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ATbuckhunter

So I'm a little behind the 8 ball for training my dog for this season (especially considering season opened last week). Last time I worked on gun conditioning, my friend shot a 20 gauge about 20 yards away and my dog had zero reaction what so ever. Do you guys think I can step it up to a 12 gauge or should I do another session of 20 gauge closer before I move to 12?

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Chukarman

How old is your pup? What work have you done with him? Have you had him on birds? Wild birds?

 

I introduce the gun when the pup is between 5 months and 8-9 months, depending on the pup. I use a blank gun and, since I am walking the pup anyway, I try to put him into a wild bird that he will flush and chase. Once he has a snoot full of bird and is chasing about 30 yards away, THEN I fire the gun. If he shows ANY reaction at all, I do not repeat for several weeks, then try again. If I get no reaction, I am happy and gradually work up in noise level and proximity.

 

I am very afraid of random firing of guns around dogs that have not had a proper introduction. You can ruin a dog in a split second.

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ATbuckhunter
59 minutes ago, Chukarman said:

How old is your pup? What work have you done with him? Have you had him on birds? Wild birds?

 

I introduce the gun when the pup is between 5 months and 8-9 months, depending on the pup. I use a blank gun and, since I am walking the pup anyway, I try to put him into a wild bird that he will flush and chase. Once he has a snoot full of bird and is chasing about 30 yards away, THEN I fire the gun. If he shows ANY reaction at all, I do not repeat for several weeks, then try again. If I get no reaction, I am happy and gradually work up in noise level and proximity.

 

I am very afraid of random firing of guns around dogs that have not had a proper introduction. You can ruin a dog in a split second.

I should have been more specific in the details. She just turned 11 months and has had a lot of bird exposure. I'm currently working on her pointing and I think another session or two and she will be good enough to hunt this season (I will still be training her sometimes during the week if I can. I have been working with a professional trainer and we started with blanks and worked out way up to the 20 gauge. we always did it around birds so her focus was on the bird. We did not do any random shooting around her and most of her training was done under the supervision of a professional.

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ATbuckhunter

I just haven't been able to reach the trainer this past week for another session or two. She seems to really improve a lot every time I train with him, but I also don't want to wait around another week hoping I can get in contact with him. 

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Assuming you're doing it the way Chukarman suggests (CHASING with 100% focus on that bird), I think that you could shoot the 12 gauge then, of course, evaluate the reaction. Be sure that you're actually watching the dog. I've worked dogs with people and I've seen ears or tails droop but nothing else and a few owners were oblivious to these microsigns. To some people, if they don't run back to them they think all is good 😲

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Prey drive. I believe until the prey drive has been brought up front in a dog, gun conditioning is chancy at best. Generally, even if the dog shows a lot of prey drive under 6 months of age I think it's best to let the puppy be a puppy until at least 6 months old. Even then a great deal depends on the dog, some are ready and some are not. If your dog will retrieve it make gun conditioning so much easier. Pigeons, pigeons, pigeons and a frozen quail. I think gun conditioning should be done under very controlled conditions, don't want to miss the micro signs as Payton mentioned and really screw up a dog. This method takes two people to do correctly. 

 

Now, I can't take any credit for this method it was developed by a good friend who happens to be a pro trainer. Being retired, I usually go up to his facility 2 times a week and help him train. In the last eight years I've helped him gun condition hundreds of dogs this way and usually this is accomplished in three twenty minute sessions starting with a blank gun and ending with a twenty ga. Now, some dogs that are extremely soft might take a little longer and more time is put into reinforcing retrieving. Another thing we have found to help build a dogs confidence level is to get them to swim and hopefully water retrieve.

 

So, in a nut shell, Prey drive. Retrieving, Tossing a frozen quail or pigeon. Blanking the quail when it starts the fall and tossing a pigeon at the same time, timing is important here. The guy who is working the dog on a 30 foot check cord is tossing the frozen bird and watching the dogs tail. The guy who is blanking the frozen bird on the down fall is tossing the pigeon and watching the dogs ears and eyes. the tail, ears and eyes will tell you all you need to know. This system works I've seen hundreds of dogs gun conditioned doing this. It's controlled and you can really watch the dog.

