Conditioning Your Dog to the Sound of the Gun
Thursday, June 12th 2014
Conditioning your dog to the sound of gunfire is crucial in training them to hunt. However, if done incorrectly, there is no way of going back and starting over. Some dogs are naturally more timid and skittish, while others have a better temperament for loud sounds and hunting. Consider this factor before you get a dog that you plan on taking hunting with you.
The younger your dog is, the easier it will be to train them to be comfortable with loud sounds. The key to conditioning your dog to the sound of gunfire is steadily increasing their level of comfort with it and from there, moving into making the sound of gunfire excitable.
Before you begin conditioning your dog, please make note of this: DO NOT ever fire a gun near your dog by surprise – Especially while they are eating. Do not expose your dog to loud noises suddenly, such as fireworks or by taking them to the shooting range.
How to Condition Your Dog to the Sound of Gunfire
- Gradually increase your dog’s level of comfort with loud noises – If you notice that your dog seems frightened by the sound of thunder or other loud sounds, it’s good to take advantage of this time to train them that loud noises are not necessarily scary. If you act frightened, your dog will feel frightened too. However, if you act calm and happy and pet your dog, your dog will grow to understand that loud noises are not always scary. This does not mean that you should coddle your pup—just act as though everything is fine.
- Introduce them to the sound of an actual gun – This is a process, and you will need at least two people. While one of you tosses the bird, the other will fire the gun into the air from a distance. Your dog will retrieve the bird and bring it back to you. Repeat this process over and over and over until, much like Pavlov’s dog, your dog will liken the sound of gun fire with the fun of fetching a bird.
- Now, ever so slowly, inch closer – You can’t go through this process too slow, but you can easily go too fast! As mentioned above, avoid shocking your dog. Don’t try to rush this process, as your dog has to feel mellow and safe for it to work. When your dog seems to have grown comfortable with the gunshot from one distance, move a little closer and start again.
Tips for Going Gradual
Start with a small gun like a .22 blank pistol and fire it 200 yards away. Gradually move in a few yards at a time.
Move to a larger gun, like a 20 gauge shotgun. Fire the gun into the air from 300 yards away and gradually move in closer after several rounds.
Finally, move to a 12 gauge shotgun. Rinse and repeat. Fire several rounds, while tossing the bird. Starting at about 300 yards, only moving a few yards closer at a time.
Never get so close to your dog with the gun that the report could hurt its ears. Remember, their hearing is much more sensitive than that of humans.
Your dog should become very accustomed to hearing the loud sound of a gun, while also enjoying the hunt and fetching the birds. For any questions, or for more information on training your hunting dog, please give us a call at 800.338.DOGS today.