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Mar 25th, 2012
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Gun Shy Help #7074307
02/11/18 03:35 PM
02/11/18 03:35 PM
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TX Hitman Offline OP
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I came across a English Pointer that someone was fostering and trying to find a good home. He is a young dog, maybe a year old or so. Thought I could make him a hunting dog. Took him out before the season and he was naturally hunting birds. He pointed a bird in some tall grass and flushed it before I got close enough. Thought this is awesome, and I can work with him on that. When the bird flushed, I fired a shot up in the air. He booked it back to the house and was scared to death. Gun shy. I have read some on how to cure it and am I expose him to gun shots every trip to the ranch. He is a great dog and gets along with our 2 small lap dogs and is the best dog around my 4 year old daughter so he will be staying around.

I worked with him all season this year and canít seem to get any results. We are avid birds hunters and he loves going everywhere I go. Funny thing is he hunts nonstop until we fire the first shot. Literally in the UTV shivering. Once we load up and start driving again, he bailed out and continues to hunt.

Other than time and constant shot exposures, does anyone have any other suggestions that might help?

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7074334
02/11/18 03:58 PM
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I've had two that were soft to the gun. I had pen raised quail. I walked a quail in front of the kennel with my other two dogs. They all rushed the gate. I fired a cap pistol. It eventually got the shy pups rushing the gate even while firing a louder blank.

Delmar Smith would put them on a chain gang and simply ignore them while working other pups. That takes more bird dogs. You might shop around for a pro trainer. I remember one who said it was the easiest money he ever made.

A pup that birdy should come around pretty soon. Leave it on the UTV for a few hunts. That should bold it up.


Quail hunting is like walking into, and out of a beautiful painting all day long. Gene Hill







Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7074450
02/11/18 05:26 PM
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Thx Bill

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7074499
02/11/18 06:03 PM
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Wonder why all the people who preferred soft pups sat this one out?


Quail hunting is like walking into, and out of a beautiful painting all day long. Gene Hill







Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7074765
02/11/18 10:28 PM
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Big difference between gun shy and soft Mr. Bill.

I'd talk to some trainers, that is not something that can be taken lightly and there is a point of no return so don't keep at it.


Originally Posted By: Phil Robertson
Don't let your ears hear what your eyes didn't see, and don't let your mouth say what your heart doesn't feel
Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: Judd] #7074865
02/11/18 11:45 PM
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Originally Posted By: Judd
Big difference between gun shy and soft Mr. Bill.

I'd talk to some trainers, that is not something that can be taken lightly and there is a point of no return so don't keep at it.


I've never seen a gun shy hard bird dog.


Quail hunting is like walking into, and out of a beautiful painting all day long. Gene Hill







Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: bill oxner] #7075388
02/12/18 03:06 PM
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If you gun condition your dog correctly, which is required for soft dogs, you can avoid making your soft dog gun shy. Itís easy really, just take smalls steps and gradually introduce your dog to gun fire. But once you make your dog gun shy, reversing it is not easy, but can be done.

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7075403
02/12/18 03:17 PM
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Thatís the reason he was a foster dog. Iíd give him to someone that wants a pet and get another bird dog.

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: Guy] #7075406
02/12/18 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted By: Guy
If you gun condition your dog correctly, which is required for soft dogs, you can avoid making your soft dog gun shy. Itís easy really, just take smalls steps and gradually introduce your dog to gun fire. But once you make your dog gun shy, reversing it is not easy, but can be done.


Not always true.


Originally Posted By: bill oxner
The softest one I ever had would choke at the first grass burr, but wouldn't hunt wearing boots, or hunt in front of a vehicle. She was afraid if the flapping of the wing of a crippled bird.

Her name was Peaches. She had the best nose of any bird dog I've ever seen. I remember picking the other dogs up after finding no birds. I'd put Peaches down and she would take a straight line to the nearest covey.

This is Peaches.



I broke her into the gun and hunted her with no problems her first year. She came back soft to the gun her second year and I had to start over.

How do you guys who prefer soft dogs break them to the gun?


Quail hunting is like walking into, and out of a beautiful painting all day long. Gene Hill







Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: bill oxner] #7075807
02/12/18 08:12 PM
02/12/18 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted By: bill oxner
Originally Posted By: Judd
Big difference between gun shy and soft Mr. Bill.