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Honestly I cannot tell a 20 gauge from a 12 gauge shot at 20 yards away . I would be more concerned with what others here have specified as possible issues . 

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chilly460

Quickie video I made showing how we introduce, which sounds exactly the same as others have done.   Pup is 4.5mos old in the vid, she had been chasing pigeons 300yds after the flush so figured she was ready for bird work.   She's shown zero notice of the shot, so think we're safe to proceed.  Her sister however would turn her head at the shot but keep running, we immediately stopped any gun work with her that day.  Next time out she got a good 70yds away before I fired but she still slightly hesitated at the shot, but that was enough to stop any more shooting that day.  She kept chasing her remaining birds, so this last weekend we tried a blank pistol again at long range and she didn't notice it all.   If she had shown any slowing down in chasing birds, I wouldn't have tried shooting the blank pistol the following week.  We'll also be very cautious moving forward and watch her closely.  

 

 

 

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For the most part, a shotgun is a shotgun, not much difference between a 20g and a 12g when it comes to upland loads. And either your dog is gun conditioned or it isn't. It's not something you typically drag out over months. If you fired within 20 yards previously and no issues then I'd say just to be sure fire again from that distance (with the dog chasing a bird) and then if that's good, do another one. After that I'd go hunting but just don't be in a hurry to shoot birds if the dogs doesn't point. This first year is about bird contacts and not so much birds shot. But if the dog points and holds at least until you walk in be ready to kill the bird for the dog.

 

I don't understand what you mean by your working on her pointing? Other than giving the dog opportunities to point by getting them bird contacts I don't know how you work on pointing? It's not something you teach or "train." Pointing should be a natural instinct in the dog and bird contacts (without catching the bird) are what helps bring that instinct out.

 

There are always gun shots going on around my property, my neighbors all shoot on their backyard ranges. So gun conditioning for me is done very soon after I bring the pup home. And I don't draw it out anymore than a few days. As long as it's going well we get it done in just a few sessions.

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chilly460
10 minutes ago, ryanr said:

I don't understand what you mean by your working on her pointing? Other than giving the dog opportunities to point by getting them bird contacts I don't know how you work on pointing? It's not something you teach or "train." Pointing should be a natural instinct in the dog and bird contacts (without catching the bird) are what helps bring that instinct out.

 

Maybe it's just semantics?  Agreed many dogs will naturally point, but in my contact with close to 100 dogs, I feel like the vast majority need some help in holding point.   Check cord, launchers, whoa post, using an e-collar properly once they're collar conditioned...all ways to "teach" a point.   I assume in areas with a LOT of wild birds and time, you could train a dog to point and hold without this stuff.   

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Here's a 4 month old dog that I had years ago who communicated to me that she was ready for the gun at an early age. Please note that I was working dogs part time for the public then and even cured a few gunshy dogs brought to me by clients, so I was confident in each additional step that I took with her in the process. Skip to 2:00 for pointing and then me shooting a bird (notice ZERO reaction on her part) for her:

 

 

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DD Huntress

Having a skeet and 5 stand range on our property affords gun conditioning right away. 

 

I have known people to have "gun shy" dogs but I don't quite understand how or why. We have never had a gun shy dog. 

 

Perhaps I'm doing it wrong. I expose my dogs to hunting wild birds in their first year. I start with dove and prairie grouse hunting in September, Barrett was my youngest dog at 4 months. 

 

Barrett at 5 months was pointing and retrieving well. 

 

Diver's Walther was 12 weeks old retrieving doves. He hunted wild birds in his first year. Walther was 5 months old with that pheasant. 

 

 

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On 10/27/2021 at 10:21 AM, DD Huntress said:

Having a skeet and 5 stand range on our property affords gun conditioning right away. 

 

I have known people to have "gun shy" dogs but I don't quite understand how or why. We have never had a gun shy dog. 

 

Perhaps I'm doing it wrong. I expose my dogs to hunting wild birds in their first year. I start with dove and prairie grouse hunting in September, Barrett was my youngest dog at 4 months. 

 

Barrett at 5 months was pointing and retrieving well. 

 

Diver's Walther was 12 weeks old retrieving doves. He hunted wild birds in his first year. Walther was 5 months old with that pheasant. 

