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Discussion Starter #1
I have a 4 yo female lab I bought as a puppy from a reputable breeder. She has developed a fear of gunshots, fireworks etc. I can't trace her noise sensitivity to an event and I've only noticed it this year, but all summer we've had a hunt test group in the field next to ours several nights a week and the whistles and shots make her nervous. If we're outside, she wants to go in the house. Inside the house she recovers quickly. The group is about 500 yds. away so it's not even very loud. She loves to retrieve and I had hoped to at least get her JH, but I don't know if this is fixable.
 

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You say she loves to retrieve, what is she retrieving? I have turned a timid rescue into a solid retriever letting it see that shotgun report was always followed by a tossed duck and a retrieve. Ease into it. Could you walk over and join the hunt group next door? If she is not outright bolting, just timid you have hope.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
She is retrieving bumpers. I just tested the whistle with a retrieve and she had no problem. I will try to make contact with the group and if not maybe there is a local trainer who can do what you suggest (I don't have a gun or ducks, but might be able to locate someone who does.) I think you are right if she can connect the two it will help. I"ve tried throwing for her when the group is working, but she didn't want anything to do with it. Thanks for your suggestion.
 

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Years ago, Steve Rafe of Starfire for Dogs http://www.starfirefordogs.com/index.php?pr=Gunshyness created a system based on behavioral science. It uses a CD for sound. I used this system almost 20 years ago to fix a gunshy dog (a problem I created) and she went on to acquire a JH and upland bird hunt. Its a system I highly recommend. Alternatively, I believe Gun Dog Supply sells a similar system. I am unfamiliar with that system. Steve was available for advice when I used his system so long ago.
 

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If a dog's desire for birds is greater than it's fear of gunshots, you can fix the problem. You must get real live birds for training. The cheapest and easiest to use are pigeons. First, plan on at least 6 training sessions having an assistant throwing clipped wing pigeons, with absolutely no gun noise, no shots fired. Just let the dog have fun and build it's desire. Start at 50 yards in light cover and extend to 100-150 yds. Dog should be acting bird crazy by the end of 6-7 sessions. Then next day throw the first bird 150 yds away with no noise, then repeat the same mark and have the assistant shoot a .22 blank. Dog may stop and look around at report, if so have assistant holler, pick up bird and toss again. Let dog retrieve and then repeat. At end of this first session with the .22, dog should be retrieving at 100-150 yards without hesitation. If not, it may not be fixable. After dog is comfortable with a .22 at 150 yds., gradually shorten distance until you are shooting the blank pistol and throwing. Next, go back to 150 yds with shotgun, and gradually reduce distance until you can shoot over dog. All of this must be done with real live birds. Clipped wing pigeons can be used several times. After the first 6-7 sessions, when you add the gun the first time, this process should take another 10-12 sessions until dog has learned that a gun shot means birds. Trying to get by without real birds, or by shortening the process won't work. Do not continue to leave the dog exposed to the noise of the shooting next door until you've done the previous. If you have a group training next door, they should be able to help you find pigeons, and maybe even provide some help in getting through the problem.
 

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Don't confuse noise sensitive to gun shyness they are not the same. If your dog has ample drive you can totally fix this problem. I fix many dogs each year with this problem. When I say fix I mean completely make the dog goo goo ga over gun shots. Find a professional trainer who has a deep understanding of dog behavior, drives,and fears, Don't listen to anyone who has not personally fixed a couple dozen dogs with various personalities. There are more myths surrounding this problem than you can shake a stick at.
Pete
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks! Great ideas. Really helpful. I will ask around for the name of a trainer who has worked through this before. Pete, I think if she could make the connection between birds and retrieving it would make a big difference to her.
 

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Thanks! Great ideas. Really helpful. I will ask around for the name of a trainer who has worked through this before. Pete, I think if she could make the connection between birds and retrieving it would make a big difference to her.
Minduckers advice works on dogs without other issues. I'm not sure whats going on with the 500 yard fear factor, Hope this is a simple process for you
Pete
 
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