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Thread: How do you fix gun shyness?

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    Member duckslayer56's Avatar
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    Default How do you fix gun shyness?

    I took my lab hunting earlier this year, and he had no problem with my shotgun. In fact he didn't even flinch when it went off. But I took him with me to the gun range a couple of weeks ago, and a 50 caliber rifle went off, in the vicinity, and now he is having a problem with loud noises. He doesn't run away when I pick a gun up, so I don't think he knows a gun is what makes that loud bang. I was wondering if anybody has any tips to make him comfortable with loud noises again. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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    Duckslayer,
    How old is your lab ? I have a 10 1/2 month old lab that was never shy around loud noises until he starting to get older. I have a serious problem with him being shy even when I pick the gun up because it is something that he now knows that can hurt him. I have sent him for training with a trainer for two months for basic obediance, whistle commands and intro to casting and upon him returning to me my trainer showed and told me some tricks to get him out of his shyness. At what level of shyness is your lab ? does the slightest click make him back away? PM me and Ill let you know some things my trainer has told me to do that seems to be working. Thanks

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    Default Gun shyness

    Hello,


    I think the best thing you can do is to take things slowly now. Gun shyness is extremely hard to get out of a dog once it really has set in and the dog recognizes it is the gun that makes the noise. Luckily it sounds like you are not to that point yet.

    One possible thing to try that I have seen work relatively well on gun shy springers is to work in the field with a dummy thrower or a .22 blank pistol. Start with the gunner a good ways off and you with your dog (assuming he feels comfortable with you). Have the gunner fire some shots and you are there to reassure your dog. In time, the gunner moves closer and closer to the dog so the noise gets louder and louder. Once the .22 blanks can be shot nearby move back to the shotgun with a low charge game load and repeat the process.

    Some dogs respond better than others and certainly some breeds will respond better. I know that springers with strong shyness can be impossible to break. I wish you the best of luck.

  4. #4

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    Hey. I have worked very gunshy dogs completely out of shyness. It is often impossible I admit but my dogs were very enthustic about birds. One high class dog was turned in to the pound due to gun shyness and I still broke him. In a month he went from aprehension to extreme enthusiasm. I am at work right now so cant go on for ever, but I can say my method delt with positive association and not desensetization. I would be really interested in helping you out, and would like to here more details about your situation. I am no expert but I have put my hours in gunshy research. PM me and I can give you my phone # but I really don't feel like writing a book right now.
    It sounds like there is hope but be careful.

  5. #5

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    Duckslayer,

    I appreciate your dog is there now, but for those contemplating, NEVER TAKE A DOG TO THE GUN RANGE.

    There is a huge difference with hunting and 10 guys shooting targets with high powered rifles. Without protection, that 50 cal. hurts my ears and I've lost 70% or my hearing.

    There's been good advice given so I will not repeat. Good luck. I hope your pup remembers guns and birds go together.

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    Member duckslayer56's Avatar
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    I realize now that I made a mistake in bringing him to the range with me. I have that take the dog anywhere I go syndrome. With the exception of work, he goes everywhere with me. He hasn't been to the range since. He was in the car parked about 100 yards away, and that 50 cal still seemed to shake him up. He is a really easy going dog, he learns really fast, but he has a confidence problem. I am currently working with him on that. I want to fix this gun shyness problem as gently as possible. I don't want to get him turned off with hunting or do anymore damage with his training.

    Bowtechshooter, and elhewman, I sent you both PM's.

