Breaking a Gun Shy Dog
There are numerous way people have developed to eliminate the possibility of raising a gun shy dog. It is well-known that a dog who is timid, shy, or just plain terrified of loud noises is going to have issues with guns. It is easy to avoid if you take certain precautions with a hunting dog at a very young age. It is just as easy to correct at a young age. If there are hints in the personality of a pup that it could develop this behavioral problem it needs to be addressed right away. I would like to share with you some of the best and most practical methods of breaking a gun shy dog that we have experienced up to this point in our training program.
One of the biggest factors in training a very young pup is to associate the loud noises with something positive (this cannot be stressed enough)! This generally works best at feeding time once they have all started eating together as a litter. Once they have gotten through the first 30 seconds of sibling rivalry for the food and have relaxed and started eating.... introduce the noise from a distance and slowly move closer to them. This method is something you should begin as early as 6-8 weeks of age and keep progressively working with until the pups show no reaction or interest in what you are doing. Many people will bang on a pot like a drum, hit two trash lids together, or even play a recording of a gun being fired. This should all be done at a reasonable level of volume and try to increase it just like you would increase the distance to make it closer and louder as they become more comfortable. This builds a level of trust between the handler and the dog. That trust is what will eventually help them become immune to the noises and they understand nothing is trying to hurt them, nor will you.
If you happen to own a dog that is hopelessly timid or scared of loud noises then it must be worked with. Don't just give up and decide that there is no fixing the problem. Positive reinforcement is the only way to correct the issue and it stands that training is the best way to do this. Have the dog on a check cord (15-25ft leash) and introduce the noise. When the dog flees, which is the natural response, you have a way to bring the dog back to you. Do not reinforce this behavior with "ooh poor baby, your okay...." while petting and cuddling the dog. Only give them positive praise when they have finally decided not to run away and give some indication of becoming "OK" with the noise. This may be something you have to do throughout multiple training sessions until you get the reaction you are looking for. If it happens that you have worked with a dog for months with no progress, my suggestion is to no longer hunt the dog and don't breed to pass the trait on to others.
The process of helping an animal with such a problem can be stressful and frustrating but remember they need your encouragement to succeed. Be patient with the dog, help them understand there is nothing to fear from you or the noise, and be positive! It will pay off in the end.
Professional Gun Dog Breeder