Training a Gun-shy Dog – Part 1

A couple of times I’ve shared a few of words on Facebook regarding working with Quling’s gun-shyness. Each time, people have been in touch, asking me to tell them more. So, I’m going to share my thoughts on this training and how I have gone about it in four blog posts.

As usual, study the dog you have in front of you and use your observations as your starting point. Of course, this is not the only way to train a gun-shy dog, but this is my way – with this particular dog. In addition, we all have different opportunities to work around gun shots. If my dogs would have heard shots every week when they were growing up, I think they would be pretty cool when the time had come to being working around gun shots. However, I had a hard time getting to be around gun fire when Quling was little, but where I live now I can shoot every day if I want to.

Tassla and Elsa’s Diesel also showed a certain level of gun-shyness when they were little. However, it disappeared in both dogs the day they discovered that shots lead to a chance to retrieve. We simply solved it by building expectations for what the shot would lead to. (Read more about Tassla’s training here and the training of Diesel here.) This training can, of course, become risky at some point. Many trainers come to me with a dog that, as soon as he hears a shot, throws himself straight out there and begins hunting at a 100 yards distance. Despite the fact that he hasn’t marked anything – I haven’t thrown anything …

Quling didn’t seem to be concerned about gunfire when he was a puppy. I let him join in a bit in the background on some exercises and he looked interested or played with his ball with me. I’ve been racking my brains to find when I first noticed a hint of gun-shyness, but I really don’t remember. But one day it was just there and it quickly became a big problem.

I do remember a course two years ago when we got a shot and the chance to retrieve and he refused to leave my side. At first I didn’t understand why – he thinks it’s great fun to retrieve. In addition, Quling easily gets a bit worried. For example, I haven’t been able to train with more than one person at a time for quite some time. He seemed to feel a lot of pressure from working in a group and couldn’t handle that there were a bunch of people watching him. I’ve been working on this while we’ve been working on other skills, and at this point we’re back to where training with a group at least works decently. Unfortunately, he was attacked by another dog on the last course that we took together, and that made me lose faith a little. He’s been attacked quite a few times 🙁 and unfortunately, he’s been showing signs of developing aggression towards other males, but we’ll see if the bad experience stuck when we attend the next course.

But anyway, I wasn’t sure about what he was reacting to – was it the group or the gunfire? Shortly thereafter, I let a friend shoot nearby and go confirmation that it was indeed the gunfire that worried him. He wasn’t happy and didn’t want to work or ran out there but couldn’t manage the delivery. Or he simply just got out of there and ran off…

At that point, I realized that it was high time to do something about it. Next week’s post will be on how I began training.

2 thoughts on “Training a Gun-shy Dog – Part 1”

    1. Yes, we’d be happy to help 🙂 The easiest is probably to book a private online session and then we can talk in depth about it. You can also find some training tips here on the blog in the category Taking and holding and in our online course Five simple steps to master the perfect retrieve.

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