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    Default Keep positive

    You have a chance if you use positive association. I have used food as a starting place. If your dog likes to eat, and you feed him on a schedule, it works better.
    Do you feed him indoors or outside? Where ever that spot is, start in a location that is away from the dog, like around a corner of the house, or out in the garage. Fill the food dish (a metal dish works better) and start "rattlling" the food from your starting point and walk towards the feeding location. Do that until he gets excited and knows what is happening.
    For puppies still in the litter, I start with the whistle and "trill" as I walk toward the kennel. After a few days, the pups hear the whistle and run toward the kennel door screaming to be fed.
    Once I have a positive response to the food, I introduce the loud noise. Again, do this well away from the dog so it is muffled, but discernible. Use the initial noise of rattling the dish or blowing the whistle, and then shoot the gun. After the shot continue with the other recognized noise. Use lots of positive verbal praise as you go through this process.
    If you find the dog doesn't dive into the food the same way after the shot, and seems apprehensive, start feeding him less. Keep him just a bit hungry.
    In time, you will be able to get closer and closer to the dog as you fire the shot. Be careful you do not try and close that gap too quickly. Keep the dog excited and pumped up.
    When you get him past being shy, then take him to the field and start again. The more eager he is to work and retrieve the better. Start now taking him out and just letting him roll. Do not worry too much about obedience and technical training. Just get him to where he is nuts to work.
    Let us know how that goes and we can go into more depth on the field work when the time comes.

  8. #8

    Default Gun shyness

    A retrievers mind is a product of its environment. Gun shyness is the result of an improper introduction to that kind of environment. Leaving a young dog in the car or on the range leaves his/her mind to its own devices. The big boom is sudden and fido thinks the boogy man is out to get him. Fido found himself in over his head because he/she encountered an experience they hadn't been fully conditoned to handle.

    It is our job as trainers to educate and to show through gradual repetition that gunfire is a good thing. Gunfire should be related to what he/she loves best. If you've done your homework -- fido should be ripping up the ground to retrieve. You simply need to condition "hairball" to do so with gunfire.

    I have conditioned a lot of gun shy retrievers. Those that do better are the ones that have a strong retrieving drive. I'll get them going by just doing simple marks and start clapping my hands at first. Then to hinged pieces of plywood. I'll use these while the dog is on the way to the fall area. I am encouraging fido all the way. Telling him what a great pooch he/she is. Then to guns in the field with blank pistols at a distance. Send them before the bird hits the ground get them rolling so they are focused on the retrieve before the pop goes off.... then over gradual repititions( up to 2 or 3 weeks or depending on the dogs responses) start moving closer to the gun stations.
    Now if your dog is scared at the sight of a gun don't worry. There again it's conditioning. Your dog should eat and sleep with the gun in view. Every time you take him for a walk(neighborhood permitting) take it with you. When you and fido play retrieve. It should be there. Over time the gun becomes a part of your dogs routine. Then you can start conditioning to noise as I mentioned earlier.
    Take your time. Don't be in a hurry. Gun conditioning is part of your dogs Basics training. You should be pulling out your training bumpers or birds and your shotgun at the same time. Your dog should be raring to go at the sight of either.
    Good luck.
    I'm out of state right now training with some client dogs. I'm checking in occasionally. So Pm me if you need to ask any questions. I plan to be back in just before Christmas.

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    Default conditioning is important

    I agree with the others, but I see too many times people rushing to a conclusion via a time frame they have set in their minds. That is why I hesitate to advocate to eliminate, or remove gun shyness in the field where there are typically fewer controls. It is difficult to provide guidance without seeing your dog work in the field, his retrieving desire, or your ability to respond to what is happening at the moment. I do not doubt WLs ability to provide a consistent positive atmosphere based on his background and the number of times he has worked on this problem.
    I can control a dogs feeding schedule, hunger, and immediate environment easier than I can control potential field related issues. Most labs are voracious eaters, and if not, I can teach them to be.
    There are also some good points about noise. The dog may not be gun shy per se, but shy about sudden noise in general. You may find that any hard/harsh noise will work while attempting to eliminate the shy condition. This may especially be true if you live in a suburb where any type of gunfire regardless of source may not go over well.
    A word of warning if I may. Never use fireworks around dogs. And especially do not use them to attempt to overcome they shy condition. I have seen way too many problems develop due to their use.

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