Skip to main content

Gunshyness in Gun Dogs: Pointing Breeds

Gunshyness in Gun Dogs: Pointing Breeds

"A gunshy dog," John said, "reacts fearfully to the sound of a gun. In the early stages, he may cower or hunker down. If this is not dealt with, he will eventually start escaping. This can eventually lead to other problems, like blinking (avoiding birds) and bolting (long-distance running)."

John Hayes

John feels that gunshyness is a man-made problem. However, heredity can also be a factor, in that extremely soft dogs are more inclined to gunshyness than bold ones.


He said that certain home environments can start a puppy on the road to gunshyness. If the puppy is exposed to frequent and unexpected loud noises around the house, he may develop a fear of noise that predisposes him to gunshyness.


"Then, too," he said, "if you take your puppy out and shoot a shotgun over him to see if he's gunshy, I can almost guarantee you that he will be!"

John said that mistakes while hunting can also lead to gunshyness. For example, hunting with a large group of hunters, all shooting at the same birds, can rattle a young bird dog. So can shooting right over him so he gets maximum muzzle blast.


"During his first season or two," John said, "you should hunt your dog alone or with only one dog-wise buddy."


He recommends that you not rush into gun-proofing. In fact, you shouldn't shoot around your puppy until he is four or five months old. During those early months you have plenty of other things to teach him, like obedience and introducing him to cover and birds.

Then gun-proof him with baby steps, starting at meal time. Have an assistant with a .22 blank pistol about 75 yards away when you feed your puppy. As soon as he starts eating, your assistant should fire one shot, just one. If all goes well, your assistant can gradually move in closer in subsequent meals, until he can shoot right next to your pup.

"Actually, I use homing pigeons," he said, "instead of the food bowl. When the bird flushes and the pup gets excited, the distant assistant fires just one shot. And so on."

Later, when the dog is pointing solidly but not steady to flush, John has an assistant with a shotgun standing 100 yards behind the pointing dog. When John flushes the bird and the dog breaks, the assistant fires one shot.

More Tips


Don't miss part two of our story with tips for your retriever, here, and part three for your spaniel, here.

 

"My assistant fires as soon as he sees feathers," John said, "for that's when the dog is so excited about the bird that he completely zones out the sound of the gun."

If he ignores the shot, on subsequent birds the assistant moves gradually closer. If the dog reacts negatively at any point, John goes back a couple of steps and starts over.

He said that curing an already gunshy dog is always difficult and sometimes impossible.

He begins, without the gun, by trying to get the dog as bird-crazy as possible.

"I might even let the dog break point and flush, "he said. "Anything to encourage birdiness before reintroducing the gun, even at a distance. It might take 200 to 300 bird contacts over two to three months to cure the dog."

If that doesn't seem to be working, John said you should consult a pro trainer, who can tell you whether to continue this process or start over with a new puppy.

John's closing thought: "The old adage about an ounce of prevention has never been more true than it is in dealing with gunshyness. If you introduce your youngster to the gun properly, you won't have to go through the slower and far less successful cure."

This tip is from John Hayes of Kirby Mountain Sporting Dogs, 240 Locust Ridge Road, East Burke, VT 05832; (802) 626-5282; website www.kirbymountainsportingdogs.com; e-mail dogs4u@kirbyvt.net. John has been training professionally for 20 years.

Although he trains all sporting breeds, he trains mostly pointing dogs. He trains dogs primarily for hunting, but trains a few for hunting tests and field trials. He has judged pointing dog trials, but now stays home to train and hunt. He breeds Brittanys, Labradors, English cockers and English springers.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 9

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 9

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 9

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 14

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 4

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 4

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 4

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 7

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 7

Gun Dog: Shed Antler Training 7

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Persistent myths related to dog health have lingered too long.Busting 5 Common Gun Dog Medical Myths Health & Nutrition

Busting 5 Common Gun Dog Medical Myths

Seth Bynum, DVM

Persistent myths related to dog health have lingered too long.

A step-by-step analysis on what to expect from your dogYour Pup's First Year Puppies

Your Pup's First Year

Bob West - September 23, 2010

A step-by-step analysis on what to expect from your dog

The hard part about training gun dogs is getting them to go against their natural behaviors. Unnatural Behaviors: Training Gun Dogs to Hunt Training

Unnatural Behaviors: Training Gun Dogs to Hunt

Tony J. Peterson

The hard part about training gun dogs is getting them to go against their natural behaviors.

See More Trending Articles

More Training

One man's trash is another man's treasure.Using Pigeons for Training Bird Dogs Training

Using Pigeons for Training Bird Dogs

Mark Chestnut

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

The bulk of a flushing dog's training can be achieved in three months. Here's what you should expect to accomplish.90-Day Training Checklist Training

90-Day Training Checklist

Jerry Ray Cacchio

The bulk of a flushing dog's training can be achieved in three months. Here's what you should...

Here's how to uphold your end of the bargain once your dog is home.Professional Dog Training Follow-Through At Home Training

Professional Dog Training Follow-Through At Home

Tom Dokken

Here's how to uphold your end of the bargain once your dog is home.

See More Training

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Gun Dog App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Gun Dog subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now