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Bobb-o

what age introduce to guns?

23 posts in this topic

got my first pup two weeks ago and so far she has been awesome. want to be able to use her for birds in the future. She is half black lab and half golden retriever. So far she knows come, sit, will go potty on command, and will fetch and bring bacdk to hand most of the time. I have introduced her to grouse wings and to the guns in general and she gets really excited whenever i pull them out, but how long should i wait before introducing her to the sound of the gunshot? Should i start off with a starter pistol while she is playing? how much longer should i wait before i introduce her to gunfire? she is 8 weeks old

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I am no expert by any means, but 8 weeks old is very young. Let her be a puppy and make every thing fun. I would wait untill she is at least 4 months old before you start introducing the gun. Even then start slow. In the mean time socialization is very important take her everywhere. Let her smell new things and here new sounds. This will pay off in the long run.

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Slow down! You have plenty of time to get things done. At this point, just socialize her and never give her more than two or three retrieves at a time. As far as the sound of the gun, take it slow. I like to get them retrieving with hand throwns, move to retrieves from a gunner (someone else throwing the plug away from you) without shooting. Once they have that down, then have your gunners start to fire a starter pistol before they throw. From there you work the gun closer and eventually work towards bigger, louder guns. Do not just start firing next to your pup. I also will sometimes take a starter pistol on walks and when the dog is away from me, I will fire it - but not very frequently. I am sure other guys have some other methods that work. Some guys I know will bring the dogs to the parking lot of a trap or rifle range and just walk around the parking lot to have them get used to loud noises while they can tell the dog it is OK. I usually do all of this around 4 to 6 months of age, not 8 weeks.

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definitely wasnt planning on doing it soon. just wondering for a time frame of when to get her going on that.bought the game dog book off of amazon, i am sure that will help out alot. Any other commands it is good to teach her while she is younger? or should i just take my time and have her master one thing at a time?

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Every dog is different. I start out shooting around my pups right away. When they are focused on something else, i will shoot my shotgun or .22 and watch their reaction. If the dog is alarmed, it is best to wait and proceed with caution before reintroducing to firearms. Have had numerous dogs and not had any of my pups get alarmed by the gunfire. But sooner or later you will run into dogs and some breeds that are more sensitive. You shouldn't have any problems breaking in your hunting machine to gunfire. I would try your starting pistol while she is playing.

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As some of the others have posted, slow down!!

If you want to get your pup used to loud noises, start with banging some pots and pans together during feeding time, and work your way up, slowly.

Work on the basic obedience commands, sit, stay, come or here. Again, slowly, 5 minutes at a time and end on a positive note. Make sure the whole family gives and expects the same from commands. The book is a good tool, remember it is just that, some dogs learn faster or slower so don't get frustrated. Look for a training group in your area. I see you are from the Bemedji and I believe there is a training group in that area.

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Everyone has given you good advice. JDM's methods are similar to mine. Get them excited about retrieving first. It starts with hand thrown retrieves with dog at your side. Then have a helper throw from a distance. Once they're very excited about retrieving, you can introduce the gun with a starter pistol (again from a good distance). With work you can move it closer and eventually do the same process with a shotgun. Also, I know some of the books (like Wolters) suggest steadying a dog early. Personally, I do not like to steady my dogs until they're absolutely nuts to retrieve (usually around 6-8 months). I am probably conservative on this but my dogs have always been enthusiastic retrievers. I have seen a number of guys steady too soon and some have had their dogs lose their enthusiasm and drive from pushing them too much too early. Hope this helps. Best of luck.

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I shoot a 22 around pups at 6 weeks at distance. You notice those that are a little timid. The best way to break them in is to take them out and let them work alond side the big dogs with small caliber. At that point they catch the intensity of the older dogs and the sound. It not so much as teaching them noise is not a bad thing, as much as them learning the gun noise is good thing. Take a litter out at 6 weeks place a clipped pigeon in a bird box that has a 209 primer in it. Launch the bird, the noise goes, let the litter chase that big white pigeon and bang is a good thing.

