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Discussion Starter #1
How does one go about training a dog to tolerate gunfire? (either in hunting of protection/police work).

Thanks.
 

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The breeder from whom I may be getting my next pup often has dogs that are trained for retrieving game and who need to be conditioned to gunfire.

She recommends what is essentially basic desensitization. Start as young as possible (well before hearing develops may have limited helpfulness but you know what I mean), and with gun fire sounds in the distance or very quiet (if you are playing sounds on a stereo or something) while doing something the dog enjoys, like eating dinner. Slowly decrease the distance/increase the volume until the dog is tolerating the sound of gunfire next to him.

I accidentally did this with Kim and Webster...the dog park we went to for a while was near a gun range, so from time to time as the dogs were playing people would be shooting nearby. How loud it was depended on the number of people shooting and the direction of the breeze.

As a result my otherwise pretty sound-sensitive dog doesn't even flinch when fireworks go off on the 4th of July.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
How would you all do it if the dog were older (full grown over 1 year old)?

I am pretty sure I know how I would do this, but I am tossing this out there to see what the various answers are.
 

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How would you all do it if the dog were older (full grown over 1 year old)?

I am pretty sure I know how I would do this, but I am tossing this out there to see what the various answers are.
Well I'd do it the same way lol. Just tends to be easier if you start young.

The mechanics are the same no matter what you are desensitizing for...the variables tend to be based on your options. Do you have gun ranges around you? Do you know people who go hunting or target practicing outdoors? Will those people help you?
 

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No personal experience but my hunting friends tell me they start with distance gun work usually during feeding time. Another tool they use is to make a toy/dummy out of the birds they will be hunting...ie; pheasant feathers/field dummy. They often leave it their crate/sleeping area.
 

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There have been many pups ruined by the shoot cap-pistol while pup is eating routine. Many dogs ruined by the hunt/gun club fiascos. Take pup to gun club and stand there while shotguns go off in the distance (usually not that far) Some pups and dog survive these programs but I think you could take those dogs to an artillery range and they would be fine.

I always used a 2 prong attack, never fired a gun over a bird dog unless it was chasing a flushed bird strongly after a flush. “enjoying the work” I started with a 22 blank starter’s pistol at long distances and never fired more than once per session. With protection dogs a shot was never fired until dog was biting and “enjoying the work” The 1st shot is at a longer distance. The distance and caliber of gun is changed when the dog tells me to. Done properly the dogs never even hear the shots. I am not saying other methods do not work, these are the methods I used.
 

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I have desenitized Allie to loud noises a bit by using a recording (well the computer) with the sound very low while I feed her dinner. Over the course of months I very slowly raised the volume. She can now tolerate thunder, fireworks, gun fire. She still gets nervous but doesn't completely freak out like she used to.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I figured that distance and caliber were the keys, with them being changed as the dog indicated and not doing both at the same time.

I really LOVE that WVasko adds a very very VERY key element of DRIVE. With the dog in high drive, having a great time doing what they love doing, adding the noise would be secondary. Again, adding lower and working to higher noise as the dog indicates.
 

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I really LOVE that WVasko adds a very very VERY key element of DRIVE. With the dog in high drive, having a great time doing what they love doing, adding the noise would be secondary. Again, adding lower and working to higher noise as the dog indicates.
Associate a potential negative with something the dog already loves and, they not only don't fear it, they learn to love the gun as much as the bird or the sleeve.
 

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Associate a potential negative with something the dog already loves and, they not only don't fear it, they learn to love the gun as much as the bird or the sleeve.
You need to know the dog and have a drivey dog fully accessing those drives to pull it off though...done improperly the method of introduction described could well associate the thing the dog loves with a strong negative and scare the heck out of the dog, creating a setback in something he used to enjoy on top of turning the potential negative to a "real" negative.

Granted any method done improperly could have negative side effects...some are just more difficult to mess up than others, with varying levels of disastrous side effects.
 

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...some are just more difficult to mess up than others....
Breeding is as important as anything you'll do to train the dog. I want to start out with a naturally bold pup who's got drive squirtin' out of his pores. Get one of those, and the rest of the process is quite straightforward.
 

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You need to know the dog and have a drivey dog fully accessing those drives to pull it off though...done improperly the method of introduction described could well associate the thing the dog loves with a strong negative and scare the heck out of the dog, creating a setback in something he used to enjoy on top of turning the potential negative to a "real" negative.

Granted any method done improperly could have negative side effects...some are just more difficult to mess up than others, with varying levels of disastrous side effects.
I agree dogs can be ruined by anything in this world(birds farting in Ohio might ruin a dog or 2) I was answering elana's reply who I believe can rub her belly and spit at the same time. I would trust elana's reading of her dog than some macho hunter or possible gun nut who might have had one or 5 dogs and got lucky with all of them. Of which as a very young man I resembled both gun nut and hunter so I know what it means and some of the bad advice that can follow.