I'd talk to some trainers, that is not something that can be taken lightly and there is a point of no return so don't keep at it.


I've never seen a gun shy hard bird dog.


I disagree. I am 100% certain you have seen a gun shy hard bird dog. When your definition of a hard dog incorrectly includes not gun shy and when your definition of soft incorrectly includes timid, you will never see the tree despite the forest before you. Give me your best hardest dog for 10 minutes and dare me to make it gun shy. I guarantee I will win that bet.

A gun shy dog is created, not born. Any dog can become that way despite it's other temperaments. As an example take snake avoidance training. With aversion training using an E-coller for negative reinforcement often in a single training session one can condition a dog to avoid the sight, smell and sound of snakes. It will result in a dog exhibiting a reaction to the sight and sound of a snake that is very similar to what a gun shy dog will do when exposed to the sight and sound of a gun. It is because the dog has experienced a significantly negative stimulation that was associated with a gun or sound of gun. Usually learned in the first 6 weeks when a pup is sucking up learned experiences like a sponge both negative and positive. Learning for a dog is an alternation of behavior as a result of individual experience. To make matters worse often the event that caused the behavior is repeated enough that the behavior becomes a lifestyle. Hard or soft has nothing to do with it.

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7075851
02/12/18 08:57 PM
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Ive always taken my time to break my pups in to the gun starting when I first got the home. I hunted two soft ones their first year. They were both soft to the gun the second year. I brought them around.

My friend with the red setters got his two a year apart. He let the pups runoff a distance and fired a shotgun in the opposite direction. Neither reacted. We took them hunting.

These are only two examples after 50 years of bird dogs.


Quail hunting is like walking into, and out of a beautiful painting all day long. Gene Hill







Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: Sniper John] #7075911
02/12/18 09:50 PM
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Totally agree Sniper John. I have a young, female setter that is soft but not gunshy as much as uncomfortable around unexpected gun fire. It has been a written, hard, and fast rule that there would never be ďtarget practiceĒ around the camp especially around the staked out dogs. 2 weekends ago, a guest let his grandson start popping off a .22 pistol. I looked and the little setter was starting to cow down. To say I had a lively conversation with the Grandpa is an understatement. It has been a long time since I was that pissed at the Hunting lease. Some people just donít think, nor care if they are not doing the training of one of these animals. Needless to say, these two people wonít be frequenting the ranch any longer. Just come to hunt and leave your handguns and rifles at home. I feel like I can help the little girl gain her confidence, but I donít want any useless distractions impeding the progress.

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: bill oxner] #7075936
02/12/18 10:05 PM
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Originally Posted By: bill oxner
Ive always taken my time to break my pups in to the gun starting when I first got the home. I hunted two soft ones their first year. They were both soft to the gun the second year. I brought them around.

My friend with the red setters got his two a year apart. He let the pups runoff a distance and fired a shotgun in the opposite direction. Neither reacted. We took them hunting.

These are only two examples after 50 years of bird dogs.


I have no idea how those experiences applies to what you have posted. confused2
But "always taken my time to break my pups" and "let the pups runoff a distance and fired a shotgun in the opposite direction" are great examples of not inadvertently teaching an avoidance behavior to gun and shot. You did not "break" your pups, what you did is condition the dog that when the gun comes out or when fired, there is a reward, be it a retrieve, to go hunting, a bird, a pat on the head etc. Now if the first thing you do with a new dog or pup is fire a shotgun next to it's head to see if it is gun shy and of the ones with a hard temperament no matter how many times you repeated it, none ever showed or became gun shy. Then you would have given me an example. Of course after 50 years of gun dogs, you and I know better.

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7075945
02/12/18 10:20 PM
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So you fired a gun by a dog, not knowing if the dog has ever heard a gun shot, and are disappointed that it's shy?
Well if it wasn't it is now. That's one quick way to ruin a dog.

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7075947
02/12/18 10:24 PM
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Debating the cause will not help the OP. His pup was that way when he got it.

Might get a cap gun and use it around the house often.. That's one of the ways I use to help introduce the pup to the gun. I raised two litters. All the pups in both litters would come running and crawl over me at the sound of the cap gun.

