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New Twist on Gun Shy

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I have a 15 mo old golden who is not gun shy. I intro'd her to gun fire slowly at a young age and she has never had a negative reaction (I shot a grouse over her for the first time yesterday... her first flush/retreive of a live bird). The problem is that she is a completely different dog in the duck boat. As soon as we started hearing sots on Saturday, she started shaking and acting afraid. She seamed to calm down by the end of the hunt so I took her back out Sunday morning... same reaction; this time she ended up under my seat. Less than one hour after getting off the water, we had her right next to us while targert shooting and she never even flinched and it was last night (after two bad expereances in the duck boat) that I shot the grouse over her and that tail was waging like mad.

What do you think is happening and what advise do you guys have to get her over this hump?

Thanks, DF

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Lots of commotion out duck hunting compared to grouse hunting. Most guys never train their dog for duck hunting prior to actually going out duck hunting.

Most dogs should be yard trained to hunt ducks during the summer. Set acanoe in your lawn, teach your dog to sit quietly in the boat. Set decoys out in front of you. Do a little calling and have a buddy throw a bumper up and out in the decoys while shooting a starter pistol. Increase the activity and shooting over the next couple days till you are calling a lot in the boat and YOU are doing the shooting with the starter pistol. Still have your buddys throwing the bumpers out in the decoys(have them quack once on the call to get the dogs attention). We've done this with dogs for a couple weeks straight to really get them dialed in on what will be happening while out duck hunting. We over exagerate our calling and shooting and our motions to really get them ready for what will take place in the boat and it helps to reinforce their steadiness in the duck boat. It also helps with teaching retrieving of game back to the boat.

I bet it isn't as much a matter of gun shyness as oppossed to her having very little confidence in the situation she was in. If she is a soft-timid dog, thrusting her into an all out duck hunt may have just blown her away. A lot of times I start my young dogs off with a quiet beaver pond where I'm by myself, can hunt from shore and limit the commotion and shooting of the hunt till I feel he has a good grasp of what is going on...

Good Luck!


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I'd agree with Ken's assessment. I've done similar "pond training" to initiaite my dogs before an actual hunting situation.

Another factor that makes ducks and doves a unique situation is that the dog is relying on vision to connect the shooting with birds. In the grouse woods and pheasant fields, the dog usually develops a sequence:

1) smell/locate bird

2) bird flies

3) gunshot

4) reward of bird in mouth!

With ducks/doves, there's no scent in their face so the gunshot surprises them if they don't see the bird(s) first and it can throw 'em for a loop. I've done training where I'd take my dog around the corner of a barn, into the woods, etc., and have a friend fire shots 10 yards away where the dog can't see. I reassured my dog things were OK the whole time and I think it paid off later in the duck boat on crowded hunting areas.

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"Lack of confidence in the situation" seems to fit the bill. I have done yard work out of the canoe with her and I have done water work with the canoe beached and she did great. I will try having a buddy shoot/throw from a distance; that approach makes sence. I also agree that finding a quiter place to hunt and from shore would help with the re-intro. I had never hunted duck in this area and didn't know what to expect; come 9am on Saturday it was like the fourth of July with guns popping and ducks buzzing by and those dumb coots constantly fluttering all around us... very exiting for a duck hunter, very overwhelming for a young dog.

Thanks for the advise boys... from me and the pup.

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Big, big difference between shooting a grouse in the woods and a duck from a boat.

I would continue to have someone else do some shooting from the boat while you encourage the dog or have some close shooting done by another person while you are again encouraging the dog.

You might want to do some shooting of your ducks from a land based blind like Ken mentioned to reduce the vibration or echo from the boat.


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She's reacting to the boat and to being confined in the boat. Have you had her in a boat before?

Don't worry, this can be worked out. The water and the boat is upsetting her.

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She has been in the canoe before but not many times.

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