Gun sense
Sporting Shooter|April 2020
Get this wrong and you risk ruining your gundog for life. Howard Kirby explains how to correctly introduce gunfire to a dog and ensure a lifelong positive association with the gun
Howard Kirby

In previous articles, we have taken a look at encouraging our young gundogs to accurately mark the ‘fall’ of a dummy or game. Once in the shooting field, the ability to do this will be inextricably linked to the dog’s understanding of the Gun, both shooter and machine.

An experienced dog will immediately be aware of the sight, sound and presence of a gun, understanding that this combination is a part of the pack – an essential part of the hunting team. If you stand back and watch a dog hunting, it will react with anticipation and excitement to all of the cues given off by hunters as they prepare to take a shot. The closing, click of the safety catch and the mounting of a gun to the shoulder will prompt a learned response – hopefully a positive one. Unfortunately, if you meet a gun-shy dog, you may well see a very negative and fearful reaction to all of the above.

While some dogs are perhaps predisposed to being noise-averse, this fear will have been caused by a loud bang that was probably avoidable. Clearly, we need to introduce our young dogs to the gun carefully! Here at Lains Shooting School and Mullenscote Dog Training Centre, our dogs hear the constant noise of gunfire in the background. While this is helpful, it is not enough to enable a dog to understand what a gun does and how it will bring him reward. It’s essential we go out of our way to show the dog exactly what the gun brings to the party.

THE GUN

STAGE ONE

For the gun owners among you, I recommend that you carry a gun during training, with either dummies or food. The dog will then get used to seeing the gun while having a good time!

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