By George Palmer
Gunshyness is a term used when a dog is terrified of gunfire. Most dogs are not born being gunshy, but neither are they born being acclimated to gunfire. Although some dogs from some breedings might be born with an inherited tendency for nervousness, in large part, gunshyness is a man-made problem that almost always can be avoided.
The key to preventing gunshyness starts with acclimating your new pup to loud noises and then continuing this acclimation throughout their adolescent months of life. In addition, it is imperative that you teach the pup to associate gunfire with something encouraging such as praise, food or allowing the pup to handle the game that has been harvested. The first step to preventing gunshyness starts as soon as you get your new pup home. Start by regularly clapping your hands while the pup is eating their food. Most pups will be startled the first few times they hear the clapping, but if continued, you will see a sense of confidence building each time the clapping takes place. Continue this process for several days at each meal until the pup shows no nervousness at all towards the clapping noise. Next, again while the pup is eating their meal, take two pieces of wood and slap them together making an even louder sound that more closely resembles small gunfire. Continue this drill until the pups show no signs of startling what so ever.
Now that you are certain the pup shows no signs of wariness towards loud noises, it is time to introduce the pup to gunfire. If introduced correctly, the pup will associate gunfire with something positive and will eventually become very eager to hunt at the sound of gunfire. Start the introduction to gunfire by engaging a friend to assist you. Have the friend station themselves with a small caliber gun in a position approximately 100 yards from you and the pup. With the pup at heel, have the friend fire the gun. Once the gun has fired, make a big deal out of the shot by praising the pup with something positive. Move forward 20 yards or so towards the gunfire and have your friend fire the gun again all the while praising the pup and continue making it a positive experience. Carry on this exercise in 20-yard increments until you and the pup are standing next to the gun as it fires. Once you are confident the pup shows no fear at all of the gunfire, gradually increase the caliber of the gun that is being shot until you can shoot a large caliber rifle or shotgun next to the pup without the pup showing any signs of nerviness. Continue building up the pupís confidence around guns throughout the first full year of the pupís life so that you are certain it associates gunfire with something positive.
By using a common sense approach and the training techniques described
above, it is probable your pup will never have a concern with gunshyness.
Watching a well-trained hunting dog associate gunfire with the opportunity
to hunt and pursue game is something a hunter dreams of. With good training
and a little luck, that hunting dog will be a certainty. Good luck!