Question of the Day: How Do You Cure A Gun Shy Dog?

 

It had been almost a year since I had a dog; Lola died last January. So when I noticed the puppies needed adopting at the animal shelter, it was a no-brainer to take one home. Clover is a mutt from a litter of eight and the smallest of the bunch. She had the best personality and the cutest white-tipped tail. But Clover is gun-shy, and I’m at my wit’s end.

She freaked out so much on New Year’s Eve over the fireworks, that she huddled under my bed shaking and I couldn’t get her out for an hour. After that, I left her home when I drove to the outdoor shooting area here in the middle of nowhere Wyoming to get in some trigger time.

Clover hates being left home alone; she cries when I leave her. So I decided to take her with me to the range the next time, thinking she would be OK knowing I was making the noise. I left her in my Jeep while I was shooting with a window down so she could see me and get some cold, fresh, winter Wyoming air. When I was done and took my ear lugs out, I could hear her whining in Jeep. Sure enough, she was huddled on the floor on the passenger side shaking like a leaf.

I cuddled her and tried to get her to crawl up onto the seat so she could look out the window, but she wasn’t interested. It took almost an hour again to get her to calm down and stop shaking.

This is a smart dog. Clover was house broken in only one month of having her as a nine-week old puppy. She does all the standard “sit” and “stay” commands. She also knows “down” and “load up” (get into the Jeep.) But I have never had a dog that loses it this much over loud sounds.

It’s not a deal breaker, and I love this dog, she’s not going anywhere. But I’m not a dog trainer and I’ve tried the few tricks I could find on the internet. Most tips are for hunting dogs, but Clover isn’t going to hunt. She’s a family dog, so introducing “birds” seems pointless.

One suggestion: make the noise first (gunshot) then giving your dog something she likes, like a favorite toy or treat. I tried this. I shot my gun ONCE, walked back to the Jeep to my cowering and shaking pup and immediately gave her the dog jerky she loves.

She grabbed it from my hand but didn’t eat it. She dropped it on the floor mat of the Jeep, stared at me, and looked forlorn while very obviously still shaking. I tried it again with the same results. Nothing is taking and at this point, I feel a little cruel trying to force her to accept loud noises like gunshots.

Clover and I may have to compromise. I’ll let her ride with me to run errands and get groceries, but she’ll have to stay home when I go shooting. Unless there are any other non-hunting type suggestions I could try. I don’t really want to put my dog through this much longer. I would rather have a happy puppy, but I’d also love to bring her with me wherever I go too – that includes when I go for a quick trip to shoot a few rounds.

comments

  1. avatar Anon in CT says:

    Silencers?

    I don’t really hunt, though have gone on guided pheasant hunts with professional dog handlers. I’ve always wondered what sort of damage the shotguns do to the dogs’ ears, given how sensitive they are.

    I’ve fired the Salvo 12 and if I were duck hunting with my own dogs, I’d definitely see about getting the Salvo.

    1. avatar Stuki Moi says:

      I wonder if desensitization, by way of starting with silenced 22, until (or if, I guess) she is accustomed to that, then progressing suitably far in the direction of .50BMG unsilenced, will do the trick.

  2. avatar anonymoose says:

    Dog jerky?! CANNIBAL POOCH!

  3. avatar Ed Rogers says:

    I recommend getting trained by a certified trainer…Not just a PetSmart employee.

    1. avatar Casey says:

      First, much like firearms trainers, there’s really no standard for a “Certified dog trainer.” What about the NRA certified trainers, you say? Well, what about the Petsmart certified trainers, I say.

      Second, yes, do find a good instructor. But it’s not like children where you drop them off and they come back learned. Good dog training is as much about teaching the owner as it is teaching the dog.

      Sort of like gun classes, in fact. My guns are dead stupid – they just sit in the safe all day while I work. No drive for self-improvement what so ever.

  4. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    That is one cute pup!

    I once had a dog that would push furniture around looking for a hiding spot whenever he heard thunder, fireworks or anything similar. We had him for many years and it never got better.

    We finally took to drugging him with sedatives during thunderstorms. I don’t know if he was any less stressed but at least he didn’t tear the house apart.

  5. avatar DrewR says:

    I would try incremental increases. Go get yourself a five dollar cap gun and try the jerky treat with that. Then maybe move up to 22 cbs, then 22 from a rifle, then from a pistol, etc.

    1. avatar peirsonb says:

      Your mileage may vary. My male dog is ok with everything EXCEPT .22.

  6. avatar MisterAmax says:

    I’m no fancy dog expert but I have learned a lot raising my first German Shepherd. Maybe I got lucky…Maybe some breeds are more confident than others. I do believe…And I’m probably going to get flamed for this, that it’s not so much the dog as it is the owner. They live their life off our vibes, character, moods, ect. He was great outdoors. You could fire off a 45-70 and he’d just wag his tail and get ready. Look around then at you almost like saying “what are we gonna kill boss”?

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Not the owner.
      Some dogs are that way.
      As mentioned above, I had a dog that would freak out at loud noises and I’ve had others that would sleep through a war.