There is a lot we will never learn until dogs learn to talk. Muffin was 5 years old when my wife died. She always like to go bye-bye in the Gator. I couldn't leave her at home, so I took her on my hunts. She's great at flushing and retrieving. The other hunters get a big kick out of shooting birds over her.



Quail hunting is like walking into, and out of a beautiful painting all day long. Gene Hill







Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: bill oxner] #7075986
02/12/18 10:56 PM
02/12/18 10:56 PM
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Originally Posted By: bill oxner
Debating the cause will not help the OP. His pup was that way when he got it.


And your right. The OP posted "Funny thing is he hunts nonstop until we fire the first shot. Literally in the UTV shivering."
TX Hitman, first thing is to stop repeating this. If the dog was gun shy before you got it, your reinforcing the behavior by continuing to shoot over that dog. You may even be associating the negative outcome with the flush as much as with the gun.

When I had a Labrador many years ago, it was a rescue I took in after an animal control officer knowing I was a hunter came to my door begging me to adopt it because it had been the dog pound pet, but the supervisor told him to put it down immediately or be fired. It was a mess that fell into my lap, but I made it into a decent hunting retriever. It was a hard aggressive dog, scared only of the gun. It obviously had some previous event in it's life that created the problem as it was not only scared of the sound of a gun, but also of the sight of it. Much like how a dog having snake avoidance training will react to the sight of a snake. I had to take training all the way back to square one.

I started by always carrying the gun when I fed the dogs. I did this till the dog showed no fear of the sight of the gun. Progressed to always dry firing the gun a couple times as the dogs began to eat and again repeated every day until the dog no longer showed fear nor flinched. This progressed to a toy pop or cap gun, and so on. Retriever training was done first without the gun present so not to be a distraction. Then it was only carried while retriever training, then dry fired during training again not moving to the next step until there was no reaction from the dog. Then the toy gun, then a starter gun from a distance on retrieves. Once sessions showed no reaction to that, the shotgun was brought out. I first began those training days with the Labrador staked several yards away while I fired the shotgun sending my Brittany on retrieves. Once the Lab was all worked up being left out of the fun, he was brought over and the real work began.

Also note, I would never comfort my dog during timid behavior to the gun as doing so would only reinforce that behavior and repeated enough, it would become a lifestyle. Only desired behavior is rewarded. Because your changing a learned behavior rather than conditioning a pup to a new experience, it will take patience and time. Lots of both.

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7076021
02/12/18 11:22 PM
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I was lucky enough to get an invitation to a King Ranch lease where Delmar Smith was guiding. They used converted pickups for hunting. They had two bucket seats in front with a puppy box in between. They put the pup in the and left it. That made the softest ones bold to the gun.

You can also try hotdog training. Do it before you feed the pup. Chop up the hotdog and scatter it. Make it a big event for up to a week. Introduce the cap gun and see what happens.


Quail hunting is like walking into, and out of a beautiful painting all day long. Gene Hill







Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7076272
02/13/18 02:01 AM
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I took one that was gun shy to several sporting clays shoots with me once. I figured it couldnít hurt.
She tried to break her collar and leash the first couple of hours. By the end of the day she was standing there watching the lbirds launch
And wagging her tail.

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: huntwest] #7076382
02/13/18 03:48 AM
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Originally Posted By: huntwest
I took one that was gun shy to several sporting clays shoots with me once. I figured it couldnít hurt.
She tried to break her collar and leash the first couple of hours. By the end of the day she was standing there watching the lbirds launch
And wagging her tail.


So your advice for TX Hitman to fix his english pointer's gun shy problem is to take it to a gun range or sporting clays event and tie the dog up close to the shooters until the dog stops fighting to get away?

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7077097
02/13/18 07:59 PM
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Originally Posted By: TX Hitman
I came across a English Pointer that someone was fostering and trying to find a good home. He is a young dog, maybe a year old or so. Thought I could make him a hunting dog. Took him out before the season and he was naturally hunting birds. He pointed a bird in some tall grass and flushed it before I got close enough. Thought this is awesome, and I can work with him on that. When the bird flushed, I fired a shot up in the air. He booked it back to the house and was scared to death. Gun shy. I have read some on how to cure it and am I expose him to gun shots every trip to the ranch. He is a great dog and gets along with our 2 small lap dogs and is the best dog around my 4 year old daughter so he will be staying around.