I think newer trainers might misinterpret what you mean with the range on the property. Specifically what do you do with your dogs as it relates to introducing them to gunfire: how is the gun introduced and how do you proceed/advance until you're actually able to shoot birds over them?

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I've only conditioned two dogs to the gun.  But I think this is something that's way over thought.   Keep it simple.   First, I wouldn't start out around birds.  With no birds, you've now eliminated one possible issue, the dog associating birds with a scary noise.   

 

The way I did it was to feed the dog outside with a bowl full of something delicious and while the dog chows down, have someone fire a light gauge some distance away out of sight.  If the dog bothers to look up from his bowl he should see you standing there completely relaxed and paying no attention to him or the gun shot.   Repeat over the course of few days and meals with the shot getting closer.  How much closer depends on how the dog reacts.   My dogs didn't really give it a second thought so I just halved the distance each day.   I'd have the dog tethered so he can't run towards the shooter once the shooter is in sight.  I think it helps if the shooter, once close, doesn't focus on anything particular and also remains calm and casual as well.  

 

I take my second dog to the gun range with me where we have a pond and he swims and retrieves and totally ignores the gun fire in the distance.   And now I can have him at heel while I fire my pistol at targets on the range, and he stays at heel.   He barks obnoxiously, but he's not breaking.   I'm hoping what I've done is avoided training him to run too every gun shot.   I hate it when you're at a public stocking sight and a dog has to be screamed at and zapped to stop them from running to someone else's shot to get a bird that's not his on the other side of the preserve.   We'll see what happens after this year and my dog learns to associate the shot with dead ducks (he hasn't had much game shot in front of him yet so the idea that a shot means a retrieve is not ingrained in him yet), but hopefully I've set the stage for him to be controllable, if not well behaved, around gunfire.

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DD Huntress
3 hours ago, Payton said:

I think newer trainers might misinterpret what you mean with the range on the property. Specifically what do you do with your dogs as it relates to introducing them to gunfire: how is the gun introduced and how do you proceed/advance until you're actually able to shoot birds over them?

This may take a while. I will discuss conditioning with my drahts.

 

Conditioning starts with a reputable breeder. The kennel I would recommend uses a method similar to the "super puppy program."  Stimulation and exposure to mild stressors are started immediately.  Puppies are handled frequently and placed in different positions for short periods of time. Puppies are subjected to noises.  Bottle feeding is used to supplement and afford extra handling.  Below I am holding a 3 day old puppy in the "head erect position." A 3 week old puppy is placed in the "supine position."  These type of mild stressors help to create confident, healthy puppies. So conditioning has already begun. 

 

At 8 weeks when I bring home my pups, socialization is started immediately.  We have 5 dogs so introduction to the pack starts right away on the front lawn. All 3 of my drahthaars displayed a sense of independence right away. They were confident, curious and comfortable. 

 

I continue to expose my puppies to various noises i.e. metal pans dropped on the floor, clanging pot covers, hair dryer, vacuum cleaner etc. As mentioned we have a shooting range that is open to the public every Thursday so the sound of continuous gun shot is inevitable.  Dogs read body language to gain information. It helps that there are relaxed, comfortable adult dogs around my puppies during the gun shots. Below is a picture taken from the house showing the distance to the shooting range on top of the hill (yes Iowa is muddy right now). By 10 weeks I shoot a 22 short in a pistol across the pond when puppies are outside with the adult dogs watching for any flinches.  To date I have not had a puppy react negatively to the 22. At 12 weeks I bring my puppies to the skeet range. First exposing them to the sound of a shot gun while they are in the shed. Then with the door open and finally bringing them outside.  Sometimes I will play with a ball or just walk them around on a leash, they love the attention from the shooters. 

 

The first birds I shoot over my puppies are dove shot with a 20 gauge.  I use a check cord to stop any parading around with the bird. I have never worried that my puppies would be gun shy they always want that first bird in their mouth. From there we move onto prairie grouse then pheasant. I let my puppies learn on their own how much pressure they can put on an upland bird. I don't use a check cord on wild birds in their first year. They seem to be perfectly capable of figuring things out. I never shoot flushed or even accidentally bumped birds. 

 

I spend a lot of time with my dogs. I know that this is not possible for everyone and that my methods may not be practical for others. It just works for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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