In the first post on Quling’s gun-shyness, I described at first not knowing what it was he was trouble by – was it having a group of people nearby (which has always been an issue for him) or was it the gunfire? When I felt that I knew for sure that it was indeed the gunfire, we began working with it like this:
I was 50 yards away from a friend and her dog that Quling likes the lot. She would occasionally fire a shot while I let Quling do various fun things. For example, he loves to run. Many dogs overcome their fears while the blood is rushing, the heart is pumping and self-confidence is running high. Blind retrieves are Quling’s favorites – he loves to start off and run like a complete fool. I consistently worked away from the gunfire and we did semi-blind retrieves at perhaps 30 yards distance. When he didn’t care about the gunfire at that distance – that is, could work with me even though shots were fired sometimes – I began working with him closer to the gunfire. He also got to run and greet my friend and her dog as a reward.
Step by step the work began to coincide with the shot. My buddy shot and threw the dummy – Quling got to retrieve it sometimes.
We did this with different people for a couple of months. During some sessions we didn’t get to the point where we began to shorten the distance to the shooter, but in other sessions we could move on.
In the end, he felt happy and safe and managed to solve the tasks I gave him after shot without any trouble. Somewhere around that time, I went on a combined hunt and training with Tassla, and Quling got to tag along when that was suitable, hunting hares. I thought he would think it was fun and awesome to see the hares and that the shots would be associated with excitement. Big mistake. I had the misfortune of ending up five yards from the shooter who shot the most and Quling reacted violently to the sharp fire from the shotgun. Previously, we had only trained with dummy launchers (which still made a great deal of noise). At first, he jerked at the noise, closed his eyes and lowered himself towards the ground. Then he started to climb up in my arms and at that, I left the hunt and returned to the car. But before I collected myself to do that, the shooter closest to me had fired three shots.
After that, he began to show signs of being scared when he saw that someone pointed with the launcher, even at great distance, even before the shot went off … He was also affected by me taking out my gun from the cabinet when I was going to shooting practice.
So, I had to roll up my sleeves and come up with new ways to train. I’ll tell you more about it in the next blog post. 🙂