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gun shy

1652 Views 14 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Greg Wile
I have a 3 year old yellow lab and she is still gun shy. we have taken her to the gun range and shot 2 boxes of skeet and still when i take the gun out the case she runs away. If any one could tell me what i could do for her not to be scared of the just the sight of the gun it would help alot. Thanks.
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Taking her to the range is a good idea, but having her close is not the best way to go in my experience. Try taking her near the range where you can here the shooting, but it's in the distance. Then work with here and play to take her mind off from the noise. Once she settles down take her a little closer and do the same. Keep working your way up to shooting over her. This worked great for me.
Have you had this dog since she was a pup? What happened to make her scared of the gun? I notice you say still, she obviously has made a negative association with the noise but what caused that? There is not enough information here to make and informed comment. By the way taking her to the range is not going to solve this problem and in fact probably just made it worse. Gun or noise shyness can be corrected but I have to tell you in a 3 year old dog it takes alot of time and, unless her desire to hunt is stronger than her fear, usually an excersise in futility. If you want a hunting dog read everything you can on training get a well bred pup and do it the right way.
Going to have to disagree with thaner on this one. In my experience and what I have read, dogs should never be taken to a gun range especially as a pup to introduce them to gun fire. Gun fire should be rewarded with something positive. (retrieve, bird, food, playing) There are some dogs that just don't care about gunfire the least bit, but there are others, that unless you associate something good with it you will end up with a gunshy dog. You obviously have the second type, and you found this out by taking her to a gun range where there was no positives for her, just 50 loud shots that she already didn't like.
In all reality, you probably will have a gunshy dog now for the rest of its life. Something to try that might work: Lay off all gun work for maybe a couple months. Get the gun out with a bumper (bumper = positive). Throw the bumper for her while you have the gun around, but don't shoot yet. Do this until at least the sight of the gun doesn't bother her. If it takes birds use them to get her over the gun, use them. Have somebody stand about 100 yards aways and fire a blank gun while you throw the bumper for her. Gradually move the gunner in. This is more or less how you should introduce gun fire to puppies as well. Chances are this dog will not overcome the gunshyness, but this is one way to try. It will take TIME don't push the dog. There is no reason. Move on her time schedule.

You could go to the gun range to see if your dog is gunshy, but then what if it is. Why not introduce gun fire as a positve thing with retrieving or the other things I mentioned.

Sorry for the long post guys.
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gsphunter said:
Going to have to disagree with thaner on this one. In my experience and what I have read, dogs should never be taken to a gun range especially as a pup to introduce them to gun fire.

Actually I don't think we do disagree, or at least not totally anyway. I definitely would try gsphunter method as this is the best way to introduce a dog to the sound of the gun, but if it doesn't work don't give up and try some basic desensitization. I am no professional and have only trained half a dozen dogs of my own. I use methods that are recommended by people with more experience than I have.

I have been where you are and had a dog that was gun shy and didn't respond to gunfire well at all even with training work and cap guns. A kid threw some firecrackers by the pup and really goofed him up.

I didn't have the issue with the sight of the gun being a problem so you definitely need to desensitize the dog to the sight of the gun.

I fixed my dog by taking him to a location where he could here gunfire off in the distance, but where it was not overwhelming. I think a lot of distant gunfire is better than a few shots now and then close up; It's kind of like people getting used to the sound of traffic at night, at first you can't sleep, but after a while I forget it is even there and it's just background noise. This distance depends on the dog, maybe 300 yards, or a half-mile. I take the dog to a distance from gun fire where they notice it but not so much that they want to run and hide. Then engage the dog in a favorite activity this may not even be hunting type work. Do this until the shooting is just background noise and the dog doesn't react to it, and then move a little closer, and I emphasize a little closer. Just watch the dog and it will tell you when to move again. Don't be in a big hurry. I think it also helps to make these trips your main events for the week, the time whey you really have a good time so the dog looks forward to this time. At a point the dog will associate the noise with having a good time. My last dog was very gun shy after the firecrackers and I was able to use this method and after 2-days a week for about 8-weeks he was sitting on the trap line and we were working on staying and not chasing after targets and even then I only shot a a little. I have helped several others deal with gun-shy dogs in the same way and it has worked. I wouldn't start with this method, but if I ever have a problem dog again this is what I will try before I give up.
Taking a dog to a gun range is a sure way of creating a gun shy dog. Gun breaking a dog should never be done where in any way you do not have control of when the gun is fired. Most dogs can not be cured of gun shyness. I would get onto the versatile hunting dog forum and do a search for curing gun shyness. I know that there are some tapes that you can buy, and a couple of other things that people have suggested, but chances are slim to none, especially if you took the dog to the gun range shot two boxes near it and then expect it to like the sound of gun fire. You and Thaner should read some books and do some research on training dogs then start over and then begin giving advice.
I definitely agree. Taking a dog to a gun range and shooting over it is not the way to start, and that is why I also said you should introduce the dog to gunfire in the proper way. You should use proven methods from people who have a lot of experience with gun-shy dogs. Just don't give up right away on the dog. Some people and trainers will give up because they don't want to spend a lot of time on a seemingly lost cause, and I can't blame them. If this is a dog you like and plan to keep regardless if it ever hunts then be very patient and you may get the dog turned around with a lot of work and very gradual introduction to guns and noise. I am no expert and just because I was successful a couple of times doesn't mean much so please don't take my advice. After reflection I probably shouldn't have given it in the first place. Good luck!
You know when I re- read my post it sounds like I'm telling you to get rid of your dog and get another one. Not at all, I speak from experience here I have a female lab. She's from good breeding and was going to be my next gun dog but just never could get her used to gunfire, and we did it the right way. Something about the noise upsets her, any loud noise, and we just couldn't overcome it. She is not afraid of the gun and in fact I have taken her along on hunts and she has even retrieved some birds but she isn't having any fun. Anyway that's been 10 years ago and I wouldn't trade her. She's a great dog just not a great hunting dog.
thaner said:
Taking her to the range is a good idea,...

