Gun Shy Brittany

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Gun Shy Brittany

Postby wildreed » Fri Sep 19, 2008 9:36 pm

Hi all,

We adopted our 7-yr old Brittany, Hannah, last November. She's been in the woods with me many many times and I can tell she has all the instincts for hunting, and I think it is something we would both truly love (I love watching a hunting dog work! :) ). I'm hoping to hunt grouse and pheasants with her.

She appears to be afraid of loud noises, though. I have noticed this even with thunderstorms - she cries and tries to get in our laps. She was at my family's hunting cabin this summer when a shotgun was fired several times. She again cried and tried to go to someone "safe."

My instincts tell me that once she makes the connection between "loud shotgun noise" and "bird" she'll be fine. But I thought I would open this up to others to see if anyone has suggestions/ideas for us.

Thanks all,

Jenn
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Postby Jacksbuddy » Sat Sep 20, 2008 4:44 am

Jack isn't too fond of thunderstorms either, I wouldn't be too concerned about that.
I hardly feel qualified to give you any advice on how to introduce a gun around Hannah especially considering her age and disposition.

I can give you a few little thing to try, like getting her used to you making loud noises around the house. When in the kitchen bang a couple of pans together and look for a reaction, if she reacts negatively don't try it again for a few days. Slowly build to the point where you can fire a blank gun around her.
That is where I use a training dummy that I have been using to practice retrieving.
Start a session as usual and at some point throw the dummy, the dog should be focused on the bird, wait for it to just about hit the ground fire the blank and look for a reaction, if you notice a negative reaction put the gun away but continue with the retrieving play. Wait a few days before you try it again. But continue to play with her and always lots of praise.
Again I am not a trainer, you might want to consult a pro for some real advice but I do agree with you that all she needs to do is learn that her, you, birds and loud noises = fun and gun shyness will become a thing of the past.
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Postby Muddy Creek Britts » Sat Sep 20, 2008 8:50 am

I'm in the boat with Tim. Maybe Helen or Karen can chime in with some specific advice. But here's some things I consider when I expose mine to gunfire:

If they act nervous or unsure after I shoot, I don't console them. I just ignore them. If they come to me, I let them stand where they feel comfortable, but I don't pet them or make eye contact with them. I don't want them to make the association that gunfire means sympathy in any way.

I actually exposed Maggie to gunfire for the first time on the first day of pheasant season, where people and their dogs were crawling and shooting all over the state gamelands. Her first experience was from guns fired acres away. Storm and Timber during dove season when it was just the dog and me in the field. They did fine, though Timber was unsure at first. The next time I exposed Timber, I took Maggie and Storm with me, so he could see what their reaction was. They both get excited, and Timber has been totally fine since then.

If you have any doubt as to how your pup will handle it, I'd make sure you have her on a 50-foot rope, so you don't have to worry about her taking off over the horizon, but still having enough slack so she doesn't feel confined, which could cause more anxiety than she otherwise would feel.

Like Tim, I'm not a pro, but these are the things I'd keep in mind. As soon as my dogs had the gunshot and the downed bird at the same time, never a bit of anxiety after that. Keep us posted on your progess. Best of luck.
Brian
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Postby wildreed » Sat Sep 20, 2008 6:43 pm

Thanks, Tim and Brian. I appreciate the comments and suggestions! She has been fine with loud noises in the house (pots, pans, etc.) ... last winter my husband was using some explosive charges in the basement to pull nails out of concrete, and that was the noise level she started acting anxious. Sounds like maybe he and I need to start being noisier ;).

Thankfully I don't think she'll run away. When we were at my parents' hunting cabin and they were shooting shotguns, I did have her on retractable leash and she never even tried to run away - just wanted to be near us. We took her off the leash and she just stayed with us. (whew!). I know the dog my dad used to have took off after her first gunshot when she was a pup, and they found her on a neighboring road. She ended up being a great bird dog after all - who knew ;).

I like the advice of making sure she doesn't associate loud noises with sympathy. I'll definitely incorporate that.

