Advice please - gun shy dog being stressed by bird scarer

Hi Liz,

We breed and train gundogs for both work and competition and sometimes we have this issue with puppies that we are running on for training, so here we go?

Firstly, how old is the dog? Are you confident that s/he has never had a bad experiance?

Secondly, to deal with the general stress ask for vet for a DAP collar. In the UK one can also get a DAP spray, but I have not found it over here. It is similar to feliway spray.

Thirdly, start making loud noises when the dog is fed. I Start by dropping a metal food bowl on the floor some way away from the animal. It is trial and error till you find a distance at which the dog does not react adversly. As the dog starts to ignore the noise, decrease the distance. Also start to change the sound, burst a blown up paper bag, shout 'BANG', even burst a balloon. Slowly make noises outside of feeding times, but ALWAYS give a reward when the noise is made. Our aim is for a dog to either sit at the sound of a gun going off at 10 metres from the animal, or sit by one's side while one fires off a 12 bore shotgun. You do not need this type of standard.

Lastly, does your dog retrieve? If so aim for the dog to associate the reward of a retrieve with the loud sound.

Hope that this helps

My Labrador years back in England was more or less the same. There were bird scarers everywhere being a cereal growing area. He had to be taken as close as possible, given a treat each time there was bang and held on the spot consequently for several bangs. Since they are seasonal, I imagined that one year and he would be fine next. In fact it took most of the second year to re-educate him. Come the third year he heard a bang, sat and looked up at me... He wanted a treat but I had forgotten. Anyway, I weaned him off as far as possible but had to give him one every few bangs. Possible difference is that we lived in the heart of the village, well away from the cornfields so were not affected at home.