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Without having a bunch of dogs or bird launchers, like most of the folks out there, the way I did it was to start with a cap gun. Take the dog out to a field where you are likely to see a bunch of birds or other things the dog will get excited about and as the pup sees a bird and takes chase give a shot with the cap gun when he gets out a ways. Just keep an eye on the pup and how he reacts and use that as your judge to shoot the cap gun closer and closer to the pup; then graduate to the starter pistol and start over and so on until you are firing your shotgun over your dog and he's getting excited and looking around for birds.

Bottom line is start slow and associate the shot with something he loves (birds, what dog doesn't love birds? but it doesn't have to be birds).

TRITC

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I use a method of taking two short (6"-8") 2"x4" and slam them together while they are doing something else, like eating, etc. I start out just kind of tapping them together and progressively get louder. They are doing something that they like and hear the loud noise and don't assoicate anything negative with the sound. Later on I started using a .22 rifle, then a .22 pistol, etc. Take it slow. Good luck. Have fun!!

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#Bobb-o

You can do what ever you want when you want. The end result may very though. I personally would focus on sit, come and stay commands and by fall start introducing hunting training. People who I have know that get there pups during this time of year and are bound and determined to have them hunting by fall, seem to fail there dogs. I would wait until at least 4 months before hunting training would start and I know you can wait up until year before it is starting to get too late. After a year is gets very tuff, but is still possible. Do your self a big favorer, like I did for my self. Go out and buy your self a Richard A Wolters Book, like Game Dog or Water dog. READ IT TWICE! It’s a good book and it will teach you how to teach your dog to hunt. Go tomorrow to your local pet store and buy a copy, or I am sure you can get it cheaper on E-Bay. In two months You will thank me for doing it, like I thanked the man two months later that turned me on to Richard A Wolters. Good luck and do not stress. You have a lot of time.

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I guess my method was similar to others. I would shoot a starter pistol behind my back on the opposite side of the house while feeding her. I started this mayby 5-6 months of age. In time, mayby 6 weeks, I worked closer when I shot, even then I held the pistol beind my back when I shot. Then I started working her in the field on live birds, as she pointed and I flushed I would shoot as if a live shot. She would be so jazzed up and used to the prior firings, combined with the intoxicating smell of live birds, there was no problem. My advice would to go slow at this and make sure your dog is confortable with the sound before moving forward. You have a whole lifetime to enjoy your dog, correcting a gun-shy dog is a needless and often long effort that is not needed if you go about it in the right way. Absoulutely do not take a dog to a gun range, and expect the dog to respond in a positive manner, your more than likely asking for trouble. Tnink long term results.

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P.S.

If a person is worried about there dog running from a gun shot, that person has not trained there dog very well to begin with. A well trained dog will not leave your side, even if a train is going to run you both over or the dog has never heard a shot in its life. I am not talking about a young pup, but over the age of 3 months. It took me a good month after getting my Dakota, but she has never left my left side since. I had never put my Dakota threw any formal gun shot training. I got her in the spring and worked on the basic's through out spring and summer. I worked very hard and many late nights in my garage. I got her when she was 6 months and luckly the former owners had instilled sit, come and stay before I got her. I got her in April 2003 and did not even shoot a gun off by her untill late summer or early fall.

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I hate to say this, but you were very lucky that you didn't run into any issues. I know people that have wrecked dogs with that method.

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I know alot of people have read Wolters but personally I have thought he tends to push too much training and introduce too many things too early in a pup's life. For example, steadying a dog at too early of an age. But thats just my personal opinion

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JDM,

I do understand what you are saying. All people have different ways of getting to the same point. The one thing I have learned from Wolters is the key of obedience with love.

