If you’ve ever seen a hunter chasing his dog through the woods–or better yet, carrying her out of the field because of a syndrome commonly called “gun shyness”–you’ll also get to hear the hunter’s favorite choice words as he huffs and puffs back to the vehicle. Just because a dog is of a certain breed does not mean the animal is automatically going to accept loud noises and/or gunfire as natural occurrences. As in other aspects of animal training, a little time and patience will in most cases acclimate a dog to the noise of a gunshot.
1. Start training in a gradual way. Begin when the dog is a pup. Every few days, blow up a paper bag and pop it. Start at a far distance and move closer each time. This process usually takes a couple of weeks, but some breeds may adapt to the sound much sooner than others. Gauge how comfortable your dog is based on your knowledge of his disposition.
2. Move on to a firearm after the dog is used to the paper-bag trick. Again, starting small is the key. A .22-caliber rifle or pistol makes very little noise compared to a 12-gauge shotgun or deer rifle. Again, from a distance, repetitively fire the .22 caliber, moving closer to the pet every few days until she becomes used to the noise.
3. Take your dog hunting on a regular basis so he can become familiar with the sounds of gunfire. With a little time and a lot of patience, you will have a dog that will not cower or run when gunfire is heard.