View Full Version : gunbreaking a troubled dog?

November 6, 2011, 06:00 PM
hello all.
here's my problem. my mom has a beautiful yellow lab that is perfectly suited as a bird dog. he loves water no matter the temperature and if you throw a stick for him you'll be his best friend for a month. the only problem is once when he was a hell raising puppy he ran away and one of our neighbors nailed him with a load of bird shot so now he is terrified of guns. even paintball guns and firecrackers have him cowering at the front door, whining. do I have any hope of turning him into a hunting dog or is he just doomed to be the family pet?

November 6, 2011, 06:15 PM
Many a gunshy dog has been turned into a great hunting dog. Patience and showing him that guns and the noise they produce are a good thing is the way to solve the problem. If he loves it when you throw a stick, throw one and then shoot a cap gun or a .22 when he is a good distance away and actively chasing it. Once he identifies the sound of a gun to something fun, you can move up to shotties if need be. If he's afraid of the guns themselves, you need to have one around when he is fed. Just set it by his food bowl. Don't know about Idaho, but where I live, it's against the law to shoot someone's dog unless it is threatening bodily harm. Was there a vet bill?

November 6, 2011, 06:36 PM
we live in the country and everyone owns guns so it's impossible to tell who shot him, it could have even been some idiot driving by and wanted some target practice. we live on a reservation and stray dogs run rampant and some are even mean and large enough that they'll lead packs all over the county. generally shooting stray dogs is not frowned on outside of city limits but it is still illegal if it has a collar and tags(which this dog had). there was no vet bill but it is not fun to try and dig bird shot out of a 6 month old dogs rump. luckily he must have been several yards out and booking it because he only caught two pellets

he is terrified of the guns themselves so as soon as he sees them he runs back to the house...usually we can sneak one and he doesn't notice until we shoot then he finished the task of fetching but he dropped that stick at my feet and and ran straight for the house...I've tried hooking his leash to my waist and shot a few dozen rounds out of the 22 at some pop cans but the poor guy was shaking so bad I decided to stop before traumatizing him anymore.

I may try to either feed him with the gun sitting there or maybe make him sit and if he doesn't move after a shot I can give him a treat.

November 6, 2011, 10:16 PM
I think you're fighting a losing battle if he's that tramatized by the sight of a rifle.

November 7, 2011, 03:40 PM
It's pretty hard to get them de-sensitized to guns and gunshots. I had a rescue Weimaraner that someone had shot with a shotgun, you could feel the pellets under her skin on the right side of her ribs. She was scared of anything you pointed at her, including guns, cameras, fingers, etc, and any loud noises would have her hiding in the basement (4th of July was no fun, believe me). But she was birdy as heck, so we would get her out to chase cripples and find lost birds after hunters had gone through a field, and she would find and retrieve birds just fine as long as she didn't hear any shooting. I took some birds one time and laid them on my vest with my shotgun to take a picture, and she came over and laid down right next to the birds and stayed there. She kept giving the shotgun a funny look, but she was just too birdy to leave the birds. I worked her in the field without shooting over her, and she did great. Started walking with a 20 ga and letting her work, then eventually transitioned into shooting a bird when she was on point and letting her get it, then walking back to the car. As long as she was in the birds, the shot didn't seem to bother her. By the time she was 12, she was deaf as a doornail, so she would hunt just fine. So, in summation, yes, it can be done, but it takes time. Lots of time. And trust.

November 7, 2011, 07:19 PM
Where in Idaho are you? If you are close to Pocatello I could try to help you out. but if you are in N. Idaho then I think its a little far.

Go to family dollar or other similar store and get a cheap cap gun.

Leave the dog in another room and let him here you put the food in the bowl and then bring it into the room you feed him in. Do this till he knows what is going on every time.

Then when he is used to that, put the food in the bowl then fire the cap gun, then give him the food.

It will likely take a while but he should get accustomed to the shooting and when he does you can move of to a starter pistol that uses a 209 primmer, then you can move up from there. Just remember to go slow.

And in Idaho, if your dog is near livestock it is fair game even if it has a collar.

November 7, 2011, 08:39 PM
no livestock around, it's all wheat and pea farms mostly. he would have had to have run about 4 miles before he came to the closest livestock.
I'm up outside of Lewiston so Pocatello is a while out. I like the dollar store cap gun idea, he responds to treats and clickers pretty well so the cap and food idea sounds like that might be the best bet.

November 8, 2011, 02:27 PM
may be hard to train the dog from being gun shy some good ideas mentioned be interesting to see if it works for you.

November 8, 2011, 02:51 PM
I had a Shorthair, Abby, that I messed up and shot too close to her when she wasn't but 4 or 5 months old. She got real shy of the gun to the point she stayed between my legs every time I picked it up, no matter where. However, she loved the birds, retrieving and working. I sent her to a trainer that worked with her some and she broke it. I took her home and went hunting, as soon as I broke open the O/U its was the same. I finally switched over to a Benelli and she broke a little away and worked but was still hesitant. I put the gun down and let her work the birds, run them up and get really involved. I'd let her go and wait until she was well off before just pulling the trigger to make noise. Eventually she got to where she hardly ever paid attention to it and ran with the boys. She ended up being a heck of a birddog and family member.

I've had some good dogs in my life but there isn't one that can ever take her place with me. Give it time, be gentle but firm, don't push it too had and work with the dog, take what it gives you and build on it. Patience is the key to get one back.

November 8, 2011, 02:57 PM
I would love it if he would just cower between my legs haha, at least that way I would have something to work with...he's a very smart dog, he recognizes guns whether it's a paintball gun, a nail gun, a revolver or an AR15...he doesn't spook with pipes, poles, rebar, and doesn't spook when you point at him but as soon as he sees any kind of gun he is outta there.

