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Hello Everyone -

New to this forum. I am training my current 8 month old Lab for duck hunting, just as I did with my previous Lab, following Wolters book GameDog, as well as some tricks from a Retriever Club I went to 10 years ago (they've since disbanded I believe). Anyway, everything was going really. My pup knew all the basics (sit, stay, come) on and off leash, and was retrieving bumpers to hand 100% of the time, land or water. Then I introduced a blank .22 gun shot. Well, that sent him running under the deck. Scared the crap out of him. My previous Lab never flinched from day 1, so this threw me off. I got very frustrated with him as I repeatedly tried to get him to retrieve with a gun shot. I realize I should have stopped sooner than I did and backed off the gun shots....at least moving the gun shot further away with the help of my wife (I shot it right over his head as if we were hunting). After that day (about 2 weeks ago), I backed off and went back to no gun shots (next time I'll start with the gun further away).

That said, my biggest concern now is not how to re-introduce the gun shots. Rather, a bigger concern, my pup now runs to the bird/bumper, and now just stands or sits right next to it. He won't pick it up and he won't return it to me. If I start walking towards him, sometimes he'll pick it up and then return it to me. Sometimes. Often, he does nothing but sit or lay down next to it. I'm totally confused on what has caused this (the gun shots?) or now to fix it. I mean, this was a pup who was returning retrieves, with or without whistle twills, on or off land/water, 100% of the time, no questions asked. Now, its like I never trained him at all. Even once I walk up to him, I'll give the command GET IT, [I use "Get it" instead of "Fetch"] and he'll just look at me.

I'm so frustrated. He's 8 months old and was doing so well, and I feel like I've ruined him starting a couple weeks ago with the gun shots.

Thoughts? I appreciate any help I can get.

-AJ
 

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Proper introduction to gunshot is a must, as you are painfully aware.



For sure the improper gun intro caused the complications. Your best bet is to start at square one - very short hand thrown retrieves in which you do not require steadiness. Keep him excited and high to retrieve... I'd look into a Hillmann type approach (developing prey drive) to help you get your pup back.

And remember - this is not your pup's fault... so have lots of patience with him. If he had 'it' before... he can again.
 

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^that x2 ......also I would consider a force fetch program as well.
 

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Lots of info posted here on how to introduce to gunshots. Search.
 

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Try wing-clipped pigeons at a short distance with no shot. Lots of flapping, chasing, fun. As others have said, you need to get his retrieving juices flowing again before even thinking about re-introducing the gun. When he is foaming at the mouth to retrieve, introduce the gunfire from the thrower in the field with the wing-clipped bird. After having the gun in the field successfully for a long time, then you can try primer only popper shells out of a shotgun at the line. .22 blanks out of a revolver over a dog is never appropriate. It's just way too loud.

I wouldn't count on shooting over your pup this hunting season. This will take a good many successful repetitions to "fix."

Good luck!!
 

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Where are you located? You'd be surprised at how many people across the country (heck, the world) are on this forum.
Wherever you are, its likely someone will offer to meet with you and help if you're interested.
 

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Lots of good advice here all, thank you. I've gone back to square one, well not quite square one but I've gone back far enough I think. Just tossing dummies and getting excited upon his retrieves. I've also gone back to rewarding with treats. He is running hard to the dummy and then 50% of the time he retrieves and returns to hand as he was doing 100% of the time previously. But then a few minutes into training, he'll stop at the dummy and just sit and look at me confused. I'll continue encouraging him while he's sitting there with the "Get it" command along with a quick whistel twill, but he just stares at me with the dummy at his feet. Strangely, after about a minute of enouraging him with "Get it!" I'll just tell him "Here!" at which time he'll promptely pick up the dummy and return it to hand. I don't understand this. I've been consistent with my commands so it can't be that...the only common denominator is the gun, but why would that impact him retrieving and returning to me when he still goes all the way up to the dummy? I would think the gun shot would just send the dog away without ever getting to the dummy/bird (obviously I was shooting the blank before the dummy hit the ground and before I released him for the retrieve). I don't understand this, but I'll keep working with him...I can tell he's starting to come back around.
 

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Lots of good advice here all, thank you. I've gone back to square one, well not quite square one but I've gone back far enough I think. Just tossing dummies and getting excited upon his retrieves. I've also gone back to rewarding with treats. He is running hard to the dummy and then 50% of the time he retrieves and returns to hand as he was doing 100% of the time previously. But then a few minutes into training, he'll stop at the dummy and just sit and look at me confused. I'll continue encouraging him while he's sitting there with the "Get it" command along with a quick whistel twill, but he just stares at me with the dummy at his feet. Strangely, after about a minute of enouraging him with "Get it!" I'll just tell him "Here!" at which time he'll promptely pick up the dummy and return it to hand. I don't understand this. I've been consistent with my commands so it can't be that...the only common denominator is the gun, but why would that impact him retrieving and returning to me when he still goes all the way up to the dummy? I would think the gun shot would just send the dog away without ever getting to the dummy/bird (obviously I was shooting the blank before the dummy hit the ground and before I released him for the retrieve). I don't understand this, but I'll keep working with him...I can tell he's starting to come back around.
gunshy dog is best left to a pro. Its going to take a lot of time, patience, and a bunch of birds before this dog should be around another gun shot, and that at a good distance away. Seek hands on experienced help if you ever want to hunt this dog. Good luck to you and your pup.
 

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There is a very good article about how to introduce a pup to gunfire and it starts with making loud noises while feeding, etc. http://www.sportdog.com/hunting-training-tips/gun-shy-dogs-can-blossom
Yep THIS - loud noises while feeding - at a distance to start for sure. Then build up from a primer to a shotgun. I like my wingers set out there a ways while I feed so I can hit the button with the winger at distance while I feed. This more then works it will drive them crazy in a good way...
 

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But then a few minutes into training, he'll stop at the dummy and just sit and look at me confused. I'll continue encouraging him while he's sitting there with the "Get it" command along with a quick whistel twill, but he just stares at me with the dummy at his feet.
Here is your answer, quit while he is still doing it right. Do not let him establish a habit of not returning. Do 2-3 retrieves, then pocket the dummy and go for a walk, get him to relax. Get him out a lot but do not always do retrieves. I know you are anxious to see him as he was, but you will have to let him decided on how fast he recovers.

Since you fired a .22 right over his head for his "first" gun experience, it shows that you are not very experienced in training, you got VERY lucky with your first dog. Get with a club and get some experienced people to help you. Please do not take this as an insult, get some help and it will speed you along the "right" path. As others have suggested a primer only shotgun load in a shotgun at distance is much better than a .22, not the super sharp crack that will make the best of them flinch.

Good luck, he is young and I suspect will recover, whether he can hunt this year or not will depend on him and his response.
 
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