Don't jump the gun
Shooting Times & Country|August 05, 2020
Don't jump the gun
A gun-shy puppy is a trainer’s worst nightmare so dogs should be carefully introduced to the sound of shot, says David Tomlinson
David Tomlinson

THERE’S PROBABLY no greater disaster that can befall the gundog trainer than to discover that their talented new puppy is gun-shy. Many breeders maintain that gun-shyness is hereditary, which I’m not convinced about, but I certainly wouldn’t take the risk of breeding from a seriously gun-shy bitch. The more highly strung a dog’s temperament, then the more likely it is to be gun-shy, and it is probably this nervousness that a bitch will pass on to her puppies, which might well also become gun-shy.

I have heard claims that some breeds tend to be more gun-shy than others, but I’ve never come across any proof that this is so. There’s also a subtle but vital difference between a dog that is gun-shy, which is incurable, and one that is gun nervous. With sensitive handling, the latter can be overcome, but it is easy to turn a gun-nervous puppy into a gun-shy adult.

I have had springers that were profoundly gun-nervous, but not really gun-shy — on a shooting day they would work happily with no apparent fear of guns being fired around them. Indeed, they would look toward the sound of the shot in the hope of spotting a falling bird, and thus a possible retrieve. Take the same dogs to the Game Fair, however, and they would become distressed by the constant barrage of shots from the clay lines. It’s worth adding that these spaniels disliked thunderstorms and were spooked by fireworks.

In contrast, I have had other springers from the same line that were unconcerned by gunfire or fireworks, such was their relaxed approach to life. It’s a reminder that each dog is different. I have also had dogs that became nervous about thunderstorms as they got older, having been unconcerned in their younger years.

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August 05, 2020