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Thread: Gunshy Pup

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    Default Gunshy Pup

    I need some help on breaking my dog of being gunshy. She is an 8 month old Chessy. I didn't think she would have a problem with guns. She is around loud noises all the time and it doesn't bother her. She was even right next to a chop saw and never flinched when I started it up. As soon as she hears gun shots she can't find a corner to curl up in fast enough. It doesn't matter how loud or quiet they are, she still does not like them. One time she was swimming and retrieving bumpers (which she absolutely loves) but then some gunshots started off in the distance. It was from a local shooting range. The range was plenty far enough away that the sound was pretty muffled. She stopped all she was doing and ran back home and would not listen to me at all...which she usually listens very well.

    Am I just going to have to start working her at greater distances and more slowly?

    If anyone has any suggestions I would greatly appreciate it.

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    Whow.......How is her other social skills? Anything happen to make her gun shy. Dogs ain't born gun shy. Be sure she is confident of herself and what goes on around her first. Just make sure your doing something she likes to do when the shots are fired and start way off and slow. I would have her on a lead so she can't run off and then make sure you don't make a big deal about the shots. Don't coddle her in and don't baby her if she's nervous. Make like it ain't no big deal to you and I bet she catches on. Duckdon

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    Her other social skills are excellent. She seems to love everyone. I know dogs aren't born gun shy and I know it was all my fault. I probably started her too close and too loud. She is pretty confident until she hears a little pop. Then she shuts down and doesn't want to do anything. It could be eating or retrieving and she will not continue. I'm trying to make it like its no big deal with her but it doesn't seem like she is getting it. I guess I just need to keep at it haha. Would it help if I had someone else be around her when we start? I don't know if she might be picking some sort of feeling up from me. I took her to a hunt trial a month ago and she was nervous around the guns but then she state to realize that the ducks come from the noise and it was all I could do to keep her from retrieving. I thought she was cured. Then she heard shots again and she is scared of them again.

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    You have to associate guns with fun! I corrected a couple of dogs years ago start with a 22 you and the dog alone doing a fun activity
    do not kennel dog on a leash is fine but reasure dog. I used to use a bird wing laying scent trails then working up with 22 on up. Bottom line is dog has to trust you and associate guns with fun! Its a lot easier to make a dog gun shy than break them of it!

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    I'm with Duckdon's approach on this one. I never fired a single gun around any of my pointers until after they were on point and a bird was in the air. I felt that it was best to wait until they were totally focused on the bird, so focused that they won't even hear the gun go off. All they know is that their nostrils are full of the scent of bird. Just make sure that you don't miss that first shot or as a backup have a fresh bird in your vest to throw out for them to retrieve. They need to be able to associate the gun with the smell of bird. I know it may sound contradictory to a lot of other training books, theories, etc. but I don't think it's necessary to condition a dog to gunshots. If they're naturally birdy enough they'll overcome their fear before it even develops and it sounds like your Chessie has a pretty birdy streak in her. I also agree with the previous posts that you definitely should not draw attention to the gun shots ever and if I were you I'd make sure not to expose her to them unless there's a bird involved. At least until she's a bit older and over her fear. If you have to go where there may be shots, but no birds don't let the dog focus on them and keep her on the leash. The very moment she starts to show anxiety you snap the leash to get her attention and take her for a walk around the yard/woods/field and practice her heeling. It will force her to focus on the task at hand and not the noises in the distance. Keep in mind that puppies do go through fear phases and she very well may just snap out of this on her own in time.

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    Everything must be FUN! And go slowly, in this case, painfully slow. It may help to involve other dogs to show pup everythingis okay and it's all fun.

    It may be time to consult a pro trainer in your area.

    Best of luck to you and pup.

    Jim

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    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate the help. I'll just keep working with her. She has been slow on a few other points in training so this might be the same. Course I think the slow points were because of her trainer.....I think she is smarter than I am. This is my first dog that I have trained and i am not really sure how to handle some things so your help is greatly appreciated. I can tell this is going to be a very long and slow process as Jim said. I have been doing most of the training by myself and it's hard to shoot a gun from a long distance away(and with her it has to be an extremely long distance) and also be with her too.

    I just got to thinking, when she gets in trouble I sometimes clap my hands to snap her out of whatever she is doing. I try not to do it all the time, just when she is really intent on something and "cant hear me." Could she associate the loud clap of my hands with the crack of a gun and thinks she is in trouble? Just a thought I had.

    Thanks again for all your help.

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    Qtip
    I think you are thinking about this and i would say your idea of clapping is on target. It may not be associated but it would be worth taking out of your corrections repetoire. I would replace clapping corrections with vocal. A simple aaah aaah will correct the dog and If clapping is contributing you can eliminate that variable.
    I would be careful with associating shots with birds too. I realize it can be good to introduce shots while a dog is distracted by something they love like birds but in this case if your dog is continually exposed to both shots and birds it is possible she will start to associate the fear of gunshots with birds and therefore birds will become bad too. For example, generally speaking when I train pointing dogs to whoa, I teach it separate from birds until it is 100% then apply the skill to birds in the field. That way when corrections occur they do not mistakenly associate the correction with birds.
    I would continue to train and build confidence with birds but correct the gun shyness with other means. Finding a partner to help would be greatly beneficial and it might be worth your while to incorporate a pro to get over this hump. After all your investment in the dog (time and love, not money) as a bird dog will not come to fruition if she remains gunshy.
    Be patient...Good luck

