On occasion we meet, or speak, with a customer who has a gun shy dog. When asked how this developed, we are often told the dog’s first exposure to loud noise was gun fire from shooting a firearm over a young dog on its’ first hunt, without the proper introduction to loud noises and gun fire. This is inexcusable! Yes, dogs may accept an introduction to loud noise that comes from a firearm without a structured noise conditioning program, but a dog owner really takes a high risk in making their dog permanently gun shy in this manner. To prevent a gun shy dog, owners should follow a noise program as outlined below.
In the beginning..
We recommend you ask your breeder to supply your pup with steady noises when it is a few weeks old. Those noises may be softly clanging feed bowls such as the LCS Heavyweight Feed Dish, Heavyweight NO TIP Feed Bowl, No-Tip Dishes, or stainless steel Feed Dishes and clapping hands at a distance at feeding time, playing a television and/or radio if in the vicinity, or other distant loud sounds (mowers, weed eaters, etc.). The key words are distance and softly. When a pup is romping in the yard with littermates, this is a good time to increase the loudness of the noise. The pup may not notice, and if it does, it probably is so consumed by play, that it may simply ignore the noise, or return to playing soon after the pup stopped to look. Have a frank discussion with your breeder and the groundwork will be laid.
Bringing puppy home..
When you pick-up your pup and return home, do not immediately overwhelm your pup with loud noises since your pup may be stressed by the transition. Dog owners should try and control what loud noises their pups are exposed to, but you can not control everything. For instance, if someone passes by your yard and inadvertently exposes your dog to a sudden loud noise, you have no control over that. Or, you are out walking your pup and the pup is startled by a noise as you walk past a residence. What you can control is a simple and gradual noise conditioning program, and should from the start.
Within a short period of time continue the noise exposure established by your breeder, but expand the noises. Something as simple as clapping as your pup happily runs towards you works well. Continue the clanging of feed pans and water pails such as LCS Kennel Pails, Flat Sided Kennel Pails, or the Heavy Duty Stainless Pail prior to feeding. Slam a crate or kennel after your pup exits (not enters), blow a vehicle horn, slam a vehicle door, or pop an inflated balloon or empty air rifle at a distance, etc. Get your family involved, but only after explaining what exactly you want. The idea is for your pup to associate noise with a pleasurable activity.
Introducing a Training Pistol and Blank Pistol Ammo..
We can’t give you a timespan when to introduce your pup to the loudness of blank ammo. You will know your pup by now. Your pup has been conditioned to simple noises – noises that have slowly increased in loudness and closeness. The day has come to fire a blank. Have the pup engaged in playful activity with another, if you can, and you may wish to start with the LCS .22 cal Crimps (BA1) with either the LCS Training Pistol (TP2), or LCS Champion Pistol (CP for .22). The .22 crimp is the softest sounding blank, but still relatively loud. While the pup is engaged and you, or another, are apart a considerable distance, fire a shot and watch the pups reaction. If no reaction, then fire another shot. If the pup stops playing, have the person gain the pup’s attention and begin playing again. This is an important time. We cannot stress enough about distance and relative loudness. It is better to start off far, than too close. If no reactions, then step a little closer and fire again. Repeat this process over several days as you get closer to the pup.
Now you can add loudness. Once your pup is acclimated to the .22 Crimps, step-up to the CCI .22 Non-Corrosive Blan Ammo, which are louder. Repeat the process. If all goes well, you can also introduce your pup to Winchester .22 Extra Loud Black Powder, which are even louder.
Live Birds and Blank Pistol Ammo..
Most people will also be exposing their pup to planted live birds at this time. When your pup gets the idea of looking for planted birds and having a great time finding them, start adding in blank pistol ammo. You will need another person walk at a distance to fire the shots at first, like you did when first introducing your pup to blanks. Again, start with the least-loudest blanks, then increase the noise when appropriate. It is better to be safe, than sorry at this point. When your pup is fully engaged with flushing a bird and chasing it, have your assistant fire the blank. If the pup has no reaction, keep moving toward other planted birds. Have your assistant keep moving closer as your pup flushes additional birds, until your helper is firing beside you. Now, repeat this process with louder blanks. You can also add in LCS shotgun popper rounds such as Winchester 12-ga Blank Popper, Fiocchi 12-ga Popper Loads, Kent Pro Trial 12-ga Blanks or inexpensive Fiocchi Primer Popers.
Live Gun Fire..
Now you can add live gun fire. Have your assistant start at a much greater distance than with the blank loads, and begin with a small gauge and light loads. Adhere to local game laws and safe handling and practices. Use the same process as with firing blanks.
Gun Shy Proof..
Maybe. You have done all you can to properly introduce your pup/young dog to gun fire and prevent gun shyness. Now let’s prevent any problems or set-backs:
– Never intentionally try to scare your dog, or surprise him (sleeping), with loud noise or gun fire.
– Never take your dog to a shooting range or target practice to introduce the dog to gun fire. Even at a distance it may overwhelm the dog. Be careful of random gun shots. Even a well-conditioned dog may develop a problem.
– Never expose your dog to fireworks since there is a considerable sound and concussion with some fireworks.
– Monitor your dog during strong storms. For a young dog, protect that dog from the sounds of a strong thunder storm. Even later in life, monitor that dog’s reaction as time progresses.
Already Gun Shy?
Professional handlers will tell you that curing a gun shy dog is one of the most difficult, if not impossible, aspects of training. Lion Country Supply offers “Gunshy Cure System”, a two disc DVD that will instruct you how to modify and desensitize your gun shy dog.
– John Bravis
LCS Gun Room