      1. avatar The Gray Poseur says:

        Why does everything have to be “fixed”?

        Sounds like “Everything-has-to-be-perfect Mommy Syndrome.

        1. avatar MisterAmax says:

          What are you replying to, grey poseur? Lol

      2. avatar Carl says:

        Yup. Some dogs are afraid, most others are not. Not much you can do – exceopt love that dog and get another (labrador) that likes guns.

    2. avatar Mag says:

      The white knights are going to be looking for you now!

  7. avatar Shire-man says:

    Some never get over it as it can be not simply frightening but physically painful to the dog. In such a case waiting for old age and deafness would do it.

  8. avatar EJQ says:

    I would recommend a certified trainer who trains hunting dogs, if just for advice.

    However, I was an owner of a mutt that had been abused, before she found me. I had her for eleven years. If she was between me and the trash can, if I threw a wadded up piece of paper at the trash can, she screamed. If she was asleep on the floor, and I stepped over her, she screamed. This didn’t stop, no matter that she was loved and protected with me. I had to be careful.

    Used to think it was cute that she went outside during a rain storm, to catch rain drops, until I thought I might be the one person who supplied her with a water dish.

    1. avatar No one of consequence says:

      We had one like that. Sweetest dog in the world, but wouldn’t let anyone step over her, or just stay real close while she was lying down. Took me about a year of being gentle and kind to get her to let me pet her behind and below mid-back.

      I really would like to have some … words … with whoever did this to her.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        “I really would like to have some … words … with whoever did this to her.”

        Oh, yeah. My SPCA rescue-e was 1 year old when I adopted her.

        Drop-dead gorgeous furball that hid the first few months under the bed, behind the couch, *anywhere* I couldn’t get to easily. Cried like she was being physically hurt if I ever picked her up. Took her to get spayed and asked the vet what those mannerisms meant, the doc said she was probably in a home with kids that tortured her. It took *months* for her to trust me, but thankfully she did.

        Those that torture housepets should be tortured themselves…

  9. avatar Joe R. says:

    Grenades. START with grenades. Then gunfire won’t be a problem.

    Kidding, I know a few people who do the dog-car-sickness drug thing too.

  10. avatar Matt in Idaho says:

    Give a friend a walkie and a 20ga, put about 50-100 yards between the two of you and have the friend fire in the immediate moment that you throw the bird(or tennis ball).

    This isn’t about training your dog to hunt but getting them excited and distracted enough to not notice the gunshot and that only happens in that moment when you first throw the bird.

    Have the friend with the gun move a little closer and repeat this multiple times until the friend is right next to you firing.

    1. avatar Thomas says:

      I’d agree with this approach, except start with a smaller report from a cap gun or anything that makes a sound similar to a gun, just not as loud. Also do not under estimate the powerful instincts of hunting and their ability to get her thinking about something other than the noise.

      I bet if you put a dead dove under her nose and then played ‘hide and seek’ as a game (put her in the Jeep, hide the bird, then let her out and play ‘fetch it up’ with lots of praise when she finds it and gives it), you could turn gunshots into signals for ‘game time’. It will take a while and you’d have to have a lot of patience, but I bet there’s enough lab in her to get her there. It might take at least a season or two, but once she makes the association between guns and birds, she’ll be golden.

  11. avatar LimaDelta says:

    Use a suppressor.

  12. avatar Windingo54 says:

    I agree with DrewR… just start quiet then build up. All my coon and bear dogs are conditioned to loud noises from the time they are weaned. When I feed the pups and also before I let them out to run around and play I beat on their food bowl with a big spoon, then give them their food. After a while of that I fire a kids toy cap gun at the shed, then feed them. After a few weeks I get closer and closer firing the cap gun then feeding them. By the end I can shoot the gun over their heads and they don’t flinch. Eventually they associate the gun going off with something fun happening. They will then be perked up and ready when the .22 or 30-30 goes off and the coon or bear comes out of the tree. With an older dog you may have to go even slower and more gradual. I think they even make canine ear plugs, I know they make them for horses for use during cowboy mounted shooting. Best of luck and just be patient!

    1. avatar bLoving says:

      I’ve read about the cap gun idea as well – snapping away with that (at a little distance) during feeding times. As far as sedating the pup enough to calm the nerves, a vet recommended a baby benedryl hidden in a finger-full of peanut butter about an hour or so till the fireworks start. We had to do that to our border collie during every thunderstorm, new years and July 4th.
      Finally, look at Mutt Muffs! From Sporty’s Pilot Shop. Softening the noise might help!

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        “Finally, look at Mutt Muffs! From Sporty’s Pilot Shop.”

        *This.*

        It’s ear-pro designed for dogs, by a pilot who’s dog hated the loud cockpit noises small planes make.

        http://www.safeandsoundpets.com/index.html

        Dog’s hearing is better than ours, if gunfire damages our ears, it likely does theirs as well. If Clover will be doing home watch-dog security for your family, deafening her will hinder her in that regard.