Thaner, where I quoted is where I disagree. This dog needs to be no where near a gun range right now, it's gunshy. I can just picture a cowering dog trying to run away from the noise. This happens while the owner tries frustratingly to coax the dog into comfort. Then instead of something good following the shot, the dog gets another and another and so on.
Why would the dog ever associate gunfire with anything good in this scenario?
My guess is Jet, the original poster on this topic decided he wanted his lab to be a hunter, and his first step in the process was to see if his dog was gunshy. To determine this he went out to the gun range.
I never take my dog to the range. I have seen dogs there that do fine, but I choose not to because if I make a dog gunshy then what? It's like you said, a LONG process of possible??? desentization. Just my thoughts.
I agree with you 100%. My statement was based on my personal experience that most gun clubs are in the country and on large areas of land and you can usually find an area to work with a dog that is remote from the actual shooting and use a level of noise that is acceptable to the dog and where the dog can easily be distracted in play or training. I wasn't clear about this. I would never subject the dog to a noise level that would be stressful to it especially after is has shown signs of being gun-shy. I just have some limited experience that careful use of low-level repetitive noise can be used to desensitize a gun-shy dog to the point where it may more readily accept traditional training methods. Even traditional training can be a complete failure with a gun-shy dog if the dog is too focused on the noise. I should have not offered the advice or should have been much more careful about how it was presented.
Thanks for all the tips. I never had my dog more than 100 yards away from us when we were shooting. I just have to take some time with her and show her that there is nothing to be afraid of. Thanks again.

I am not an expert dog trainer, I only speak from what has worked conditioning my dog.

Start around the house or yard where the dog is comfortable. Make loud noises with the dishes in the kitchen for example, or bang on a pot a few times while the dog is eating. Then I would suggest getting a training pistol and firing it at a distance while the dog is eating (don't do that part in the house). To start be far enough away so the dog shows no reaction to the shot. Don't do it at every feeding, maybe 2-3 times a week, and mix it up. Progressively move closer until you can stand right next to her and fire the pistol without a reaction. When that is not problem take the pistol wth you and fire it when you throw a bumper.

Now go through the same progression with your shotgun. If you watch your dog you will be able to tell when it is comfortable and not scared. Don't push it and be patient. It may take a while to get her to be comfortable. Starting with feeding time is good because she knows that nothing bad will happen. Eventually she will be totally comfortable with the gun, if not go bonkers when she sees it. I do a lot of upland hunting and I like my dog to not move when a bird flushes. Part of that training included sitting to the shot, just like a verbal command or a whistle tweet. This also is invaluable in the blind for example when a huge flight of Canada's comes in and your whole party unleashes the arscenal on them! It's nice to look over at your dog sitting anctiously after all the action is done, trembling (and they will tremble, maybe even wine a little) with anticipation to go pick up the quarry.

I hope that helps.

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One more tip is to use fireworks like the popers they are soft in sound but yet loud to her right now.
Oh opened a can of worms with this one. :thumbsup:

My dog Tug, the real swamp puppy, went on his first duck hunt at the tender age of 11months. The gun went "BANG" and my dog set a land speed record running as far AWAY from the hunting as he could. my heart sank. from that time on he was happy as a clam to sit off about 100 yards and watch the action, but to get him to come in and sit in the blind was nothing short of dragging 70 pounds of black lab determined NOT to be in the blind every inch of that 100 yards.

The only way i was able to get him to get used to the gunfire was to get him to associate the guns with the thing he loves more than anything else in the world. fetching birds.

assuming your dog loves retreiveing..get her out with you ALONE on a hunt. land the birds or do whatever you need to do to ensure a "100% chance of kill" shot. take the shot and then send the dog on the retrieve. then, after the retrieve, spend some time "playing" with the bird. throw it out and let her retrieve it a few more times.

then..repeat the process a few more times for a few more hunts. then the dog should start to associate the shooting with the "reward" of the retrieve.


hunt with her in large groups of people where "combat hunting" tactics are used. ie: 4-5 guns blazing away at one duck.

tie her up near gunfire and make her listen to it until she "learns" there is nothing to fear.

shoot repeatedly in a hunting situation with a "reward" after teh shot. even if you need to go out and throw a bumper if you miss the bird. SHOT = REWARD.

it took a few hunts, but Tug finally got it down and is totally over his gunshyness.
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I must of broken every rule when it came to introducing my dog Jessie to gun fire at the ripe old age of six months. First off I am well aware of the effects of fireing a gun in close proximity of a pup as I have worked with hunting dogs of my own scince I was a kid. First introduce the dog as has been said to loud noises around the house and yard being careful not to startle the pup. Don't sneek up and make the noise be in the open and let the dog see that it is you causing the ruckus. Let the pup sniff the objects used to make the noise before and after, if the pup seems timid " Do Not Force It" let the pup check the noise makers out in his/her own time while you are reasuring it. When it comes to the gun let the pup get use to the gun being part of its surroundings while training. then when it comes time to acctually fire the gun make sure that the pup can see that the loud bang is a direct result of you doing something then as before let the pup sniff the gun while you reasure him that all is well. If your dog trusts you and you take the time to introduce it to new things then you should have few if any difficulties. I know I am not a dog trainer but how do you handle being startled?
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