I took my Labrador pup TTF CRAIGHORN KIFFIN TRAD on his "first goose hunt" today at the ripe old age of 11 weeks. Before you go crazy on me, NO we did not shoot with him present. Pre-hunt, Trad rode quietly in his crate to our hunting destination (something he now seems to enjoy). Upon arrival, Trad walked among the decoys as we set the rig. He explored our gunning gear bags, the blind, viewed our guns, and had lots of opportunity to socialize with my gunning partners, all making the experience fun for Trad ( a positive experience within the context of a typical field hunting environment. He also had the opportunity to come to the recall whistle, and to sit on command.
Once our decoys were rigged and legal hunting time approached, Trad was crated in my vehicle which was brought to a location away from the gunning area, but where he would still hear light pops while in the comfort and security of his crate. I have been slowly and progressively exposing him to a variety of sounds including gunfire from continually lessening distances, no signs of any aversion noted. Distractions of food, positive interaction with humans, dead birds (pigeons) have all helped in making any association with distant gunfire a positive one.
Post-hunt, Trad was brought back to the area of the immediate hunt, he played among the decoys, gear, blind, and was introduced to the 10 Canada Geese we took this morning. Trad got up close and personal with the big honkers, his tail wagging rapidly as he took in all the scent his wee nose could inhale. Again, lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement heaped on Trad by the praise of all my gunning partners.
Four of our 10 geese were banded in Labrador, the geese were taken in Connecticut. Trad will be going again in the morning, early developmental training with focus on the positive experience and exposure for the pup. This will surely transfer to a progressively better gundog trainee as time moves forward.