Monday, November 7, 2011

How Do I Introduce My Pup To Gun Fire?

Fran teases Fast Pup's Zuniquah ll with a dead pigeon

This is a perennial question: How do I introduce my puppy to gun fire? It's a question I don't think about until someones asks.  All pups that come my way, no matter what breed, are around gun fire constantly.  Like the ticking of a clock, it is something a litter of pups sleeps to when they are out on the truck with us.  Young dogs hear guns fired for the other dogs and learn to associate the sound with excitement.  

For me, the bigger question is "What is the right way to get my dog retrieving?" 

And a better question is not how do I introduce gun fire, but:  "How do I make a dog gun shy?"  

Here are a couple of recipes for making a dog gun shy:

Number one:  Take a young pup that you have just brought into your home out on the porch, throw something for her,  and fire off a 12 gauge over her head.  You have not gained the pup's trust, you have not taught her that retrieving for you is the most WONDERFUL activity in the world, and you just scared the crap out of her.  

Number two:  Have outrageously high expectations for your young pup.  Expect her to be genetically programmed to retrieve bumpers or birds since you spent all that time researching pedigrees and spent all that money for all those field trial champions in her pedigree.  Take her out and throw things for her and get impatient, frustrated and mad when she disappoints you.  This just about guarantees that you will have a hesitant pup who begins to refuse to play.  Add loud noises into the mix and you will create a dog that never wants to play the game.  

Fran teases the pup with the bird.  All fun.  No guns!

Notice, that in the video, we don't specifically address introducing pups to guns.  We don't go out one day and say to the pup, "It is time for you to be introduced to guns, BANG, BANG.

Pup Gets Bird With Encouragement

We spend a lot of time introducing pups to the fun and excitement of retrieving birds and bumpers.  We show them how exciting it is to be around anything with feathers.  We zip-tie the wing of a duck, pheasant, pigeon to a bumper and dance around, teasing the pup with the object covered in bird scent.  We make fools of ourselves playing with puppies.  We make the pup think that getting to retrieve is EXCITING.   We make noise before we throw a bumper or bird.  "Hey, Hey, Pup!"  "Mark it!"  "Bang Bang! (with our voice.)"  We add duck calls in before we throw stuff.  We stretch the pups out on longer and longer marks with a helper in the field.  Then, finally, when we have created a maniac for the retrieve, we say "Hey, Hey, add a duck call, and then slip a single shot from a starter pistol in to the sound.  Our helper in the field shoots the pistol.  The sound is off in the distance and sounds like a little pop.  Not loud and scary.  

Just like all the other pops the pup had heard for so long when on the truck or on a chain gang while other dogs are working.  
Pup Looks At Birds In Bucket

Pup Is Encouraged To Find The Birds

Any Interest In Birds Is Encouraged!

If you live in a very remote area and have absolutely no friends or family members you can cajole into helping you with your dog, you will have to get enough obedience on her that she will sit and stay while you go out into a field and throw stuff for her and then return to her side.  

If you do have a helper, teach the helper to create excitement before throwing the bumper or bird.  Release your pup on her name (with excitement in your voice) when the object is at the top of the arc of the fall.  Then be VERY quiet.  Do not shout encouragement until your pup reaches the bumper so as not to pull her attention off the retrieve.  Do not distract her.  Your helper, on the other hand, should encourage her to keep coming out, if she needs encouragement, as in, she looks hesitant or is thinking about returning to her handler.  It is the helper's job to make getting the object fun and exciting, not the handler's job back at the line.   

We also take care not to over-retrieve our pups.  We quit while the dog is still excited about doing more--not waiting until the dog is bored or tired.
As the pup gets more experience and more sure footed about retrieves on land and in water, we will add shotguns for live-shot flyers at a distance.  Then we will plant birds in a field and go "hunting."  At first, when pup gets a bird up, I use a starter pistol with a soft blast to simulate a shotgun.  Finally, when that is all going well, we can start shooting over the pup.  

Pups And Young Dogs Are Staked Out While Other Dogs Are Training.  We Call This A Chain Gang.  Jealousy Is A Great Motivator

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