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help with gun shy dog

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I started my dog out pheasant hunting last year when he was about 9 months old. I started with a .22 and worked my way up to a shotgun. Everything was fine, and we had a great pheasant season. This year was his first duck season, and seeing how well he did pheasant hunting I was excited to see how he would do on the water. We were parked in my buddies farm yard, and I had him fire a few shots while I pet and praised my dog. Again everything was fine. We ended up shooting a duck, and my dog had his first swimming retrieve. So sunday morning we went to the same spot. Some ducks were circling around the back of us , away from the water, and we put them down in the thick marshy cattails and weeds. We get up to look for the ducks, and my dog is nowhere to be found. After about a half an hour, I took the atv back to the farm house. There was my dog cowered down in the back of my pickup. I grabbed him and went back looking for the ducks. He did a great job locating the ducks, and we went back hunting. My dog spent the rest of the day hiding in the weeds acting very strange. Today I was cleaning my gun and he went and hid under the kitchen table. Then I brought him out back and shoy a bb gun at a target. He ran and hid under the boat in the garage. I am so concerned. My dog is really showing promise, I thought I did everything right. Please tell me there is something I can do. My buddy said his dad had a dog that was gun shy and spent the rest of his life as a house dog confused.giffrown.gif

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Not enough exposure to guns at the distance you were at, in relation to him, while duck hunting.

Shooting a gun away from the dog: as in pheasant hunting and out in the farm yard, is a whole lot different than 2 guys swinging guns in a blind, rapid firing off their 3 shells over a ogs head. Too much commotion and confusion, along with the barrel blast at point blank range. Ever have your buddy fire a shotgun round within 1/2 a boat length of your ear? He had no idea what was coming. it is best to keep the 1st time or 2 out duck hunting very controlled. One shot, at one duck. Let him get the full feel for putting it all together in his head. But he needs to go back a couple steps from that right now...

You were on the right path to fully exposing him to gun blasts... 2 things I see wrong with your regimen.

1. He probably had not heard a gun shot all summer. I'd bet he went from the end of pheasant hunting till this past weekend before he heard a round out of shotgun.

2. He was never exposed to what he should expect in a duck hunt. None of that is instinct. It is a learned thing and the more they experience it while they are young, the easy it is to transition into the real thing. It is best to mimic a duck hunt on land in your yard several times over the course of the summer prior to the duck season to expose your dog to all that will happen in a duck blind. I recommend throwing out decoys and sitting in a canoe and calling and throwing bumpers and shooting a starter pistol all on dry land to work him up to the real thing. Some dogs you are lucky with, and they adapt on the fly while out actually hunting... some you end up creating problems with them, as in this case. I always suggest a lot of pre-season training to get them ready as to what they should expect.

At this point, I'd back way off the gun thing for a few days. Then SLOWLY begin to re-introduce him to the gun. 1st a long ways away with a .22 blank and progressing closer as his demeanor allows you to. Then try shooting a blank in the same general area as him while he is eating. DO this over a week to a couple weeks time. Then if he shows no apprehension to the blank gun... start with a shotgun 50 yards away, throw a frozen bird out at this point of the training, on the shot, and let him retrieve it. He will start to put birds and guns together 'hand in hand' now. This transition from food to birds (2 things he loves) will hopefully make guns a 'good noise' to your dog. Progress slowly up to him until you are along side of him if he shows no apprehension. Then work on the whole dry land duck hunt thing as I posted. Slow and methodial training will be your best bet at this time.

Best case scenario, I'd say 2 weeks - 4 weeks you'll have him back hunting. Rush it and you may lose him forever. He will dictate the pace. You can over come this with perserverance and work, but don't rush him, don't short corner it and stay on the training each and every day once you start.

Good Luck!


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I had a dog who was very sensitive to the shooting. Never had the problem with any other dog, but what worked for me was going to a game farm and getting a couple of hen pheasants, clip the wings so the birds can't fly and then start at at least 400 yards away with a person with the gun. Let the pheasants run and the dog chase the pheasants so it's really excited to get the bird. See if the dog has any reaction at the 400 yard distance to shooting while she is chasing the pheasant. Move in a little closer the next time you take her out to the game farm, maybe 350 and repeat the exercise. It took me 3 1/2 weeks of going every 3 days doing this but I can tell you that the dog has no problems with the gun. Not sure how it will work for you, but that worked for me.

Good luck

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I had a chessie that was gun shy right from the start and what I did was tied her up to a tree out on a buudys farm and started taking single shot gun blasts about 10-15ft away and every time after would praise her did ths about 10 times then would have her leased to my side and as we walked would shoot the gun and no matter how she reacted I would praise her and show lots of affection with in three days she was not afraid of the gun shot at all. then I went back to the water and went out to the middle of the swamp and shot the gun again praiseing her then started the retriving of dummies along with the gun shots and by the end of the first week every time she seen the gun she knew it was time for bussiness and was ready to go. A treat now and then didnt hurt either. good luck and have patince.

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