        Picking up a can will save yours and hers hearing as well…

  13. avatar KBonLI says:

    I don’t believe there is anything that can be done.
    When dogs are chosen for Police or Military work they are culled by exposing them to gun shots. Only the ones that don’t flinch are chosen.
    You have a great companion that unfortunately doesn’t like loud noises, not so uncommon.

  14. avatar Huntmaster says:

    You can’t cure every dog but you can try. Get a moderately loud cap gun. Fire it off outside or in another part of the house but close enough that she can hear it clearly, a couple of minutes before you feed her. Get her to associate it with mealtime and with anything else she enjoys, like when you come home. Keep a starter pistol outside. When you come home, after leaving her alone, fire it BEFORE you enter the house. Every time. If you have nosy neighbors close by, you might want to give them a heads up. Gradually make it louder by doing it closer to the house, then finally just outside the window. The coming home thing will work if anything does.

  15. avatar PRK543 says:

    Such a good looking dog. Your dog sounds anxious, have you tried something like a Thunder Shirt to help calm her? We have one for one of our dogs and it works well around the 4th of July, New Years, and bad thunder storms.

    Then again, that dog is afraid of the velcro on her thunder shirt(among other things), so your mileage may vary. But she is our tripwire, she always knows when something out of the ordinary is going on around the house.

  16. avatar Rabbi says:

    I trained dogs for competition for 8 years. Part of it included gunfire.

    First, stop doing anything that you know will be a problem with your dog. Only expose him to gunfire under controlled situations from now on until the problem is 1000% fixed.

    If a dog is not properly introduced to potential problems, like loud noises, it may not be possible to retrain. It is possible that such fear was too deeply ingrained and at very impressionable age.

    Some breeds are more shy, fearful and impressionable than others, and not all dogs within the breed share the same general characteristics of the breed. I have had many German Sheps and all but one shared the generalities of the breed. My current one acts nothing like a typical German Shep.

    Even with strong breeds like Sheps, pups and adult dogs need to be introduced to gunshots slowly. Start with a 22 at a distance. As they get accustomed, move a bit closer. It helps if the handler stays with the dog to show that the noise is not a problem and to comfort the dog if needed. Play with the dog while the shots are being fired and teach the dog to ignore the noise. Treats are good as well. Gradually decrease the distance if there NO sign of problems. Once you can shoot a 22 close to the dog without ANY sign of a problem increase the caliber and start again at distance and work your way in. If there is a problem, go back down in caliber and increase distance. This may take many sessions to achieve.

    My dog ignores gunfire, but barks at lightning. Not all noises are the same to dogs.

    1. avatar mer says:

      There’s a lot of good in this post; you need help. You can’t shoot guns and assure the pup “not to worry” at the same time.

      Male Siberian I had, loved the rain and thunder and noise (good thing, I love rain and thunder).
      Female Sibe, not so much, when it was time we actually made sure 4th of July wasn’t the last thing she heard.
      Female Berner, I swear a loud fart and she’s trying to hide under the covers, so it gets “fun” in t-storms and fireworks.

    2. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      what is the sound of lightning?

      1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

        It’s called thunder.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          At a distance, it’s a ‘Delicate Sound of Thunder’…

    3. avatar AD says:

      I must defer to the Rabbi’s expertise. I can only offer experience. I’ve had dogs that were frightened by thunder. The same dog would attack lit firecrackers. None ever had a problem with gunfire but most would get nervous around a “stranger” even holding a firearm. I would also venture to guess that the puppy is picking up cues that you don’t even know you’re giving. Good looking dog BTW.

  17. avatar Anonymous says:

    A hard kick? Just kidding.

  18. avatar Jomo says:

    So many expensive solutions! They do actually make ear-pro for dogs. They’re called mutt-muffs, and a lot of military units swear by them for working dogs. One dog-handler had a lot of trouble getting his dog to be ok riding the chopper to work. He got some ear-pro, and the dog was a completely different animal after that.

  19. avatar Aven says:

    The problem may be , in part, because the dog lives in quiet surroundings and is not accustomed to loud noises. It would be easier if the dog grew accustomed to loud noises with crime and or cops and robbers shows played loudly on TV. I live in the country where there are gun and farm noises all the time. I go outside at my back door and shoot a few dozen rounds frequently. My dog, goats and donkey pretty much ignore me when I shoot my guns. My last dog would stand beside me when I shot my guns until she went blind. After she went blind, she was scared by loud noises. She lived for 13 years after she went blind and she never ceased to be afraid of loud noises (guns or anything else).

  20. avatar Isaac says:

    It sucks particularly if you are the sort that likes the dog going everywhere with you… look sometimes tricks and training work (with a young enough dog and enough money/time). But some dogs just are gun shy Bear (pictured above and to the left) was not particularly found of firearms but we finally got him to the point where I could park in the shade leave the windows rolled up and do a range session… now Glock (small black lab mix) thinks it’s great fun to go to the outdoor range the biggest problem I have with him is he likes to try to play fetch with things down range (like the roller ball style targets and spent bullets), also Glock’s attitude has started to rub off on Bear who can finally be around gunfire and not freak out. It really all depends on the dog, the intended purpose for keeping the dog and willingness to burn resources on trying to train the gun shy out of the dog.

