are dealing with puppies, but what if you have an older dog to introduce? Personally , I like to make sure that the dog is comfortable with the sight and scent of the gun before anything else. To do this I bring the shotgun out and sit down on the floor with it, laying it on the ground. I then proceed to make a fuse over the dog as he sniffs if, and plays around it. I will also lay the gun on the floor when it is feeding time and set the food down right beside the gun, letting the dog relate the food reward to the sight and scent of the gun. Over a two week time period I will also carry the gun while we go out for walks or while playing fetch. During this time the dog becomes accustomed to the gun being present and relates it to all things fun and good.

 

It is now time to introduce the dog to the noise of the gun in the field. The worse things that you could do is take the dog to your local clay grounds where he is going to be over whelmed by the noise of guns going off or to shoot right over or beside him. I find the best way to introduce the noise of the gun is to have a helper. This way I can place my helper 60 meters off to the side and slightly forward of the dog and myself. I also like to do this is 3 stages working the gun in closer over the progression of each stage. In the first stage I use 20 guage shells that only have primers. In the second stage I use 12 guage shells that only have primers. In the third stage I use full load 12 guage poppers. I use the shells with just primers as I find they have a softer sound, and not a hard crack of a .22 cal blank.

 

Personally I like to introduce the gun with the dog chasing birds, which I plant in the field before entering with the dog, or rabbits. This allows him to be hunting and focused on something fun as the sound of the gun goes off. The same can be accomplished using bumpers or balls for him to fetch if he has a solid drive for the retrieving of them.

 

When using birds or rabbits I have my gunner who is 60 meters off to the side and slightly ahead of us fire a shot when a bird goes up or a rabbit bolts. You can signal him by raising your arm if need be. I also make sure that I am carrying my gun empty so that the dog, associates the fun with my having it along. If all goes well and the dog shows no reaction to the sound of the gun going off, I will move my gunner in 10 meters for the next flush or bolt. If on the next flush the dog shows no sign of concern the gun comes in again, and this is repeated until the gun is walking along side us. IF AT ANY TIME The dog shows signs of concern move the gun back out 20 meters and repeat at that distance. Then proceed to come in on 10 meter increments. REMEMBER This does not have to be accomplished in one session. If at the end of the session the gunner is beside you, on your next day out fire a 20 guage primer on your first flush and then stay at that distance and fire a 12 guage primer. This will allow you to evaluate the dog to be sure that there are no problems developing. As with the 20 guage, work your way in with the 12 guage primers during the session, or over however many sessions it takes for your dog to become comfortable with the gunner beside you.

 

The next step is to work your way in using the 12 guage poppers. Again start by having your gunner out 60 meters and firing the first round as just a 12 guage primer. Then switch to the poppers working in at the dogs comfort rate until your gunner is beside you. On your next session out You should be able to comfortably shoot over your dog,using live shells and dropping quarry for your dog to retrieve. However be certain to NEVER shoot directly over or across your dog subjecting him to muzzel blast.

 

To introduce the gun using bumpers or balls, set your gunner up the same and move him in the same as above. The differance is that you are going to throw the ball as you walk and your gunner is going to shoot as it is in the air. Besure that the dog is already chasing the ball before the shot is fired.

 

By following the above your dog will have a stress free intrduction to the gun, and you will have an enjoyable companion for your shooting.

 

NTTF

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  • 2 weeks later...

I took our Golden retriever to a local clay pigeon ground at about 16 weeks old. Started him off in the car park and moved gradually closer to the guns. Not fussing him, but plenty of treats and playing to keep him occupied.

 

Now he gets very bored by gunfire, even if sat at my feet whilst I'm shooting. We even took him along to a civil war reenactment the other day and he wasn't bothered by the canons and muskets, and they were loud.

 

Maybe we chose the right dog, maybe he's a bit dim, but it certainly worked for us.

 

Merman

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  • 2 months later...

i have a real problem with my dog. she is scared stiff of any loud noise we tried her with a small cap gun at a distance. but the reaction we got was hiding round trees.

after this we stop any introduction to guns. then we went to the midlands game fair the other day loads of noise in the distance she was not happy but as the day went on she came out abit. we decided to walk back to the car but took a wrong exit and went right past all the claypigeon shooters and she did not bat an eyelid.

after seeing this i am thinking of trying again but the last thing i want is to send her backwards.

can any one tell me where i can get this cd starfire. and will it help with a 12month old lab

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  • 10 months later...
http://www.starfire-rapport.com

 

 

Be sure to read the instructional book aswell.

 

NTTF

 

NTTF,

At Pine Creek Grouse Dog Trainers we introduce the gun in a similar manner, starting with the blank pistol when the pup is about 25 weeks old. The pup is let into our training woods where it gets educated as to his natural hunting habitat. As he is playing and is looking for our wild Grouse, the trainer makes sure he is 35 or more yards away as the pup romps freely the light blank is fired. This goes on at different times for a few days, next comes the larger blanks and we move up to the 28 Guage as the pup gets older, with very light shells. When the pup is a might older we have him find and point a planted Chukar, the bird is flushed and shot down from approx the same yardage as the blank gun was fired. In this manner the pup always concentrates on the bird, and killing the bird on the 1st 28 guage shot insures the positive imprint of gun fire, meaning dead bird. As the dog gets older we introduce the 20, 16 and 12 guage guns while actually hunting. We use this method on all our pointing dogs, we have no gun shy dogs using this training technique.

RGD

 

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  • 6 months later...