I worked with him all season this year and canít seem to get any results. We are avid birds hunters and he loves going everywhere I go. Funny thing is he hunts nonstop until we fire the first shot. Literally in the UTV shivering. Once we load up and start driving again, he bailed out and continues to hunt.

Other than time and constant shot exposures, does anyone have any other suggestions that might help?
how do you know that he was gun shy before you took him out? maybe never been exposed to gun fire..


hold on Newt, we got a runaway
Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7077770
02/14/18 03:52 AM
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TX Hitman,
This is a great read about
gunshy written by Rick Smith, son of Delmar Smith.

http://www.huntsmith.com/article.php?id=9

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: bill oxner] #7078057
02/14/18 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted By: bill oxner
Originally Posted By: Guy
If you gun condition your dog correctly, which is required for soft dogs, you can avoid making your soft dog gun shy. Itís easy really, just take smalls steps and gradually introduce your dog to gun fire. But once you make your dog gun shy, reversing it is not easy, but can be done.


Not always true.

Whatís not always true?

Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: Guy] #7078107
02/14/18 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted By: Guy
Originally Posted By: bill oxner
Originally Posted By: Guy
If you gun condition your dog correctly, which is required for soft dogs, you can avoid making your soft dog gun shy. Itís easy really, just take smalls steps and gradually introduce your dog to gun fire. But once you make your dog gun shy, reversing it is not easy, but can be done.


Not always true.

Whatís not always true?


I had two that introduced correctly and hunted a full season. They were soft and came back the second season soft to the gun. I had to start over on both. It was pretty simple since I had a Johnny house and quail.

Also, I've seen other professional trainers use the Delmar Smith method. That's the easiest way to do it but it takes other dogs and a chain gang. That's why I suggested a pro..


Quail hunting is like walking into, and out of a beautiful painting all day long. Gene Hill







Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7078145
02/14/18 03:43 PM
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Soft and hard is generally used by most dog trainers to describe the amount of pressure needed to make a correction, not to define fearful or fearless or drive, etc. Of course a dog that has DNA or life experiences that made it a fearful or timid dog will usually require less pressure and a high drive dog will usually require more pressure to alter behavior, so I do understand the fine line there. But a dog or even the majority dogs of a certain breed can have lots of drive, etc. but require less pressure in training to alter behavior and vice versa depending on the individual dog. How much drive a dog has is not defined by whether or not you need to use a 1 or 5 setting on your E collar to make a correction. I think what bill was trying to say is a timid dog (as described in Rick Smith's article above) might not be able to fully overcome once made gunshy. Which I agree. But I do not agree a soft dog or one needing less stimuli or pain to change or shape behavior would fall into that category. In some circumstances a soft dog can overcome a change in behavior faster than a hard dog (including gunshy in some circumstances) depending on how the trainer goes about it. Many trainers have a one size fits all cookie cutter training method no matter how a dog or dog breed is wired, some understand all individual dogs and breeds are different and adjust training to the dog at hand be it soft or hard(amount of pressure needed). Both usually have the same outcome in the end, but a high drive dog requiring less pressure will be the easiest dog you will ever train and hunt provided you adjust the training for the dog you see. With a timid dog though, both trainers for hunting would normally abandon the project.




Re: Gun Shy Help [Re: TX Hitman] #7078148
02/14/18 03:47 PM
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Would you breed one of these dogs?


"Now that weíve clarified that, weíd like to state that some dogs are born bold and others are born less bold, and occasionally Ė rarely Ė one is born timid and spooky. That doesnít mean the pup was born gunshy, rather it has a defect that makes it timid. This kind of dog is the easiest to frighten, and any loud noise can do it, from Fourth of July fireworks to a door slamming unexpectedly. Fortunately these pups are rare, thanks to good breeders who cull stock like this from their programs. Since weíve now eliminated that excuse, letís talk about real gunshyness Ė the manmade kind."


Quail hunting is like walking into, and out of a beautiful painting all day long. Gene Hill







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