I really wish we could incorporate loud noises into the retrieving game as Tim suggested. Unfortunately, our dog doesn't really understand retrieving. We tried all last winter not only with balls and sticks, but also with pheasant wings and dummies. No luck. The pheasant wings she had a great time chasing after because they smelled good, and she'd bring them back once or twice, if we were lucky, but then she seemed to figure she'd just go after it and sit next to it. Doesn't quite get the "bringing back" part. I wonder if she needs to real thing - after all, she killed 3 songbirds this summer (not exactly what I want her to be doing) and she brought each of them to me and listened when I said "leave it." Like I said, she's got some good qualities I just think she needs lots of time out actually doing it to put everything together.

Anyhow, again I appreciate the comments!
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Postby Muddy Creek Britts » Sat Sep 20, 2008 7:22 pm

Unfortunately, our dog doesn't really understand retrieving. We tried all last winter not only with balls and sticks, but also with pheasant wings and dummies. No luck.


So you have a field trial dog too. :P :wink: Mine aren't much on the retrieve. They usually point the downed bird for me though, which is fine by me.

Last year I shot a pheasant that was flying over very thick brush. I had to crawl on my hands and kness to try to retrieve it myself, because I was pretty sure my pups weren't going to help me out....though they were more than happy to follow me in after I made a trail through the thicket and briars. :roll: I threw the bird in the back of my vest and proceeded to crawl back out. Got out and started to move on down the trail. Maggie was nowhere to be seen. I called her and she came around the corner....with the pheasant in her mouth. Darn bird must've fell out during my crawl out of the thicket and she brought it out to me. I was so darned proud of my girl...her first retrieve and when it mattered most :!: Can't believe I didn't notice that the bird wasn't in my vest.

I guess it goes to show there's always hope. She was looking out for her mentally-challenged daddy. :roll: :P
Brian
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Postby wildreed » Sat Sep 20, 2008 10:30 pm

ha ha - that's a great image of the dogs making your clear trail for them. And way to go Maggie on her first retrieve. That's a great story.

I felt inspired tonight to take out the pheasant wings and work with Hannah. We probably spent 45 minutes, and somehow she just doesn't understand that she needs to pick it up. I throw, she runs after it and smells it. Then she either sits and looks at it, or comes back to me. If I walk up to it and hold it and tell her to take it, she'll put it in her mouth, and THEN she'll "come" and "leave it" for me. So she understands going after it and she understands bringing it to me, just doesn't quite get the idea of picking it up! It makes me laugh every time she runs after it then sits by it and looks back at me, utterly confused about what she needs to do next. :)
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Postby Annie'sRebecca » Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:31 am

Wildreed, here is a link where we discussed fetching in the behavior forum. There are several good ideas to try, and on the second page Lisa explains how she taught her dog Buster to fetch with a clicker. Maybe it'll help you out some....
http://www.americanbrittanyrescue.org/f ... er&start=0

Good luck!
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Postby Jacksbuddy » Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:14 pm

Well maybe hunting her with a shotgun isn't a good idea, I do hear though that Dave is pretty handy with a bow :lol: :P .
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Postby Dave » Sun Sep 21, 2008 11:04 pm

Well maybe hunting her with a shotgun isn't a good idea, I do hear though that Dave is pretty handy with a bow :P :lol: .
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Hey I resemble that remark :wink: :lol: Good thing I don't shoot a bow like I shoot a shotgun :lol: .

I would try de-sensitizing this dog by starting small and try using a cap gun , or a 22 at a distance . LadyUplandHunter might be able to help you , but I haven't seen her post in a very long time . 8) Dave
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Postby Karen_P » Mon Sep 22, 2008 9:50 am

What I can tell you is that when we expose the pups to gun fire, we put out nice, flight conditioned birds and we let them bust and chase. When they're completely absorbed in chasing and a good distance away, we fire the gun with the muzzle pointed in the opposite direction and watch for a reaction. If there's none, we fire when the dog is a bit closer the next time. We never work more than 1 bird a day when doing this, and by the 3rd or 4th day, the shots are associated with the birds and the gun isn't an issue.

For an older dog that may have been conditioned the wrong way initially, you may need the help of a professional trainer.
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