My dog/pup is about 4 ½ years old now. She has never been to a rock concert. Let’s say the Rolling Stones came to town and I was to bring her with to the concert. She would stay by my left side through out show or until I instructed her to do a command. The same would apply if I just shot the first round she has ever heard. The key is obedience first and the rest comes later (before one years of age is easiest). She is over 4 years old and anything I do with her that would be considered new, she listens. A firm “stay” command accompanied by a hand signal, that all it takes. Now again, I have spent a lot of time with my dog. The summer of “03” was the summer of Dakota for me. My wife thought I was nuts. I believe it is up to owner to make that connection with his or hers dog and further the gun training. 2 of my close buddies were firing shots next to pup a couple weeks after getting the pup and had dog out in field 3-4 months. They did not have pup in field for get use too purpose, that were pushing dog to fast. These buddies of mine now have a two year old knot head. I cringe when they ask to go hunting with them, because they spent no time with obedience and all the time about hunting. It’s no fun when someone has a dog that loves the sound of a gun and understands what it means, but it takes a wipe and 2x4 to get it to come back or not to go way ahead and flush all birds. That is no fun for other hunters, owner and dog.

Reeltimes,

Your point is the one thing I do find true about Wolters. This is were my personal insight and a owners insight comes to play. You have to read your dog. You and your dog have to be comfortable with what you are doing during the training process (more so the trainer). I still think Wolters is the best for someone who is green as the spring leaves.

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I'm with JDM on this one. I don't believe I'll ever see a dog that steady in my lifetime. Intro to gun fire should begin as early as possible. We use a cheap, plastic cap gun and start firing it around mom before the pups are even born and continue until they go home. In the neighborhood of 80 pups and no complaints of gun shyness. Very good point about the importance of obedience though.

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Bryce,

Go to a Field Trial show or Bird Dog Trial show. Go to any good dog show and you will see what good training has to offer. If you are going to something, why not do it right. Do you think for a second that a dog in the National dog show finals, or even the dog in last place would have a change in a stadium filled with people. Again, these dogs are pro. trained and not what the average hunter would have. My point is a very well trained dog, will not move unless instructed. End of of my point. I am not talking about jimbo's yellow lab down the street, but a ferce, lean hunting machine. If you do not have this control, I don't care if you shoot a gun off by dog at 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years. If obediance has not been worked out, it doesnt matter one bit when you shoot of a gun by your pup. In final, yes my Dakota would sit right by my side at a Rolling Stones concert. I will leave you with this, what would a seeing eye dog do in a loud occurance. I do not think gun shots are a training point in their formal training. It possibley could be, I do not know.

P.S.

I am not at all against gun shoot introduction in the training process. Work on obediance first and any thing you throw at a pup will work out. I was to busy training my dog to even think about shooting a gun off by her untill almost ten months of age. The bragging rights of saying I shot a gun off by my dog at 6 weeks of 2-3 months is more for trainers benifit, than the dogs.

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Shack...your point on knowing and reading your dog is well taken and is probably a very significant and underappreciated aspect. Some dogs are more forgiving than others in terms of handler errors, etc. I recall a couple years ago training with a guy who had a 4 month old pup and he had been trying to steady the dog. The pup was a well bred lab but had minimal desire to retrieve. Basically he ended up untraining the steadiness and just letting him go for the next 3-4 months. The dog did get his enthusiasm back and is a fine dog today. Other dogs are retrieving maniacs and it doesn't matter so much. I have seen the same things with trying to teach the dog handling and over-handling a dog too much at too early of an age. Again, some dogs it doesn't matter but people have to be careful not to take all the information in the books as gospel for every situation

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I actually wasn't criticizing Wolters, but your method (or lack there of) for introducing the gun. I just didn't write it very clearly. If you have that much control over your dog, that is great, but if a gun scares the living daylights out of them because you didn't condition them to it, they will be under your truck in about 2 seconds. Sometimes there are dogs that it doesn't bother no matter what you do, or more importantly, don't do. It is not worth the gamble. Especially if you only are going to have one dog every 9 to 14 years. Fixing a gun shy dog is a very hard thing to do.

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Shackbash...

You're preaching to the choir. I know Bryce and his dogs are run in trials and hunt tests. I've even hunted with him one fine weekend in SoDak. He knows his stuff. I may or may not know JDM, but by his posts he knows his stuff too. Both these guys have owned and trained many dogs.

