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Intro to the Gun

921 Views 12 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  fireman1
OK, being I have been overwhelmed with questions about training after that last issue on pits that was supposed to be about intro to the gun I am just going to post what I do. It doesn't mean it is right or wrong, it is just has worked for me.

I rarely post on any boards. Between training and guiding I don't have much time. The geese are still a week away so I read a little about whatever I can.

Being introducing your young dog or pup to birds and the gun are the most important training issues you will encounter, you need to approach each with extreme caution. If for some reason your dog is soft in either area you might as well consider him as your favorite house pet. He isn't going to do any justice in the field and is better off staying home.

I always use pigeons when introducing young dogs to birds. Pigeons have several advantages over other training birds. They do not have a strong wing flap that can either scare or hurt your dog which could turn him off of birds permanently. They do not have spurs like a cock pheasant that will drive in and injure your young dog. This will turn him off from birds permanently. They also have a nice flutter to them that excites almost any young birddog.

First I like to use a dead or frozen pigeon and just let young dogs check it out. This is great if you have an entire litter or even a couple young dogs you are working with. Let them grab, drag, run, or do just about whatever they want to with the bird. This is why I like to use frozen pigeons in the beginning. It is actually better if you have a couple pups because they have more confidence being together. An entire litter also works great when introducing young dogs to birds.

Next I lock the wings of a pigeon for the young dog and throw it for him. I will normally have a check cord on the dog at this stage when introducing him to birds. That will change when we go to the gun. If the pup wants to play with the bird, chew it or basically anything but bring it right back to you reel him in and take the bird from him. Continue to do this and gradually unlock the pigeon's wings. I like to clip the flight feathers off the pigeon but you can hobble him or whatever. Just so he can flap and not be able to go very far. Let the young dog break right away and chase the bird down. Once you are confident that you made your young dog a bird nut it is time to graduate to the gun.

You should have a training partner for this. I like to have my partner start off at about 100 yards or so with a .22 pistol crimp. Make sure you ALWAYS are using birds when you introduce your young dog to the gun. People introduce their young dogs to the gun in many different ways and a lot of the time it works out fine. A lot of the time it doesn't. Why take the risk?

When you are ready to start introducing the pup to the gun do not use a check cord. Let your pup chase the bird right away. You want it so the pup is almost there right when the bird is ready to hit the ground. Have your partner discharge the popper right before the bird hits the ground.

Again I like to use a live pigeon that has his flight feathers clipped. Some people use a piece of regular garden hose to weigh the bird down so he can't go very far in the air. However you choose to do it doesn't really matter as long as you are using the bird, your dog is bird crazy by now, and you have a partner discharging the gun just before the bird hits the ground. Your dog shouldn't react to the shot. If he does, you need to repeat the process and move back until he doesn't react. You may also want to go back and do more bird work with your pup prior to continuing with intro to the gun. As long as your pup is bird crazy he will be alright and you should have a great little birddog on your hands.

Most often if you have introduced your young dog to birds properly it is rare you get one that notices the popper at 100 yards out. Continue the process until your training partner is able to shoot right beside you as the bird is just going to hit the ground. If your pup doesn't respond to the shot, you are ready to advance to the next stage. Continue the same process by moving up to a .410. Once again, if the pup handles this fine advance to a 28 gauge, 20 gauge and finally a 12 gauge. If you get through the stage where you are able to shoot a 12 gauge beside you when the bird is almost on the ground, you did a great job introducing your young dog to birds and the gun. You are well on your way to making a fine birddog you will enjoy for the next ten or twelve years .

I get several dogs in each year that were made gun shy by their owners. For whatever reason, the dog had a bad experience with the gun, birds or both. It is essential you properly introduce your dog to birds and the gun or you will no longer have a dog capable of giving you an honest day's hunt.

Just a few things not to do around your young birddog. Most of these are common sense issues but you would be surprised how easily people forget and make mistakes. Most often I think they are just so excited and happy with their young dog they try to go to fast and end up with a real problem on their hands.

Once you make a young dog gun shy or gun soft there may be no way to correct this issue. I have been able to save dogs that were gun shy but it is not easy. I had a chocolate lab female once that was not only gun shy, she was deathly afraid of the flush of a pheasant. She would literally run as fast as she could to the truck if a pheasant flushed in front of her.

I reintroduced her to birds following the method I explained earlier. Fortunately she did love birds. She was only afraid of the noise a cock pheasant makes and not the pheasant himself.

Believe it or not, 10 weeks later you wouldn't know it was the same dog. She turned into a hunting machine on land and water. THIS IS THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE! Dogs are not born gun or bird shy. They are made that way. It is so easy to just do these two things properly that it isn't worth the risk of not taking your time and doing it like it should be done. Training a dog is not like running a race. There is a finish line but it doesn't matter how long it takes, just so you finish.

A few things I have encountered over the years that can easily make your dog gun or bird shy.

1) Shooting trap while the dog is either out with you or in the truck. Once again there is no bird for the pup to retrieve, so all he knows is there is a lot of noise going on. Dogs learn by association. You are teaching him to associate the gun with just a loud noise with no fun involved.

2) Shooting over a young dogs head without any previous introduction to the gun.

3) Using a spring trap to launch a pheasant or any other type of training bird before the dog has been properly introduced to the gun and birds. A spring trap can make a lot of noise and can scare the heck out of a young dog. This will not only make them gun shy or gun soft, it can also make them bird shy. If you launch a bird out of a trap and shoot over a young dogs head, you can make him gun shy and bird shy in a one single motion.

4) Never Never Never, have a young dog, whether he has been introduced to the gun or not, around fireworks on the 4th of July. The 4th of July is the single day where more gundogs get ruined then any other day of the year. I have seen dogs that were experienced hunters trembling at the noise of 200 firecrackers going off in a row.

There are dozens of other things I could mention but you get the point. All it takes is a little patience and common sense and you will have no problem getting your young birddog use to the gun.

I have bred field trial labs for over 20 years now. I am actually a better breeder then trainer. I study genetics just about every available minute I have. After 20 years of reading and absorbing any information I can get from books, the internet and other experienced breeders, I still learn something new almost every time I sit down and read a new article.

I hope you found some of this information helpful. Good luck training and breeding.

Below are two seven week old shorthair pups from different litters. The black and white is pointing a wing and the liver and white is naturally honoring him. This is breeding, not luck!

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From the time my pup was about ten weeks old, I was banging pots together in the kitchen during feeding time. This got her used to the load noises. The first time a 12 gauge was fired near her she turned her head and looked at it but didn't hardly flinch at all. She is 15 months old and hunted all last season with 3 guns and now acts like a gun didn't even go off when we shoot. Absolutely no care in the world to shots.

Mike in Oroville
captainduckhead said:
I usually get up around 3 Am and make coffee and all that stuff so I have to go through a whole routine of loading my gear and dog first, then go back into the house and get my gun just so my wife and the neighbors don't get raised out of bed with the dog screaming.
My pup does the same and like yours, she end up in the truck 45 minutes early so the wife and kids can sleep.

This morning I got up and put on a Camo long sleave shirt and a camo hat. Same drill, dog at the door prancing and whining.
captainduckhead said:
I usually get up around 3 Am and make coffee and all that stuff so I have to go through a whole routine of loading my gear and dog first, then go back into the house and get my gun just so my wife and the neighbors don't get raised out of bed with the dog screaming.
My pup does the same and like yours, she end up in the truck 45 minutes early so the wife and kids can sleep.

This morning I got up and put on a Camo long sleave shirt and a camo hat. Same drill, dog at the door prancing and whining.
1 - 3 of 13 Posts
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