  21. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Get another dog and start shooting a 22 around them when they are puppies.

  22. avatar John E> says:

    ear pro

  23. avatar Hannibal says:

    “When I was done and took my ear lugs out, I could hear her whining in Jeep…”

    If you go shooting without ear protection and you might whine too, particularly since dogs have much better hearing than humans (well until they get deafened).

    “Clover and I may have to compromise. I’ll let her ride with me to run errands and get groceries, but she’ll have to stay home when I go shooting…”

    Makes sense to me.

  24. avatar SpeleoFool says:

    First thought was, can you make sporting clays out of bacon? 🙂 Start by just flinging them, then progress into shooting them down.

    Honestly, I have no idea if that would help, but it sounds like fun. 😀

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Sounds like a waste of perfectly good bacon.

  25. avatar VerendusAudeo says:

    The problem is that you tried to reward her for exhibiting the behavior you’re trying to abolish. Whoever told you to pair a favored treat with something she absolutely hates has no business trying to modify behavior. Just for starters, you’re going to want to keep her next to you when you’re shooting, so you can actually control the ABC contingency (antecedent, behavior, consequence); start with something small and relatively quiet, like a .22; treat each shot fired as an independent trial, and reward her for not startling with a ‘good girl’ and a tiny treat. If you’d like, I can write up a plan for you.

  26. avatar strych9 says:

    In my experience it’s an individual dog thing. One of my Plotts doesn’t care about gunfire at all. He ignores it as if it’s not happening. The other hides from fireworks and gunfire. The GSD doesn’t care about loud noises like that but otherwise isn’t particularly brave. Of the other dogs I’ve dealt with some don’t care about a loud noise at all, others take note of it but are not afraid and others flee in terror or cower at your feet. Really, dogs run the gambit on this.

    While some people don’t think it’s acceptable, leashing a dog to a tree where it can’t hide and firing off a ton of rounds nearby may break the dog of being gun shy. It also may not. With my fearful Plott I can do that and after 100 or so rounds he calms right down and has no further problems. Unleash him and he ignores the continued gunfire and doesn’t sprint back to the vehicle. But once I take him home and he reverts to a fear of loud pops immediately. Take him back out and repeat the procedure and the result is the same.

    Some dogs just “don’t hunt”. Even if it’s a hunting breed.

    As for the idea of giving the dog a treat while shooting. While viable in concept this is difficult to pull off and, the way you’ve done it, can’t be pulled off (no offense) because there’s too much delay between action, reaction and reward. Consider a Skinner Box and what it does to pigeons. That’s how rewards work in reality. Reward must be given immediately for desired behavior or even an attempt at it. (Think about teaching a dog to roll over. You have to teach steps in the process because the dog won’t understand the command in it’s entirety at first.) Long story short: a major concern with this idea is that you’re accidentally rewarding the dog for the behavior you don’t want (a fear response). You may end up conditioning the fear out of the dog but still getting the displayed response because the dog doesn’t actually understand what it’s being rewarded for.

    Animals consider the reward to be due to something they’ve done, not something you’ve done. If their response is to cower in response to the noise and you reward them you’re not giving them a spoonful of sugar to cut the taste of the medicine, you’re rewarding the cowering.

    If you’re trying to do this with a reward, the dog has to be right next to you and the reward has to be nearly instantaneous so that the dog associates the treat with the sound rather than associating the treat with her own reaction to the sound. That’s almost impossible to pull off in the real world unless you have two people working with the dog and even then it’s not easy with a fearful dog.

    Realistically, I’d try tying the dog to a tree and shooting until the dog realizes that it’s not being harmed by the noise and calms down. Then you can start with rewards for good behavior while the shooting continues. Mean as it seems you have to ignore the dog’s fear response the same way you ignore a dog crying when beginning crate training because your attention is a reward in and of itself. Again, it may work and it may not. Some dogs just never get over the fear.

    Another note, random reinforcement schedules are the most powerful, which is part of why gambling can be addictive. Don’t reward the dog every single time it does what you want. At best this will take longer, at worst the dog will stop every time you shoot a gun and expect a treat. Start out giving them regularly and then taper the reward schedule off once the desired behavior is achieved. Then expand the scope of desired behavior.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      tied to the tree reminds me (among other things) of arguing with wifey about letting the kids cry it out in the crib.
      i suspect sara’s milk may let down.

  27. avatar Cloudbuster says:

    I have a horse that’s gun shy. Most of my horses are either fine with it, or can become accustomed to it after a few hours of practice, but he just gets more and more wound up the more he has to be around the shooting. I finally just decided it wasn’t worth the battle with him.

    The whole ordeal was just too corrosive to the trust I was otherwise building.

    Some horses (and dogs) just aren’t meant to be gun companions. I leave him at home when there’s going to be shooting.

  28. avatar peirsonb says:

    It’s a tricky problem. I’ve got two dogs, one gun shy and one not.

