How to Avoid Making Your Retrievers Gun Shy

Some dogs are more susceptible to becoming gun shy, but regardless of their sensitivity level, making a dog gun shy or not is completely in the hands of their trainer. If you don’t take the steps to introduce your dog to a gun and gunfire in the correct way, even the most spirited dog can become startled.

Things you should ABSOLUTELY AVOID doing to an inexperienced dog:

  • Never fire a gun around a dog just to see if it startles him or not.
  • Never use a shooting range to introduce your dog to gunfire for the first time.
  • Never take a puppy hunting with an older, more experienced dog in an attempt to give him hands-on experience, before you have introduced him to gunfire.
  • Never place your dog in a situation where guns will be fired in close proximity to him.
  • Never expose your inexperienced dog to fireworks of any kind.
  • Never fire your gun near your dog while he is eating. These two things occurring at the same time makes the wrong association for the dog.
  • Try your hardest to keep your dog inside during major lightning and thunderstorms.
  • In any case, it is best to start working with your dog and introducing him to gunfire as soon as possible. This way you can try to side step the gun shy problem all together. It is much easier to introduce them correctly than to try and reverse the effects of being gun shy.

What you SHOULD DO to get started with the introduction process:

  • Expose them to noise early on. Raise them in high traffic, noisy areas (such as laundry rooms).
  • Start slowly and build up to louder, more sudden noises.
  • Be loud around your pups – clang bowls, clap your hands, open and close doors, play the radio, etc.
  • Again, remember to never go too fast when exposing them to noise!
  • Introduce your dogs to birds before you introduce them to gunfire.
  • Once your dog is bird crazy, begin introducing him to guns that make more quite sounds as they are fired (a Blank .22 pistol with crimped acorn blanks will be good for this).
  • Have a helper the first few times you expose your dog to gunfire. As long as there is no negative reaction to the gun being fired, continue to add in more elements (Keeping a bird on you so you can flush one if the dog needs a distraction).
  • Increasingly move your gun in closer until it is being fired by your side as the dog finds the birds.

Remember, most importantly you need to take your time. Never rush to expose the dog to gunfire. Your dog’s ego and education must be built through this exposure and this is all up to you and how you take the time to help him form the right association between birds and guns.

At What Age Do Retriever Puppies Begin to Retain Commands?

Puppies actually begin remembering and paying attention to what you tell them as soon as you begin to interact with them. Of course, you may get him from a breeder and he may be two months old or older by the time you first meet him. In this case, he will probably have picked up some habits and such from the people who have handled him previously.

The important thing is that once you have the puppy, you consistently teach him how you want him to act. He will learn that you expect certain things of him. The first time you pick up your puppy he begins to learn from you. Usually when you pick up a new puppy they are unsure of you and want down. If you instinctively let them go then they learn that if they whine or try to squirm their way out of your hands, then you will let them go.

By doing this the puppy now knows how to accomplish what he wants. When you need to cut his hair, clip his names, teach him common commands, put on an e-collar or tracking collar, or even reprimand him; he will remember that he knows how to disobey you and get away with it.

So, how do you avoid teaching your pup to react in a negative way? Well, teach him in a positive, reassuring way. Do not give up and into his wants, when that’s not what he SHOULD be doing. You do not necessarily have to be stern, just simply stand your ground and he will quickly pick up what you are telling him to do.

Teach them early on to mind you and it will be much easier to teach them more through, in depth training later on.