NTTF, I will soon be looking to introduce my dog to the sound of gunfire following your guide as recomended. My only problem is trying to find somewere that sells kids toy cap guns, no where seems to sell them anymore ;) so can you recomend me an alternitive unless someone has one they would want to sel me !

 

Many thanks

 

SS

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The problem with starting with a .22 cal blank pistol is the sound generated is very harsh and sharp. This is what we are trying to get away from. It would be far better if you could find a forum member or someone at your local clay club to press you say 50 to 100 primers into some used shotgun brass. These come off as a soft toned report and are perfect for introduction.

 

NTTF

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Hi NTTF, Just a quick update for you, i found a place to buy a cap gun from to get young bryn comfortable with gun fire. How ever as it happens this morning whilest walking him round some feilds i was throwing him the dummy and getting him to retreve it when there was an almighty boom from about 50 meters away from the base of a tree, turns out there was a bird scarer put out i didnt know about. Anyway bryn was on his way back to me with the dummy when this first boom rang out and the little fellow didnt so much as ackowledge it ( I jumped a mile ! lol), 10 seconds latter with bryn at my feet having completed his retreve and having a fuss a second blast rang out bryns only reaction was to look in the direction it came from, so i threw the dummy again and on his way back from that retreive the scarer sounded for the third time ! Bryn came to a stop looked at the bird scarer and growled and then proceeded back to me with the dummy !

 

Half hour later he was still full of beans and retreving the dummy as good as ever (Different feild this time). Needless to say the little chap had a big hug when he got home and yet more fuss off the mrs for being a brave boy :good:

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  • 4 weeks later...

NTTF, good news :good: Little Bryn has now been around a .22 blank for 2 weeks now and isnt bothered buy it ! So some time this month i will try the 12g at 30 yards and reduce the distance slowly but as i say standing next him now with his dummy and firing the .22 blank and all he is interested in is when am i going to throw the dummy ! no sign of shyness at all ! Have to say my heart was in my throat and a knot in my stomach the first time i used the .22 blank for the fear of him being shy !

 

Not counting my eggs before they hatch but i may just have a shooting buddy now ! Very happy and walking with a spring in my step ! Just got to smarten Bryn up with his retreive over the summer bring on next season.

 

Many thanks NTTF i owe you a beer or two if ever your over here ! :blink: :good: B) :yes:

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  • 3 months later...

I have two dogs...

 

A Yorkshire terrier and a Lab cross colly.

 

Both of them are petrefied of all the guys i have ever had, when ever i have been cleaning them in the kitchen both of them are cowering in the beds and wont move a muscle....

 

Why is this??? they have never seen the guys firing and have to my knowledge never been shot by anything, so how do they know what they are or what they do??

 

Even more of a mystery, how to i get them to be more relaxed around them??

 

Thanks

 

Ice

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  • 3 weeks later...
The worse things that you could do is take the dog to your local clay grounds where he is going to be over whelmed by the noise of guns going off or to shoot right over or beside him.

 

 

NTTF

 

NTTF you say the above but what if there is just like one person shooting at the clay club? As I mentioned in a previous thread my dog was not shy of the shotgun or the noise of it, they were shooting before I got there so shots were being fired as I was walking to the grounds till we got right next to the shotguns. Wouldnt that be a good idea?

 

For the past year I took him out when fireworks were going off and he was slightly shy of them but gave him praise, seems to be alrite with them as well and when I sit down on the sofa I slap the side of the sofa to make a load noise also when reading a hardbacked book I usually slam it shut which a couple of times makes him jump.

 

Is it just that some dogs dont mind and some do. Mean my dog didnt even see a shotgun or hear a shotgun before yesterday, and the couch there said he was real good round a shotgun.

 

thanks

 

Df

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The worse things that you could do is take the dog to your local clay grounds where he is going to be over whelmed by the noise of guns going off or to shoot right over or beside him.

 

 

NTTF

 

NTTF you say the above but what if there is just like one person shooting at the clay club? As I mentioned in a previous thread my dog was not shy of the shotgun or the noise of it, they were shooting before I got there so shots were being fired as I was walking to the grounds till we got right next to the shotguns. Wouldnt that be a good idea?

 

For the past year I took him out when fireworks were going off and he was slightly shy of them but gave him praise, seems to be alrite with them as well and when I sit down on the sofa I slap the side of the sofa to make a load noise also when reading a hardbacked book I usually slam it shut which a couple of times makes him jump.

 

Is it just that some dogs dont mind and some do. Mean my dog didnt even see a shotgun or hear a shotgun before yesterday, and the couch there said he was real good round a shotgun.

 

thanks

 

Df

 

DF,

 

If it is introduced in a controlled manner, one gun and a very slow advance then yes it can work. It would be very wise to have some retrieving going on while advanceing aswell.

 

Most of the gunshy dogs out there today were developed by people either shooting directly over them the first time out with the gun or by driving to the gun club and unloading fido from the car to listen to blast after blast.

 

NTTF

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I mentioned this to dustyfox just recently..........I found balloons are great to introduce your dog to pops/bangs, blow them up only a little to start with then more as time goes by. I realise it doesn't correct gun shyness entirely but it does work well. My pointer will sit with a vacant look on her face if you aim a party popper over her head, she doesn't even blink at the 'pop' but goes mad for the streamers. I am no expert I assure you but this is really worth a try. My one remaining springer and the GSP love thunder and fireworks too. Just recently my pointer went to a shoot where 5 guns were shooting one after another in turn, it was her first 'look' at real gunfire.....she just sat down and scratched her ear then continued to lick the ear wax from her claws. Wonderful to realise she simply isn't fazed by gunfire but I was expecting a little more interest :hmm:

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