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In her last blog post on Getting used to shots Lena mentioned that my Golden Retriever Diesel was a little gun shy when she was younger. When she was about 1,5 years old, we tested to shoot a couple of shots close by – before that she had heard sounds from a shooting range and fireworks at a distance without showing any reaction – but this time I noticed that she didn’t like it. She seemed sad, walked in another direction and didn’t want to continue playing. After that I did a plan for her training and wrote down everything that happened during the training – this time I wrote everything down in a very organized way which is unusual for me because I think it is so tedious.

To help her get used to the shots I played with her and gave her very tasty treats, for instance canned cat food, exactly in the same moment as the shot went off. In the beginning the shooter stood far away, about 50 yards, and then he moved gradually closer to us, so that we all the time could stay in our nice place. We went to the same place every time we trained during this period. In the beginning, she stopped playing when she heard the shot, but it was easy to get her going again. If she didn’t show any anxiety after the shots, we moved the shooter closer to us. Next step was to move the shooter further away again and see if she could do other things when she heard the shots such as “lie down” – something that she likes to do. When that worked, I asked her to sit by my side – I chose to do behaviors that helped her with the stability. Then she started to wait a little too much for the shots so then I had to do nothing after the shots. Here you can read my notes from the training:

The 28 of July 2009
Diesel has never showed any gun shyness so I thought I would train her to run between two persons and “lie down” at the same time as she heard shots. I began playing with her at first and then a shot was fired. Unfortunately, she didn’t like that at all and she stopped playing with me. I changed my training plan immediately because I want her to think that shots are fun. I fetched my other dog Ludde from my car – he likes shots a lot and as soon as he heard the shot he run off to find the dummy or whatever he was looking for. After five shots Diesel also started to think it was fun, so then we took a break. We absolutely must train more on shots.

The 4 of August 2009
In the evening, we went out in the woods and shot. The shooter stood at a distance of 30 to 50 yards, and I focused on the fact that Diesel should be happy when she heard the shots. She ate canned cat food, hunted for a ball, and in the end, she run to the shooter to check him out.

Date Start time End time Location Latency
2009-08-04 18:00:00 18:30:00 Behind Saab 0
Status before
Reacts to the shot, gets scared if shots are too close
Criteria
Not be scared, have a positive attitude (wagging tail, “happy” ears)
Clicks Repetitions
10 10
Status after
Runs to the gun. Gladly eats treats and hunts for her ball, but stops when the shot is fired (and then resumes again)

The 5 of August 2009
Last Wednesday we trained a little shooting. This time, we fired ten shots, and now Diesel wants to run to the shooter and see what’s going on. I had her on a leash and played tug-of-war with her. When she heard the shots, she stopped playing, but it was easy for her to start playing again.

Date Start time End time Location Latency
2009-08-05 11:30:00 11:45:00 Behind Saab 0
Status before
Runs to the gun. Gladly eats treats and hunts for her ball, but stops when the shot is fired (and then resumes again)
Criteria
Not be scared. Maintain contact with me.
Clicks Repetitions
10 10
Status after
Lets go of the tug toy when the shot is fired but gladly continues to play again afterwards. Runs and checks the gun if she gets the chance.
Comment
On leash seems to be a smart idea 😉

The 25 of August 2009
On Tuesday we trained shooting again. The shooter fired 13 shots and it worked very well. When I played tug-of-war with her she let go of the rag and looked around, but then she quickly started to play again. I asked her to lie down and she stayed there even though she heard shots.

The 28 of August 2009
This morning we trained shooting for a while. This time we fired 10 shots and it was no problem at all. The biggest problem today was that Diesel thought that the word okay meant that she could run off and take the ball, but that wasn’t my intention.

The 11 of September 2009
During the training today ten shots were fired, and Diesel sat calmly by my side, she also hunted a little, and we played tug-of-war for a while (but she let go of the rag when she heard the shot but then she started directly to play again). She did a good job today.

On the 12 of September 2009 we did a Mental Description
During the Mental Description, when the shot was fired, she ran off and checked out the shooter, so she didn’t get a high grade on the shot, but she wasn’t at all gun shy, she was just curious of were the shot came from. Now, I started to think that Diesel didn’t have any problems with shots anymore. But then she showed a little shyness during training at the working dog club.

The 23 of October 2009
We were training heelwork, but she couldn’t focus at all. Shots were fired close by, and not only a few shots, but rather volleys of shots. I had difficulty to get contact with her, so when I had contact with her for three steps, I decided to reward that and start to play with her instead. After a while, when I started to train heelwork again it went well.

After that, it seems as if I stopped writing about it, and I can’t remember that we trained it anymore, but she hasn’t had any problems with shots after that. She very soon connected shots with something that she likes – to retrieve dummies and game.


Retrieving for All Occasions - Foundations for Excellence in Gun Dog Training
Retrieving for All Occasions - Foundations for Excellence in Gun Dog Training

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