    Even the not gun shy dog freaks out over fireworks and thunderstorms. It’s amazing how fast a 130lb lab can turn into a lap dog.

    Have you tried taking her where she can SEE you shoot? That’s about all I can figure with the big boy, when he can SEE me shoot he’s fine. He can’t see/process where the noise from the fireworks is coming from. But he’ll let me fire a 12 GA. over his head.

    It may also be a pitch thing. While he’ll stick to my side shooting almost anything, he runs and hides when the .22 comes out. I figure there’s something about the pitch of the .22 that bugs him.

    The gun shy dog is another story. She didn’t mind the fireworks, but runs and hides from the guns.

    I would warn you, almost everything I’ve read trying to fix the fireworks/thunderstorm thing warns about being TOO comforting to the dog. It can end up reinforcing that reaction and actually make it worse.

    1. avatar Ing says:

      True. What would comfort us won’t comfort a dog in circumstances like this. If you try to comfort them during the ordeal, they just think you’re cowering with them and it can end up reinforcing the fear because they think you’re suffering the same fear they are, and they feel like nobody is in control.

      Like Chris’s video below says, dogs need an example of confidence and control. If you give the dog a less intense/overpowering dose of the fear stimulus and allow it to see that you’re not concerned in the least and are doing normal things, that will help. Won’t cure them, but will at least help reduce the fear level.

      I’d go with what Chris, Strych9, and Rabbi said.

      I freely admit that I’ve never trained dogs with guns or done anything more than rudimentary obedience, but their experience accords with what I’ve seen and read.

  29. avatar Cloudbuster says:

    Do you have hearing protection for her? We use earplugs on the horses, and that surely reduces the shock of the noise, as well as protecting their hearing, of course.

  30. My GSD could care less about loud noises, unless she thinks it’s an intruder. Now freshly cut grass? Terrifies her.

    1. avatar Rabbi says:

      Dogs r funny animals!

  31. avatar Chris says:

    I used this with out Beagle mix we got from the pound. It worked like a champ. She’s 5 now and has no issue with gunshots or fireworks. Just follow the directions on the screen. Good Luck!

  32. avatar jwtaylor says:

    You are doubling the dog’s anxiety by separating yourself from her while the loud noises are going on. She likely feels a separation from the pack as well as a danger to herself and the pack. The pack is life.
    Cap training, or .22lr training may work, but someone else has to do the shooting while you stay with the dog. She has to see that you are enjoying it, that the pack is together and ok with this.
    My biggest problem with my house dog (Belgian Malnois) is her trying to bite whatever I shoot. The first target I hit and she is a fur missile right for it. She bites, paper, wood, steel, whatever the bullets hit. It makes follow up shots challenging. It makes her so happy it is hard to stop.

    1. avatar Bob Valdez says:

      jwt,
      “Malinois” ? FIFY.

  33. avatar Bob Valdez says:

    The interwebz can be your friend…try it.

    Every dog is different with some breeds being easier than others.
    It can take time for some and some may never accept or loose their fear of gunfire, lightning, fireworks, etc.

    Preparing your dog for gunfire / introducing your dog to gunfire.

  34. avatar Ralph says:

    I was a dog trainer for several years and lost count of the number of dogs I trained in general obedience, perimeter security and bite work.

    Your dog is “situation shy.” It’s not uncommon. In her case, it seems that she went through the “golden period” of puppyhood and confidence-building in a cage, so it’s no wonder she is what she is for the time being.

    The answer is a slow desensitization process. When I trained gun dogs who were NOT gunshy, I still had to desensitize them by setting off a couple of firecrackers at feeding time, when they were hungry and expecting to be fed. After a period of time, the dogs would associate loud bags with something pleasurable, just as Pavlov’s dogs would begin to salivate when he rang a bell.

    This is a process. Expose your pup to different things every day, but stretch her out gradually over time. Don’t overload her or you will do more harm than good. You might want to start by feeding her in the car when it’s parked in the garage or driveway and, for now, shield her from scary noises. Take baby steps.

    RF says that the key to dog training is to start with a good dog. It seems like your baby is smart and wants to please. Build on that, but go slow. You have time, so what’s the hurry?

  35. avatar Hello World says:

    Can’t believe all the commentator drivel. Anyway, I had this problem with my dog too, scared to death of gun sounds. Asked a nice lady, how she got the dogs to behave, and gave me this advice. It’s simply Pavlov’s theory in action (which you tried, but did not go far enough).

    Take her to a gun range (a sporting clays place if you have one is best) and just sit there with her (outside) and start far away from the noise. Every time you hear a gun sound, give her a tiny treat and keep petting her. Do this EVERY time you hear the report of a gun. Keep petting the dog while giving her treats (even if she doesn’t take them). This reinforces the safety of the sound and calmness of you. It takes time and consistency.

    It took 2 days with my dog, now she just sleeps when guns are going off and gets annoyed if you block her sun.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      how droll.

      1. avatar Hello World says:

        It’s worked for multiple dogs, but thanks for playing.

