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Thread: Any suggestions for breaking a gun shy dog???

  1. #1
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    Default Any suggestions for breaking a gun shy dog???

    Hoping to get some insight from some of you more seasoned dog trainers. I have a chocolate lab that would be an absolute fantastic bird dog, if only he weren't gun shy. He has a great nose and unending desire to retrieve. His only hang up is his fear of the shot. Any thoughts would be highly appreciated.

  2. #2

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    Go hunting with a .22 and use .22cb's. Get him used the .22, then move up to the 20 gauge.
    Go slow, don't praise him for being scared, praise him in his moments of strength.
    Good luck, and remember, dogs love a strong leader.

  3. #3

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    This is a problem that can be fixed. It takes quite a bit of time. You can't rush it and can only move forward when the dog is ready. There are chronological steps that I take to recondition them.
    I would have to discuss with you on how you think this has originated. My training plan would be based around this and would make that particular situation my goal in desensitizing your dog to gun fire.
    It's good that he has a strong desire to retrieve. I would use that to my advantage in his training.
    Please contact me for further information.
    Baron

  4. #4

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    Are you in Spokane now? If so I'll be in your state training this Spring. Maybe we can meet so I can get you started.

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    Baron,
    Yes, I am in Spokane. If it works, I would love to get together. I took a quick look at your web sight and it looks like you may know a thing or two about Labs. I will admit to you that I am partially (wholely, lets be honest) with his reaction to gun shots. Introduced him way to early. My older Lab was a breeze to train and had no reaction to gun shots from the very start. Took it for granted when we got #2, bad idea. Now I have a huge hole to dig out of. As I said, if it worked I would love to get together.
    John

  6. #6

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    Hey John. That would be fine. I am renting a farm just east of Seattle off of I 90. I will be there mostly venturing out to other training grounds from time to time. Hopefully you guys have a warm spring so I don't have to drive any further south. LOL
    I may also be visiting Burlington Ranch which is north of you. PM me your number so I can contact you.

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    JColony, I would take Baron up on his offer. He know how to train dogs. I have seem many of his dog work. If I had any issues with my Lab that I could not work through myself or with my hunting partner, I would look to Baron for his assistance.

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    Baron, sent you a PM.

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    JColony, without knowing how the situation developed, age of your dog, or training methods, I will share some ideas that have worked for me. Try reintroducing your dog to gun shots at feeding time. Have someone help you by firing a .22 about 30 yards away from you while your dog is eating. If he doesn't seem to mind this, then have your partner work his way closer. Do this over a period of days until you reach a point where your dog starts getting too nervous to concentrate on his task at hand (eating). Once you have established this distance, start doing marks at this distance using the .22 and live birds with their wings tied. If your dog has a good retrieving desire, then the excitement of the marks should outweigh the fear of the gun shot. As Baron said, don't rush the process and proceed slowly until you can fire the .22 from the hunter's position. Only after your dog has confidence with you using the .22 for an extended period of time would I move to shotgun primers. With some luck, reintroducing the dog to gunfire while he is eating will ease his attitude that something bad is going to happen when he hears gunfire. However, I would make a visit to the vet and have your dog's ears checked thoroughly. If something is going on there, any loud noise to him will only make future training worse.

  10. #10
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    After field trialing for over 35 years, I have seen a lot of gun shy dogs. I have seen about a dozen or more gun shy dogs that people tried to rehabilitate. There were no successes with those dogs. The dog pros here in the southeast will not take time to work with a gun shy dog. They are to busy preparing their string of dogs for field trials.

    Do yourself a favor and give the dog to a pet family and buy another dog. Just start over. You will come out a lot cheaper in the long run plus save a ton of wasted time with your efforts.
    NRA Life Member since 1974

  11. #11

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    JColony, my advice is to give it an honest shot. I've had dogs who were gun shy, but still wanted to get out and hunt, so I can empathize with you on this. If your dog has the amount of drive you are talking about, give it a go. What I have found works well is to make everythingin in his life kind of noisy and sudden, so he gets used to things being kind of obnoxious and unpredictable. Bang pans around in the kitchen, even doing so while playing with him. If he gets to tolerate this, move him up to retrieving while you are doing this. I like the idea of using a wing to get him a bit more excited. and if he likes it, move him up to a frozen carcass or something bigger. My current lab was really skittich around the gun when I first started with him, and even once we got out hunting, he still got hung up on the sound of the shot. Now, if he even sees me go near the gun cabinet, he starts jumping around, thinking we are going hunting. Give your dog a honest shot, and he'll probably surprise you.

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    Thanks for all the tips fella's, I really appreciate it. I think there is hope for this kid yet.
    Boliep, I understand that some people view dogs merely as a tool. I am not one of those people. I love the little turd, he's just a bit of a sally. I would never purchase a dog, then give it up. He's a member of our family whether he hunts or not.

  13. #13

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    If any one follows "miller's" recommendations for noise conditioning they need to think about what they are doing before attempting it. Miller left out a few key points.

    You just can't grab two skillets go stare at your dog and start banging them around. Hell...I'd run from you myself. Which I totally understand is not what miller meant.
    You need to do this inconspicously. Like it is a normal routine. You don't look at the dog for a reaction nor do you speak to the dog to comfort it. You totally ignore the dog. No touch, no talk, no eye contact. Assign yourself a few chores .... then rattle a few things around that make noise from time to time. Don't make big arm swings that may startle your dog either. I have used this method to rehabilitate dogs that were abused and they needed to be accustomed to the noises of a home environment before they could get adopted. Dogs learn to cope with things a lot easier when properly exposed. I have never used it for gun shyness. Though it may work.
    I have another method for gun shyness that has worked for me in the past. I simply get them fired up on retrieving. Lots of field marks and lots of flyers. I then gradually over time start to implement guns back into the picture. Gunfire then becomes a part of what they love to do "retrieving". Sorry, but I have certain steps that I won't post on the net.

  14. #14

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    Thanks, Baron -- you are totally right. I forgot to explain that part fully. JColony, I think you have a good chance of turning this dog into a retrieving machine. Just keep at it!

  15. #15

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    Jcolony, are you a member of any dog clubs in the spokane area? There is the Spokane Bird dog Association as well as the Northeast Washington Bird dog club. If you google those names then you will find there websites. Also, in the spokane area is a trainer named Dan Hosford, again google dan hosford training. I have seen him run dogs in Hunt tests for his clients before, he has lots of experience with gun dogs. I guess what I am getting at is I think you should try to solve your issues with your local resources first.

  16. #16
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    kodyb,
    I have talked with several members of the Spokane Bird Dog Association. It just seems that everyone has their own opinion on this, I was just hoping to get additional insight from guys that may have had the same issue and beat it. Thanks for the info though, I didn't know about the Northeast WA bird dog association, I'll have to look into that one.
    John

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    JColony - I like your "tool" comment (I've heard it before) Baron is one of the best for companion hunters to competitive dogs. You don't have to explain your loyalty to your dog. Trialing can be a disease like gambling, anything for the win. I was the same way for a number of years until I had a dog that stole my heart. I won't even send them away to a trainer anymore but train pros like Baron and have hands on working out problems. Working on and fixing problems makes you a better trainer. Nothing is more satisfying than having a dog accomplish more than you expect. No reason to "start over" because of a fixable problem. The example of gun shy dog I had was not the gun noise at all. It was too much pressure in the force fetch and steading training from a previous owner.

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