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    DuckDon and I both got pups this winter, we put a duck on a rope and swung it around and let my dog(Guy) chase it while don was closing in shooting blanks. Guy never paid any attn to the shots so i would agree, make it fun and it should help.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Burke View Post
    Qtip
    I think you are thinking about this and i would say your idea of clapping is on target. It may not be associated but it would be worth taking out of your corrections repetoire. I would replace clapping corrections with vocal. A simple aaah aaah will correct the dog and If clapping is contributing you can eliminate that variable.
    I would be careful with associating shots with birds too. I realize it can be good to introduce shots while a dog is distracted by something they love like birds but in this case if your dog is continually exposed to both shots and birds it is possible she will start to associate the fear of gunshots with birds and therefore birds will become bad too. For example, generally speaking when I train pointing dogs to whoa, I teach it separate from birds until it is 100% then apply the skill to birds in the field. That way when corrections occur they do not mistakenly associate the correction with birds.
    I would continue to train and build confidence with birds but correct the gun shyness with other means. Finding a partner to help would be greatly beneficial and it might be worth your while to incorporate a pro to get over this hump. After all your investment in the dog (time and love, not money) as a bird dog will not come to fruition if she remains gunshy.
    Be patient...Good luck
    Would agree about being careful not to shy the dog away from birds - wait til you break the gun shyness before introducing shooting with birds. I'm having the same exact thing with my GWP pup, just over a year old. She doesn't mind loud noises at all... except guns. The first time she got gun shy, I was using a .22LR, so I still don't know how to go about conditioning her. I will say that the first incident was in the thick of about 100 ptarmigan in the winter, and for the rest of the winter, she would get a little weird if we were out skiing and came across ptarmigan. So definitely be careful about not introducing guns and birds until she is comfortable with the guns.

    One way to get her into some birds and birding is to start hunting with a bow. That's working well for me. Unfortunately, breaking the gun shyness is going... poorly. Let's you and me share successes and failures, eh? Here's something that didn't work:

    Went out with my father, had him go a little away from me, maybe 200 yds and fire a shotgun while we were playing. The dog was uncomfortable, but kept playing. He fired again, still uncomfortable, but got past it. Then she went to go play with my dad, and I fired at the same distance. She didn't like that one bit and ran away down the trail. She wouldn't come to me, which she ALWAYS does. She was wigged out the rest of the way to the vehicle. So I learned to go slow. If something has a positive result, don't push it til it breaks. Go away from that situation. Do it again in the future, and take little tiny steps.

    Wishing you (and me) the best! PM me or email me as you like... -Gr
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    I hear all the time how gun shy dogs run away when they are being worked w/ to get over the issue and i wonder, why isn't the dog on lead? Why isn't the potential to run away removed from the equation? What do you expect to do if the training session turns south, like it normally does? I'm not picking on anybody that has written here, but when you do this, you are testing the dog, not teaching or training.
    Whether you use food, or play, you must remove all other potential issues before you start to retrain the dog. Remember, you are trying to re-educate, which is almost alway harder than teaching correctly the first time.
    Be patient, think it out before you start. I'd strongly suggest to stay away from shooting ranges, etc, as that rarely works to your favor.
    ARR

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ak River Rat View Post
    I hear all the time how gun shy dogs run away when they are being worked w/ to get over the issue and i wonder, why isn't the dog on lead? Why isn't the potential to run away removed from the equation? What do you expect to do if the training session turns south, like it normally does? I'm not picking on anybody that has written here, but when you do this, you are testing the dog, not teaching or training.
    Whether you use food, or play, you must remove all other potential issues before you start to retrain the dog. Remember, you are trying to re-educate, which is almost alway harder than teaching correctly the first time.
    Be patient, think it out before you start. I'd strongly suggest to stay away from shooting ranges, etc, as that rarely works to your favor.
    ARR
    I hear what you're saying, and yes, all I could think of on both occasions was how much I would have liked to have a lead with me. The only thing I would offer in my defense is that these are the only two times this dog has not minded my voice commands 100%. In every other time we've been out since, and even including, the early training days, she has never refused to come to me after a single "come" command, except these two times, and we go out a LOT. So yeah, I should have been anticipating the possibility of this happening, especially the second time, and next time I will certainly have a lead.

    -Gr
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    I understand. And please, I'm not finding fault w/ any one person, just making an observation. Folks forget to go back to basics to find success. So when a person has a dog responding well under normal circumstances, it's easy to not think about "what if". But handlers must think that way if they want to solve problems.
    There are some good ideas here to get a guy and his gunshy pup started in the right direction. I'd add to the information, be super conservative, take really small steps, and do it in a place you control as much as possible. Whether you use play or food, it will likely take time to win the battle.
    ARR

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    Right on, and thanks for the advice. Sorry if I got a little defensive. When it comes down to it... I'm still kinda bummed out about the whole thing. She is a GREAT dog in almost all ways, and she would be soooo good out in the field if she weren't gunshy. She loves to retrieve, and she actually loves it the most when she has to sniff out a blind. She's so good at it, and will search tirelessly for a dummy, or especially a bird wing, until she finds it. We'll get there one way or another, and again, I'll be sure to share what works and what doesn't. -Gr
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