        1. avatar strych9 says:

          Beating the living shit out of kids turns some of them into model citizens. Others it turns into career criminals and psychos.

          Anyone who says “Here’s how you fix it, 100%” is lying to you or ignorant of the topic at hand. Like people, dogs have different personalities and psychological makeups. Some simply can’t do what you want them to do.

          The Marine Corps has researched this extensively since 1942 and the two constants they found were that not all dogs can be trained to do what the Corps wants and not every person can be a competent dog handler or trainer. Things can be done to increase the percentage chance of success but nothing is guaranteed.

        2. avatar Hello World says:

          @Strych

          Dumb Comments by you in order:

          1. Who’s beating the dog? You’re training them to NOT be afraid. Similar to potty training, you’re doing a reward based system that’s been proven to work in ANIMALS (and humans). Hence PAVLOV’S DOG.

          2. This is a DOG and NOT a HUMAN. They lack the power of reason, thus the reference to children is silly. You can also train children to not be scared of things.

          3. Doing what the Marine Corps wants and training them to be around gunfire are two totally different concepts. We’ve come along way since 1942.

          @Ralph

          Have trained more than one dog, and since I understand psychology far more than you and use psychological studies in regards to animals/human behavior (i.e. training of dogs) thus you would know of their effectiveness. If you have a rebuttal that’s actually sound and goes against years of psychological study (science) I’m all ears. Imbecile.

        3. avatar strych9 says:

          For someone who claims so much knowledge on the topic you sure talk like you don’t know a damn thing about it.

          What works with one dog won’t necessarily work with another dog of the same breed never mind a dog of a different breed. As I said, claiming something like this works all the time is either ignorant or a lie. You can pick which one you’re engaged in.

          Pavlov’s system isn’t foolproof and only someone of limited mental capacity would say it is. Pavlov trained dogs to salivate based on a noise, that is a natural response to knowing they were going to eat, something they naturally due. They eat instinctively. It’s much, much harder to condition a dog to do something every fiber of it’s being is telling it NOT to do because you’re fighting the animals survival instinct. We’re not talking about breaking a dog to a leash here, we’re talking about training them to ignore things when their survival instinct, the most powerful instinct they possess is telling them that something is seriously wrong.

          If the dog is hardwired to fear something more than most animals do no amount of training is going to overcome that. People are the same way, which is why in select cases the military has executed people for something known as “cowardice”. No amount of training would overcome their aversion to combat. Dogs are no different in respect to their potential predilections. Both species fall along something called a “standard distribution” those at the extremes will be extremely easy to train or impossible to train. Look it up.

          Further, the fact that the dog isn’t human is completely irrelevant to this conversation. Fear isn’t based in the rational brain and it often overcomes the rational part of the brain so we’re basically talking about creatures on the same wavelength when they’re scared shitless. Some people just shut down and the same is true of dogs. Training will fix this in a healthy majority of people and canines if they fall along most of the bell curve. Those at the extreme are “unfixable” in this regard.

          “Doing what the Marine Corps wants and training them to be around gunfire are two totally different concepts. We’ve come along way since 1942.”

          Well since you moved this right past civil and on to insults, allow me to point out the facts of the matter in an uncivil manner:

          Your first sentence is bullshit and if you’re not bright enough to know it then you probably have trouble with shoes that don’t feature Velcro.

          Your second sentence here proves that not only do you not know know a goddamn thing about dogs or psychology you don’t know fuck all about English either. “Since” means “the intervening period between the time mentioned and the time under consideration, typically the present.” That is to say the USMC has studied this extensively from 1942 to the present and looked at tens of thousands if not a hundred thousand canines. But hey, you’ve trained a few dogs to fetch and shit so you know better, right?

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      You trained one dog and that makes you an expert? What a moron.

  36. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    i had a customer who mentioned his frustration at having spent some serious coin on a blue tick that turned out to be gun shy. he had a wonderfully pragmatic view of the situation stating simply that the problem was “nothing thirty cents worth of ammo wouldn’t cure, but the wife and kids have already fallen in love with her.” shrug.
    anyhow, really handsome pooch there.
    i’ve known plenty that spent the 4th on doggy downers. (i was going to edit that to be more specific, and then realized…)
    and i knew one that barked at wind.

    1. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “i’ve known plenty that spent the 4th on doggy downers.”

      Something to ‘mellow out her mutt’?

      http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/puppy-uppers-doggie-downers/3004208?snl=1

  37. avatar Pete37 says:

    Ralph is spot on. And other commenters make some excellent points about how important it is to make sure you are not cuddling/providing affection when the dog exhibits fear, stress, or anxiety.

    Dogs and humans give and recieve affection differently. Remember that all forms of affection (verbal praise, physical affection, treats, etc) are basically a reward for your dog (or should be treated as such).

    If you pet/comfort the dog when it is acting fearful, you reinforce that behavior. Sometimes the best thing to do is completely ignore those behaviors. And if the dog is acting anxious and following you around the house, you can send the dog away with a command like “go lay down” (or “go to your bed” works for my dog).

