Introduction to the Gun

 There is one sure fire way to turn your potential bird dog into a dog that is not going to be a hunting partner. That is by rushing through the introduction to gunfire. This can lead to a dog that is afraid of gunfire and this is more commonly known as gun shyness.

  Gun shyness is a man made condition. Dogs are not born afraid of guns. So they learn to be afraid of the gun by rushing this critical introduction.

  I believe that socialization and exposure to new sights, sounds and situations assist in building the dogs confidence. A confident dog is able to adjust to new situations better than a timid dog.

  A slow introduction with a lot of birds and enjoyment make for a successful introduction in my opinion and this is how I am doing it with Max.

 We have been introduced to the bird and he is very birdy and looks forward to being in the field and pursuing his opponent.

Point in cut corn field


  In the last few sessions afield we have been using a blank firing pistol that uses 209 primers. These are the primers that are used in shotgun shells. They have a pretty significant report.

Moving in to flush with the blank gun.


  I place a bird in a hidden location and steer the pup towards it. He has to use his nose to find the bird and point it. I move in and flush. He isn’t always steady to the flush but he is getting better at it. Once the bird flies he breaks and pursues. While he is in pursuit I shoot the gun.

Bird Flushing for Max and the blank gun.


  This is where you need to pay attention to your dog and read his body language. You are looking  for any sign of the shot bothering him. These signs can be something mild like stopping the chase or something less subtle like taking off for the next county or anywhere in between.

   If you don’t notice anything that resembles the shot bothering him, move on to the next step.

  The next step is to have him point another bird if you notice that his point is not as intense or he pulls back a little or blinks. Then he is expecting that loud noise with the bird. If you notice any of these or another sign PUT THE GUN DOWN. 

 That is right. Put it down. Give him another bird or two that day without the gun and build his desire again and put him away. 

 This isn’t the end of the world. Take a step back, give him more birds and build his confidence again. After another few sessions with birds and his confidence comes back. Try the blank pistol again.

  Remember to take your time. Have a few sessions with no reaction to the blank pistol then it is time to move to the gun.

  I do this and with the gun that I use to hunt. Mainly because it is a smaller gauge. If you don’t have a small gauge gun that is alright just increase the distance and go to lighter loads.

 How do I do this. I plant a bird for the pup. I bring him around so he can get a point. All of this is low pressure. After he points I move in with the training pistol to confirm no reaction. Then I set it up again in a different spot. I have an assistant about fifty yards away. The dog points the bird, I flush the bird and when the dog is in full chase my assistant fires the shotgun. If there is no reaction we move the assistant closer. I try to go about ten yards at a time. That distance is a rough estimate as we don’t lay down a measuring tape.


  After a few reps the shooter is within reasonable shotgun range. Now when the bird flushes the bird dies and the pup gets his reward.

 This is now a dog that has been introduced to gun fire. This does not mean that you go with a large group of friends and you all start shooting large guns with multiple shots right over the top of the dog.  This means that now you can take him afield and one shooter at a time can take a shot at a bird.

 This is where I am with Max. He is pointing reliably and has been shot over. Another session to ensure that it has taken. Then we will do some whoa and steady to flush training and we will be hunting this season.

This is how I do the gun introduction. It takes some time doing it this way. I know there are people that get through it quicker and use other techniques. However, I would rather err on the side of caution and avoid creating a problem that I may never be able to correct.

 I hope this helps and if you have any questions leave them in the comments section and I will answer them.  

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