Getting used to gun shot – Yarrow

Since Yarrow was young, he has been accompanying me to training sessions and waiting in the car while Keen has been out on trials, training, or hunts, occasionally hearing gunshots in the distance without reacting. We have also fired a few shots at home without him reacting negatively, so when I did the retriever function description, I was surprised that he found the shots a little scary. Everything else during the function description was fun, but when the shots came, he went behind me and became a little “low”.

As a hunting dog, it is not ideal to dislike shots, and I want him to be comfortable with them even in everyday life, so we started training for it. Diesel was also a little gun shy as a puppy, and Lena has worked with gun shyness in both Tassla and Quling, as well as helping several students with their gunshot-sensitive dogs, so they have good experience in turning gunshots from something scary to something positive. Against this background, gunshot sensitivity was not something that worried me, but I had registered him for the behavioral and personality description test (BPH) a few weeks later, and there are shots involved in it. Of course, we can refrain from the shots – which we would have done if he were still affected – but I thought I would try and train intensively over the next few weeks to see if I could turn it around until then.

What I did was simply to pull a popper cord a good distance away and then give Yarrow something really good to eat. Most of the time, Keen was also present, and he likes shots – that is, he reacts the way I want: curiously and positively, without getting too excited or scared, so it was good moral support.

The first few times I did it, Yarrow wanted to go in or go to the other side of the house directly after the shot, but he happily ate the treat as soon as I gave it to him. I tried to increase the distance as much as possible – which was a bit difficult since I did the training alone. It would have been best to have a helper who shot so I could reward immediately, but there was a little delay since I had to go and shoot, then go back and reward. Usually, I fired one shot, rewarded, went away and fired another, rewarded, and then took a break for a few hours or until the next day.

After 3-4 such sessions, it was apparent that Yarrow was starting to expect a reward after the shot, even though he still found the shot a little scary. Since it felt like we were on the right track, I continued in the same way, and eventually, I could pull the shot a few meters away while he sat still and looked expectant. Then I tried a couple of times on walks and in other places than the garden and did not get any negative reactions there either, so I dared to do BPH with shots. In BPH, he got a great rating on the shots (one in motion and one when he was sitting down), but I saw that he found the one in motion a little uncomfortable, so I will continue to work on making him like even the shots that come suddenly. As mentioned, he reacted a little to the shot in motion, but after the shot when he was still, he was just expectant, and he showed no fear afterwards, which was very reassuring.

In summary, the shooting training feels very good right now. Of course, there may be setbacks and there is still some training left, but I believe it will continue to go well and he will soon see shots as something very exciting. (But of course not too exciting, then we will have to work on that instead 😉 )

In the video below, you can see the reaction to the gun at the FBR, a training session at home (since I was training alone, it was tricky to film, shoot, and reward…), and lastly the reaction to the shots at the BPH.

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