    Focus on providing calm, steady leadership for your dog. This is more important for some dogs than others.

    I had a Jack Russell Terrier that was a total couch potato. He went thru hell before he got to the shelter where I found him, but he always had a very calm, brave confidence about him.

    My amstaff-rotty-whippet mix is a great dog too, but he is very enthusiastic. He can get over excited and he is very sensitive to the energy of the humans around him. He also had a tough situation before coming to me, but with a LOT of patience, calm/direct leadership, exercise, and training he is doing great.

    So IMO heres the recipe for success: Start slow. Stay calm. Keep it simple. Break things down into small steps (as small as you can). Do not provide affection unless you want to reward what the dog is doing. Always be patient but be direct when you want to correct bad behavior. Go on LOTS of walks together to build your relationship.

  38. avatar Bob Valdez says:

    Maybe she wants her own gun ?

    https://youtu.be/_FYEyUPOi3w

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      But not a Glock.

  39. avatar Sam says:

    Start with your vet and “doggie Prozac”. It will help with the separation anxiety too. Then, introduce her to a range where they’re shooting trap/skeet/clays.

    Start her way back from the range and then slowly move her closer over a period of time. Maybe, starting out with both of you in the car windows up for a couple weeks, then windows down for a couple weeks, then standing by the car, etc. don’t force it and try to make it fun for the dog.

    It’s a long process and some dogs never get used to gunfire.

  40. avatar Thump_rrr says:

    You can also try a pair of Mutt Muffs.

  41. avatar GD says:

    Before you find a trainer, try to condition your dog to loud noises by giving treats, firing your gun, allowing them to smell the weapon, and giving treats again. Repeat this technique for a couple of weeks and see if you notice any differences. If there is no noticeable difference, then get your dog on some anti-anxiety medications like Elavil, Sileo (calms without sedating), Xanax, or others (note: talk to your vet about this). Putting your dog on anti-anxiety medications will lower his reaction to noise. You should also add noises to daily life to desensitize the dog – like dropping a tin can and other such things. After some time, If all this doesn’t work, then try an animal behavior specialist.

  42. avatar Andy Johnson says:

    I didn’t see this answer, so if I missed it I apologize for repeating. If I recall correctly Military Working Dogs begin desensitization training at something like 500 yards from someone firing a .22LR at a rate of 1 shot every 20 to 30 seconds. The dog is actively engaged in another training activity during the process. They very slowly decrease the distance and increase the rate of fire until it reaches “normal” for both. Then they increase the caliber very slowly. You watch the dog for any signs of distress and back the intensity down until the dog is no longer in distress. You also provide breaks in the training so that the dog doesn’t associate the banging sound with training in general. This is a very long process for someone who is not training the dog 6 to 10 hours a day. Since you have a puppy, they are probably reacting to the scary sound and the absence of you, so you should be able to desensitize them with a great deal of love and affection. Also, if you are keyed up they will be keyed up so you will need to be ultra in control. Good Luck

  43. avatar Paul McBride says:

    Little bit of noise first. Then build it up.
    Remember, the dog has far more sensitive hearing than you do.
    Give some hugs.

    Walk her from the parking lot up to a range.

  44. avatar Michael says:

    I had a GSP that was deathly afraid of gunfire and fireworks, I tried birds and .410s along with a gunfire training CD at home. The dog was fine with the CD, but still freaked in the field.

    Can you setup a playdate with other dogs and maybe set off some fireworks? I would perhaps try the mutt muffs and see if that will take the edge off.

    1. avatar Craig says:

      Sorry to hear about your dog, Michael. Apparently you didn’t get the memo. Dogs do not dig fireworks – well, unless it’s been vetted for police patrol or some such gun street work but, well, I cringe around fireworks myself.

  45. avatar Craig says:

    My experience with gun dogs is that we do not breed the gunshy ones that may occasionally come out and we certainly do not expect them to tolerate gun fire as just another noise when they are not working.

    I don’t like the sound of gunfire and neither does your dog. We tolerate the sound of gunfire because that’s part of getting the job done. Purposely exposing dogs to gunfire, especially dogs known to be gunshy, when they are not working is bad manners.

    Get a job!

  46. avatar ATTAGReader says:

    Sara, your dog looks like ours. Ours is 8 years old and has been terrified of loud noises since we got her from the animal shelter as a puppy, a little older than yours when you got it. We think the dog was abused by its first owner, who adopted her and then returned her to the animal shelter. Fireworks and even the sound of a pot dropped to the floor terrify her. She gets in the bed during thunderstorms, and there is no way I would ever take her to a gun range. Yet there is a gun range within hearing distance of our house, and she ignores the sounds. They are clearly gunshots, and we live close enough to distinguish the shotguns from the rest. But they are background noise, not terribly loud. It seems like the suggestions in the other responses to condition the dog by starting the gunshots at a distance and bringing them closer over time might work. Good luck to you.

