Many folks pick up new bird dog pups in early summer. Consequently, family picnics on the 4th of July often provide the first opportunity for that pup to be shown off to the extended family. As you celebrate our nation’s independence this week, beware of two common causes of gunshy bird dogs.
Bird dog puppies should be methodically introduced to gunfire in association with birds and a fun atmosphere. A step-by-step process helps prevent gunshyness, reinforces that a gunshot equates to a retrieve and helps connect the dots through the entire process of what you’re expecting out of that pup as your new hunting companion. Unfortunately, a fun family evening watching fireworks can seriously frighten a pup and create a fear of loud noises, and consequently gun shyness. While I have no doubt thousands of folks who read this blog will say their bird dog pup was exposed to fireworks and didn’t end up gunshy, in response, I’ll say it’s not worth the risk testing your luck at the expense of a new pup.
As a first-time owner of my very own bird dog pup in 2007 I’d been coached to avoid fireworks, but parades caught me completely by surprise. At 11 weeks old, my shorthair accompanied my family to a 4th of July parade in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. As I recall, it was a beautiful day with lots of people and lots of other dogs for my pup to socialize. It was a wonderful scenario until the local high school band started to march down the parade route pounding on drums. I looked at my wife in panic, scooped up my puppy and yelled back to my wife that I needed to get “Trammell” away from the drums. Fortunately, I was able to get a few blocks away without any negative effects, but I still consider it a close call. The other piece of that story is I ended up sitting in some other dog’s poop as I waited out the parade on a random patch of grass next to a bank building. As I remember that day, it’s not one of my favorite memories.
Any pro trainer will tell you the training necessary to reverse a guyshy dog is a long, arduous exercise. It’s always the best plan to avoid it from happening in the first place. To read more on the topic, I’d suggested the following articles:
How to Prevent a Gunshy Dog by Brian Lynn of Outdoor Life
Keeping your Dog from Becoming Gunshy by Steve Snell of Gun Dog Supply
The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.