November 8, 2011, 03:22 PM
Abby knew the difference between the Benelli and the O/U and a rifle.

November 8, 2011, 08:14 PM
The important part is to develop a routine and introduce it slowly. Pretty soon you will be setting the food dish down and then shooting the cap gun and he will be all over the food. But Like I said I would start out with letting him hear the food hit the bowl and then after he is used to that, shoot the cap gun either just before or just after the food hits the bowl. He will soon learn to associate the cap gun with something positive. Then you can move up to something louder like a starter pistol.

November 8, 2011, 11:30 PM
I start my pups with pans. Yeah, soup pans. Put the food down, back off 20-30 feet or more and and wack pans together. After a couple of days, , I do it closer, etc and soon right over them.

Then I go to the cap pistol, and I do it backed off, 20-30 feet or more. Work in close over a week or so.

Then .22, same deal, then ........eventually the .410, all starting from a distance, all slow and easy. Regular, every feed .

MIght try that w/ your lab. Heck, you might start with hand claps.

November 9, 2011, 06:46 AM
the pans wont work since it's not the loud noises that seems to disturb him but the sounds resembling gunshots. he loves clapping and isn't phased by banging metal. he isn't bothered at all when we're splitting firewood with mauls and wedges but if he thinks there's a gun he runs

November 9, 2011, 08:54 AM
You can and probably should try much of the advice given but in reality, I give you less (maybe way less) than a 10% chance of fixing this dog. Tried it all before on multiple dogs with zero success.


November 9, 2011, 09:52 AM
It can be VERY EASY to fix or it won't happen at all...

I prefer to find a shotgun sport field or a gun range if no shot gun field around...

Park a far piece from the place in the best "dog walking" direction... Walk the dog normally getting closer and closer with frequent stops and petting etc. until he calms down and repeat.

Work slow and steady... I have broke dogs of this who would pee down their leg if a firecracker went off 200 yards away...

Some dogs will not get over it, IMHO, no matter what that california people trainer says...


Brian Pfleuger
November 9, 2011, 10:56 AM
HogDogs advice is very good.... sounds very "Dog Whisperer" to me. In fact, Caesar had one dog with this very problem. His method wasn't EXACTLY like Brent's but very similar. Keeping the dog calm is key. Start with tiring them out with a good long run THEN do as Brent suggests.
Tired and calm makes good training.;)

November 9, 2011, 11:32 AM
I dont know what you are talking about with people trainers and caeser and brent and all that but yes it is all good advice :D

Brian Pfleuger
November 9, 2011, 12:42 PM
Caesar is "The Dog Whisperer"

Brent is HogDogs.... Also known as "The Pig Whisperer"


November 9, 2011, 12:52 PM
ok that sheds a little light on the situation.

November 9, 2011, 03:08 PM
Caesar Milan is the Dog Whisperer of TV fame...
His claim to fame is... "I rehabilitate dogs... But I train people."

So I call him the "People Trainer":o

He is usually SPOT ON but I feel there are genetically pre-disposed dogs who will never "rehabilitate" including some "dog aggressive" specimens from "game dog" stock we use as catch dogs... some just cannot be broke and not all need trained by "Bad Owners" to be severely "broken arrow"...


November 9, 2011, 03:53 PM
I sure find the original post unusual or the dog is!! The dog was shot once in the ass, hit with just a couple pellets and is now afraid of even the sight of a gun, but not the sight of vehicles. That is one heck of an intuitive dog!!! I just think this is strange.

November 9, 2011, 05:09 PM
Bursek, Don't try to reason... I have many dogs who never felt the "hot shot" but they find some where else to be when I walk out with it...

Many of my dogs don't like sight of a gun. They will not be happy about goin' for a ride if I take a gun with me and it is a single shot ever month or so to one per week that they know.


November 10, 2011, 11:27 AM
you may have unwittingly gave me another idea. he loves to go for rides, especially if he gets to ride in the back seat instead of the bed. maybe loading him up and putting a couple guns in the seat next to him might help to break his initial fear of the guns themselves.

November 10, 2011, 06:17 PM
Load the guns first and see if he will load... I have dogs that relate the sight of a gun in my hands in the house to the boom they will soon hear but none have a problem with the gun leaning on the wall and such...

They ain't afraid of guns... they are afraid of me with guns...:D


November 10, 2011, 07:41 PM
Place a gun down next to his food bowl when you feed him. If he won't step over the gun to eat pick up his bowl and try it the next day. After a couple of days he will be hungry enough to eat next to the gun. After he begins to be comfortable with the sight of the gun start handling the gun as you give him his food. If he balks pick up the food, keep withholding food until he eats while you handle the gun. Progress to working the action after placing the bowl in front of him. When he is completely comfortable with the gun around food, progress to fetch, going through the steps as you did the food.

This will take alot of time to do right. DO NOT try and test him by firing the gun.

As for as fetching he should have a dedicate fetch object/Bumper. Only give him a couple of retrieves at a time and put up the bumper with him wanting more. Quit throwing sticks. Work the action around him before going for rides and other times when he is excited. When he is completely comfortable with you working the action of your shotgun around him in any situation, you may begin conditioning him to the sound of the shot. Use a helper to fire the gun at 200 yards while you throw his bumper. Your helper should fire the gun while he is running toward the bumper. If you notice him hesitating on the shot, stop for the day. Move your helper farther away next time and have him shoot away from you. You need to be extra cautious since you are conditioning him to overcome a bad association with guns. This procedure may takes months. His strong desire to retrieve will be the drive you need to make him overcome his fear of guns. It will be alot of work and there are no shortcuts. Use a shotgun, rifles have a sharper and scary crack to most dogs.

Good luck, looking forward to hearing how he progresses and which approach you choose.