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Old March 30, 2010, 11:45 PM   #1
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Guns and Dogs ....

This was closed rather quickly, so I hope any responder keep it limited to guns and dogs.

I have a Service Dog, Standard Poodle. I just got him a month ago. He takes the place of a cane I used for 35 years. I hunt Coyote, fish the California Sierra creeks and lakes (all within reach of a disabled old man).

My question is centered around the dog and guns. One of the strengths of a dog is his great hearing (well beyond mine). I would still like to go up into the high Sierra Nevada mountains and hunt Coyote and carry a handgun when fishing, or just hiking/taking pictures. What damage is done to a dogs hearingwhen exposed to gun fire, and how have you hunters minimized it ? Were you successful in minimizing hearing loss in your dog ?

Moderator: This is important to this old man. I carry and hunt with .44 magnum, .357 magnum and .30 Carbine. I would really like to know if any of these are a 'Worst case scenario", and if any method might mitigate a 'Best case scenario', if there is one.

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Old March 30, 2010, 11:54 PM   #2
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As far as I know animals' hearing is subject to exactly the same damage as human hearing when exposed to gunshots.

I seem to recall seeing an ad for hearing protection for hunting dogs but I can't recall where it was.

And that's about the extent of my "expertise" on that topic!

Here's an article on the topic. The author notes that no hearing protection is available for hunting dogs, so my recollection mentioned above may be incorrect.
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Old March 31, 2010, 01:15 AM   #3
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Good article. Even though about shotgun hunting, the dog's ear would not know the difference between a shotgun and a .30 Carbine.

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Old March 31, 2010, 02:49 AM   #4
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I take my Blab (boxer/lab mix) to the range often. Her hearing acuity has not seemed to suffer compared to our homebound cocker. She still can hear a cat tiptoe outside in the yard from our bedroom at night.
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Old March 31, 2010, 04:28 AM   #5
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Old March 31, 2010, 07:24 AM   #6
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I am no expert but I agree with JohnKS, a dogs hearing can and will be affected the same as ours. I have some family members who have experienced this firsthand with their hunting dogs.

There is hearing protection that you can buy for your dog and I would strongly recommend it. Just do a search for ‘Mutt Muffs’ they come in different sizes and colors as well. I am sure there are other brands as well. Your dog will still be able to hear to a certain extent with the muffs on but I would not recommend sending the dog away or leaving it alone with the muffs on.

The loss or temporary blockage of hearing by the muffs should not present any major communication problems either if you are not bird hunting or sending your dog out and away from you. While you are with your dog you can use your body language and hand signals so you won’t lose your line of communication with your dog. Dogs are masters of body language…at the risk of straying off topic so I will cut myself short here.
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Old March 31, 2010, 07:42 AM   #7
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Last year I "retired" my 13 yr old lab from her hunting duties and even the last two or three years she was limited to light duty, more of a let's take the girl for one last hunt kinda thing. She grew stuborn and has lost a lot of nose but her hearing is just fine.

Like with a human, make sure the dog is behind the muzzle of the gun and he/she will be ok.
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Old March 31, 2010, 07:44 AM   #8
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My last two Boxers were quite skittish around gunfire and would take off to hide. My short, fat, retarded, black and tan coon hound with hip dysplacia didn't care. My current American Bulldog just couldn't care less what goes boom. He appears to be impervious to anything I would think to be unpleasant, and is much stronger than one would think. He can be a little impulsive. Good thing he can't drive, or work a trigger.
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Old March 31, 2010, 08:05 AM   #9
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Some years ago there WAS an ad, I forget for whom, showing a family at the range with their Golden or Irish Setter type dog.

The dog was also wearing eye protection and shooting muffs.
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Old March 31, 2010, 08:06 AM   #10
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We wear hearing protection because we are so close to the source of the sound when firing. But sound dissipates quite rapidly, especially when shooting outdoors with little to create echoes. I would think that a dog off to your side, or better, somewhere behind you too, would experience a drastically reduced pressure wave then the shooters ears would.