Success is never measured on one dog... I was lucky with my 1st 2 dogs way back in the 80's (One was even trained with the "Wolters" water dog method), since then I've had other successes and others that were 'failures' (in the trial world). In trials and hunt tests success is a very fine line to walk. We can get away with a lot more in a full day of hunting than you can get away with in 1 retrieve in a competition. Wolters is not the do all - end all, retrieving bible. He has some very valid training methods and some that are still in use today, but many of his stradegies can be considered out dated. I still use portions of what I learned from his books and have blended them into other training regimens and training protocols.

Gun intro should be taught very slowly. Never just start shooting over your dog 'because your dog is steady'. It should be introduced away from the dog and not during any formal field training. Why take the chance on souring them on birds or anything field related. I start gun intro during dinner time... they won't ever sour on food. They need to eat and are generally too wrapped up in eating to even care about the gun shot. I've started gun intro from 5 week old pups to 6 month old dogs. It is all the same... 1 SHOT during dinner from a cap gun or starter pistol. Eventually move it out side... usually 1 SHOT while they are busy smelling something or running around and when they look back at the shot throw out a bumper... eventually work this into shooting while steady at your side and then finally birds.

I've never agreed with just shooting over a dog based on age or where they fall into training. I wouldn't / and never will start them at a trap range as someone posted earlier. Gun "conditioning" is just that CONDITIONING. Making the sound of the gun no big deal and eventually melding it into something they love.

The part where you point out that obedience is a #1 priority, is a great point and something I stress often. It is the MAJORITY of any day in the field. 75% of hunting is obedience! I am already steading up my 5 month old pup. She is not required to remain steady on all retrieves... if she does 3 perfect, she gets 2 or 3 'fun' retrieves to keep her drive up. I use bumpers sparingly. I use frozen birds for 90% of my retrieves. It helps develop drive when there is a bird at the end of the throw instead of some rubber or canvas blob.

So in the end... congrats on turning out a fine finished dog. That is an achievement most guys take an immence amount of pride in, and they should! It is also something that most guys should feel they owe to their dogs... but just temper a little bit of the Wolters push. Most guys on this site have read at least one of his books and they draw from them what they need. If they want to follow his advise cover to cover that is fine, but to say it is the only way is not a fair and objective viewpoint. What works for one guy (and his dog) may not work for another.

Good Luck!

Ken

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I have always treated each of my dogs as an individual. Some took to guns and others were a little hesitant. The current two that I have at home were born here and were constantly around the sound of mowers and engines. As we have a lawn service and also service small engines. Noise was never a problem with them. I introduced them to shotguns by leaving them out in the den when I was in there so they got a chance to smell them and to see me handling them. When they are about 3-4 months old we will start shooting caps guns around them while they are playing and while they are eating. It does not take them long to put the two together and when the shotguns come out of the cabinet they are at the door looking to go out. I have been very lucky that I have had dogs who want to hunt. My old Lab Lady when we retired her we had to sneak guns out the door so she did not see us leave with them. The spirit was willing but she was to old to hunt her last few years. I think you are a lot better off taking it slow then trying to handle a gun shy dog. If I was to give any pearls of wisdom is let your pup be a pup and enjoy him or her, they get old quick. Taking a new pup to a shooting range would be a very good or it could be a very bad thing, I wouldn't do it myself.

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I do think all your responses to this thread are great. Like I stated in previous post, we all travel different paths to get to the same point. Dog training can be ranked up there with religion and political talk. People may not all agree with the way and views on how to get something done, but we all want to get that thing done. These posts give a diverse opinion for people who are just starting out on there dog training process. In the end, it is up to that individual to decide on what path to take. Further more, does anyone have an idea if gun obedience is possibly linked to blood lines or is it all just pure training.

SHACKBASH

P.S.

Reading about dog training is a small part. I only read Wolters books before I started training. Since then I take advise from boards like this and just make my own ideas for that individual dog. All I was saying, is it is a good starting point for someone who has never trained a dog before and wants to learn. I did read other books, but Wolters was the most basic and non complicated reading material I could find. It also had a great story. To say Wolters is the best, I would not say that. To say he is the easiest to start with, I would say yes. But that is just my opinion.

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