In my reply I mentioned that the dog will tell me when to move further into the gun work. I believe elana and her dog Atka read each other well(I could be mistaken, but I doubt it)

Let's talk about the desensitizing with stereo etc noises which I have seen a number of time on forum. Yes with some dogs this may be the answer. Our house dog in the last 2 years has developed a thunder lightning problem. This is the same dog that can lay stretched out asleep with her head next to the Yamaha sub-woofer while a combo of Tornado and world war 2 artillery barrage is going on and I have the system blaring. This dog immediately will react to a lightning strike 10 miles away. Not all dogs can be cured of stuff with the same programs.

My opinion with guns is that prevention is much better than trying a cure. Let's look at it this way with the cap pistol routine while your pup is eating. I'm sure that if your pup was eating and you fired the cap from 3 rooms away the pup would be fine, but then you have the owner who thinks well I really want to make sure of my pup so I will fire pistol right over pups head instead of once 5 times. Whoopee I am now the owner of a useless pup, let's go get another one.
The 1st shot the pup just flinches a tad and keeps eating by the 5th shot the pup is running out of room heading for the space under the bed. I watched a dog at a trap/skeet club that was tied to a bumper that was fine for the 1st 5 or 6 shotgun blasts and by the 10th he was under the car and had to be dragged out. The owner was one of the owners who listened to his friends on how to get his dog ready for hunting. I was a young hunter and not a dog trainer at that time and I thought the concept was kinda stupid but the owner and his friends were know it alls. Oh yes that particular pup was put down and those were the old school days.
He was put down with a bullet.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Here is what prompted this question.

On Monday I went to the local Memorial Day parade. When I go, I photograph everything and try to get CD's and/or DVD's to those who organized the parade for their organizations use, and to copy and give to anyone. No strings, No $$, no copyrights. I never fought in a war, but a lot of those folks did (like my Dad). It is the least I can do.

This year I brought Atka with me. She has reached a point in her training where I can put her in a down/stay and she will stay there while people mill around and I am working 20 feet away in her sight. This is the sort of off leash work I aspire to when I train a dog.

She was excellant. She stayed, people all around, some petting her. She did not get up and she had her water there (in fact, she stays laying down and drinks LOL).

After the Parade we have to follow the end and get past them to the Memorial site for the Services. This year was special as the memorial was dedicated to a recently deceased vet who had given to other vets for years. In addition, our State Senator had dedicated a flag that had flown over the Capitol (Washington) to be flown at the Memorial.

Atka came with me and I was shooting. It was hot and there were a lot of people pressing around us. She was hot, but very good and laid down and waited nicely while I shot. She did a little stress whining but she will do that when I am just standing around. She may have been stressed from the heat (she was laying in my shade and had cold water in front of her), or from all the people or was simply wanting to get moving. I asked her to stop ('quiet') and she did.

All was well until the gun salute... I knew it was coming so picked up her leash (I actually had forgotten about taht part of the service). She was startled. They shot 3 times. If they had shot once, I think it would have been OK but by shot #3 she was in shut down mode.. would not take food rewards.. was not whining or trying to run away but obviously upset and disconnected.

I finished the photography (the ceremony had the closing prayer) and left... took her to the stream and let her go in and lay down in the cold water etc. I then took her straight home. She is fine today and was fine later on (tho tired).

This dog has suddenly come miles ahead in her training. She is doing what I expect a dog to do on and off leash. She is good in crowds and good with people (tho we are going to give her a few days off from crowds). She is not a fearful dog and has a wonderful sense of fun (last dog was excellant but she was much more serious). She loves to work and go places and she LOVES vanilla ice cream cones. :)

Since her reaction to the shooting was dramatic (for her) I am thinking the thing to do is get her used to gun fire, sudden loud noises etc. as something to pay attention to, but not anything to fear.

FWIW, when this dog spooked at the gun fire yesterday, she got up and wanted to leave, but she looked at me and did that GSD thing of asking permission.. I had the leash in hand, but I firmly believe she would have stayed with me if I had NOT had the leash. I gave her all the body language of "its OK" along with stroking her and speaking softly to her in an upbeat tone.

This dog is as good a dog as anyone could ask for and I want to keep it that way.
 

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I figured that distance and caliber were the keys, with them being changed as the dog indicated and not doing both at the same time.

I really LOVE that WVasko adds a very very VERY key element of DRIVE. With the dog in high drive, having a great time doing what they love doing, adding the noise would be secondary. Again, adding lower and working to higher noise as the dog indicates.
My dog had a very high drive to fetch, I built that up before she ever heard a gun. I also already had her trained to respond to point in a direction to run out, to look back at a whistle, and to take hand signals for which way to go look. Starting small, in the yard and building up after a year or so to have her blindfolded, or around a corner in a stay and throw an object out in a field somewhere (or hit a tennis ball very far with a bat). Then send her out to find and retrieve.

That way I could later direct her to a bird she didn't see fall, and to have friends mark mentally where birds fell they could not find so I could send her in to the brush to find them later.

I associated the gun sound with something to fetch much later on, it was the last part. She learned very quickly when I fired one it meant there was something to go retrieve and perked her drive right up. It became a signal to turn on the drive.

I don't know if that was the best way, I didn't really plan to train her that way, in that order, it just worked out that way. I had never done anything of the sort before.