All the charts about peak sound energy from firearms is usually measured from the side and within 12 inches or less of the muzzle, and sound intensity is attenuated according to the inverse square of the distance from the source.
Just keep some distance between you and the dog when actually shooting, say a couple or few meters, which should drop the sound pressure well below the peak intensity.
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Old March 31, 2010, 08:21 AM   #11
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I don't know how well your trained service dog will work in the field. However, dogs have MORE sensitive ears than humans. If you love your dogs take care
of them. This includes their ears.

There is a product called MUTT MUFFS made for gun dogs. They are basically shooting earmuffs made for dogs. All gun dogs should have a pair. Most dogs hate them at first but practice and be patient.

(Hunters should at least wear foam earplugs when shooting, too.)

Also, if your dog is a water dog; be sure to clean inside the dog's ears (with proper ear cleaning solution) not just give them a bath. Lake and river water is dirty. It gets in their ears and causes alot of bothersome ear infections.

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Old March 31, 2010, 09:32 AM   #12
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I have an Old English Sheepdog who gets out and about with me a lot, including some range-time now and again. I usually try to get him to stay back from the firing line, mostly just to keep him out of the way. Un fortunately, he usually insists on laying right at my feet.

I do get concerned about his hearing, but he refuses to tolerate any kind of protection. More often than not, I just take the extra time to take the dog somewhere I can leave him to get some range time in, then come back and pick him up when I am done. He's not happy, but atleast he can still hear just fine.

I've been out bird hunting with dogs plenty of time; they never seem too bothered by any of the shots, nor do they seem to have any hearing damage from them. They've never been my dogs (mine would be pretty worthless as a hunter) so I can't say much about them, though.

Interesting topic.
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Old March 31, 2010, 09:36 AM   #13
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Good information ... thanks. This Service Dog is like my shadow, I could not leave him behind if I wanted. Where I go, he will go. I'll either have to stop hunting/shooting, or seriously address the sound levels for the dog.

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Old March 31, 2010, 09:58 AM   #14
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Different reactions from my dog....

He is scared witless by fireworks - hides under the bed for the entire weekend of July 4th, but shows indefference to my target shooting - sits right behind me while I plink away. I think the associates the target shooting with play activity since he knows the noise is originated by me, and the randomness of the fireworks sets him off. Of course, the fact he is behind me while shooting probably lessens the effects also.

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Old March 31, 2010, 10:29 AM   #15
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Like the OP, I also usually have a dog or two on stand when calling coyotes.

I also have friends who do the same.

I'm careful about shooting over or near my dogs. I'd rather let a coyote go than take a chance on damaging my dogs hearing (or worse). My dogs have shown no signs of hearing loss (selective hearing...yes, but not loss).

A buddy of mine once gave me a hard time about not shooting over his dog at a coyote that circled downwind. He told me that he often shot right over his dog, and just made sure that he wouldn't hit the dog.

And to his credit, he's killed a lot of coyotes, and has not hit any of his dogs in doing it. That said, his favorite dog is mostly deaf now in her older, mostly retured state. She's been losing her hearing for several years, and it's really bad now.

So yes, dogs are subject to hearing loss just like humans are. If anything, their hearing is more sensitive, and might be more easily damaged.

As I said above, I limit that by being careful about how close I am to them when I shoot. Even a little ways off is better than being right next to them, and them being behind you is better than them being in front or under you.

In an emergency SD situation you do what you have to do, but for general shooting I'd try to limit the dog's exposure if you can. Take them with you, and I certainly feel free to shoot around mine, but I'm careful about where the dog is when I do.

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Old March 31, 2010, 11:25 AM   #16
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The Mutt Muffs sound like a great idea -- don't know why I haven't heard of them before.

If your dog is a professionally trained service dog, you might contact the folks who trained him for help and/or advice about training him to accept the muffs. I've been around a few people who train those dogs, and I'd bet they'd be delighted to help, given that you care enough about the dog to want to protect his hearing.
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Old March 31, 2010, 12:45 PM   #17
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Mutt Muffs

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Old March 31, 2010, 06:53 PM   #18
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I think the dogs breed may also have an impact on hearing loss, hounds with longer floppy ears have somewhat of a natural ear muff, where as dogs with straight pointy ears do not. Granted, no one to my knowledge has ever done a scientific test though.
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