Unfortunately she was almost ruined of that later in life by some kids and firecrackers they threw very close to her. Which was ok because I gave up bird hunting pretty much anyway, and totally not long after and haven't done it for years and years now.
 

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I love it! What does the statement below mean?

I don't know if that was the best way, I didn't really plan to train her that way, in that order, it just worked out that way. I had never done anything of the sort before.
You had never done that type of work, but yet you not only did not ruin your dog with a plan you put to use, but you built a dog you could hunt with, how cool is that. When you get time, pat yourself on the back. There are many hunters who have ruined their 1st dogs.
 

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TXRider
I love it! What does the statement below mean?

You had never done that type of work, but yet you not only did not ruin your dog with a plan you put to use, but you built a dog you could hunt with, how cool is that. When you get time, pat yourself on the back. There are many hunters who have ruined their 1st dogs.
Well that's just it, I didn't have a plan.

I got the dog because it was a mixed breed pup nobody wanted. I wasn't looking for a dog it just sort of happened. Lab mix.

I taught fetch at a few months old and it turned into her obsession. I played hide and seek and find it games... and fetching anything she could physically drag back. From balls to frisbee to branches to 4x4 posts... anything, doing it in water slowed her down and saved my arm.

I taught the hide and seek and find it and whistle and hand signals for my own sake too really, to save my shoulder from so much throwing every day and to see if she could learn it and I could teach it.

The rest was just experimenting to see if she would do it after I had her fetch a half dead egret one day that a car hit and she surprisingly was very gentle with it, I was expecting her to chew it up. To her it was just another fetch game. She was about 3yrs old before I fired a gun around her.

It wouldn't have bothered me at all if she had been gun shy, pretty much expected her to be or at least a 50/50 chance. She probably would have been if she hadn't mentally connected it to a fetch game for her right off the bat. The love of fetch overpowered the aversive of the noise, and she did show aversion to it.

Just a data point and something for folks to think about.
 

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Since her reaction to the shooting was dramatic (for her) I am thinking the thing to do is get her used to gun fire, sudden loud noises etc. as something to pay attention to, but not anything to fear.
It's not likely Atka will have developed a permanent fear response from a one-time exposure to gunfire. Every dog is an individual so there are no guarantees, but it doesn't sound like her reaction was that extreme. Her shutting down could just as likely have been stress caused by the desire to react (protectively) to the gunfire vs. her training to stay calmly by your side. The instinct to aggress in the face of gunfire is probably lurking somewhere in her DNA.

In any event, I would work to un-do a negative reaction. Whether it was fear or some other kind of stress, it could result in other negative behaviors bubbling up in the future. I started my pup by slapping hardwood blocks together (you can control the volume) and moved up to low-power .22 blanks, high-power .22 blanks, .410 shotgun, 12 ga. poppers, low brass 20 ga., and 12 ga. game loads. No harm was ever done by being too cautious in the intro to gunfire.
 

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always used a 2 prong attack, never fired a gun over a bird dog unless it was chasing a flushed bird strongly after a flush. “enjoying the work” I started with a 22 blank starter’s pistol at long distances and never fired more than once per session. With protection dogs a shot was never fired until dog was biting and “enjoying the work” The 1st shot is at a longer distance. The distance and caliber of gun is changed when the dog tells me to. Done properly the dogs never even hear the shots. I am not saying other methods do not work, these are the methods I used.
This is pretty much exactly what we did with Libby.

We started with a starter's pistol from a long distance while she chased birds, and have worked up over the past year to a shotgun at hunting range. When fireworks go off in our neighbourhood, Libby thinks someone is hunting without her :rolleyes:

For dogs that are a bit more sensitive to the noise, I have heard of people starting out by popping bubble wrap.
 

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We kept it simple. Down. Stay. (ie - don't want to shoot dog accidentally). Shoot guns (from .22 to 12 g) for a while, ignoring the dog. Dog looks surprised on first shot then gets bored. There's probably better ways, especially if you have a particular purpose (e.g. hunting) in mind, but as in many things I think the dog will cue of your own behavior. If you are calm he is less likely to get spooked by Bang Bang. Making a fuss can be counterproductive.
 

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We kept it simple. Down. Stay. (ie - don't want to shoot dog accidentally). Shoot guns (from .22 to 12 g) for a while, ignoring the dog. Dog looks surprised on first shot then gets bored. There's probably better ways, especially if you have a particular purpose (e.g. hunting) in mind, but as in many things I think the dog will cue of your own behavior. If you are calm he is less likely to get spooked by Bang Bang. Making a fuss can be counterproductive.
If your program worked I would not for the world say anything derogative because you had success with that dog.

There are many people doing the same thing that has ruined many dogs, as a lot of people do not have the ability to read their dogs. I stated earlier there are dogs that would fall asleep on a artillery range. It's the other dogs that while you are ignoring will start to flinch a bit and all of a sudden they are gone. There are dogs on a stay command that will stay and suffer through the noise but while loose and running free and a shot is fired that will bolt out of the country. The amount of dogs that are gunshyed the 1st day of hunting season is staggering.
 
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