  47. avatar Billy Coleman says:

    Some dogs just aren’t wired right for certain situations, so starting with decent genes is a big help. Even then, early bad experiences can hurt a puppy’s development. Socializing a dog to all the crazy elements of human civilization it will encounter is a SLOW, GRADUAL process that starts the day you bring them home. It involves treats at first and then other strong, positive reinforcement that immediately follows whatever stimulus reaction you are trying to influence. Eventually the stimulus should grow to be at least as intense as any likely to be encountered in real life. To do any less with a puppy and then throw them out in the modern world is unfair at best. Waiting until they are grown and past known sensitivity stages makes the task difficult to impossible, especially if the negative reaction has been unknowingly reinforced by a less than perfect owner. My Sch 3, PSA 1 Dobermann was trained to want to jump and play whenever a .38 blank was shot in his near vicinity. Fire engine horns and sirens, elevators, garbage trucks, dumpster lids slamming, low flying 747s, livestock, whatever. We did it all.

  48. avatar adverse4 says:

    Teach it to shoot. Best way to lose fear of firearms.

  49. avatar RidgeRunner says:

    Lots of interesting, intriguing and downright moronic advice/anecdotes here, but in my not insignificant experience a gunshy dog tends to stay gunshy. Had a beagle hound that trained better than any dog in the pack then on its first hunt ran for the hills on the first shot, Hammer (son of Blue and Sally) became a house dog and never hunted again.
    Over the course of many German Shepherd Dogs, some ignored shooting in puppyhood then freaked out as adults. Others continued to ignore. Every dog is different.
    I believe what Mr. Ralph puts forth makes sense in general terms. In my case, the dogs I have had and do have that freak out on shooting, I don’t shoot around ’em. Because it freaks them out. They all follow me to where I shoot, the ones that don’t like it split when i start shooting, the dogs it doesn’t bother lay down behind me. They live longer than the ones that lay down in front of me.

  50. avatar Nonny says:

    Some dogs are gun shy and cannot be broken. If you do not cull such a dog entirely, you should at least cull the reproductive system to keep the trait from being passed on. Some dogs are afraid of fireworks and are not gun shy. They tolerate the gun because they relate it to something they like. I have no idea why people will bother with a dog that has bad traits. If everyone just culled the bad ones and got a dog that worked, we’d have to cull fewer pups.

    Anyhow, the standard technique for gun dogs is to start firing quieter guns such as a pellet rifle or .22lr subsonic around when they’re being fed or doing something else they’re sure to be very attracted to. You work up from there. Mostly, though, a dog that isn’t gun shy just isn’t. You may have irreversibly made the dog gun shy with your target practice shenanigans. Then again you may not have. If you did, don’t feel bad. More dogs are ruined by inexperienced trainers than turn out to be useful, finished dogs. Getting some pup of dubious breeding and expecting it to turn out perfect on your first go-round is unreasonable.

    If you’re stubborn and want to make an unlikely to succeed project out of this dog, there is just one therapy that is slightly likely to condition a gun shy dog to tolerate gun fire. You get a series of recordings to be played as prescribed over a period OF MONTHS. If you’re that serious you will search it out on your own. My advice is that if the dog won’t do as is, just cull the beast and find a breeder with a proven track record of producing pure bred pups that will do what you want. You can develop emotional attachments to the good ones just as easily as the rejects.

  51. avatar Hemiram says:

    I’ve had only two dogs, the last two, that weren’t totally terrified of fireworks. The last two, Doberman/Lab/Husky? mixes,.and littermates, just didn’t care about any of that. No fear of fireworks, thunderstorms, hard rain on a car roof, screaming rockets, or anything else, except one thing. The vacuum. Not all of them, just the one here at home. The same make and model one at work barely woke them from a sound sleep. I don’t think this is really fixable. I tried with other dogs the escalating sounds of gunfire, and it did nothing. The CD I played at ear splitting volume caused them almost no stress after the second day of playing it. My old Pit mix was terrified of everything. Rain, thunder, fireworks, hard wind whistling, but the vacuum did nothing. He just would sigh and move over, if I bumped him with it. They all acted this way from the first day I got them as young pups, good or bad. The Pit almost went catatonic when on the second day I had him I took him with me to the carwash. My two older dogs seemed to enjoy the ride through it. One of the last two was a nervous wreck anywhere except home, and in the back yard, the other one, well, he was scared of almost nothing, except the vacuum cleaner. Looks like a great dog, and she is what she is, I don’t think this can be fixed.

  52. avatar Hemiram says:

    I don’t think it’s the owner at all. I’ve had dogs over the last 50 years that ranged from absolutely terrified of storms, fireworks, guns, to dogs that couldn’t and didn’t care at all. My last dogs didn’t care, one of them would just get angry at being woke up from his favorite thing to do, sleep, but the only thing he was scared of was one of my two vacuums. The same exact model used at work didn’t bother him at all, but the one at home made him a quivering mess. His littermate, who was a nervous wreck about almost everything, wasn’t phased by loud noises either. I got them at 8 weeks old, like most of my other pups, and they all were scared or not scared from the first day I had them. One of my dogs was even terrified of the sound of rain hitting a car roof. I found out the second day I had him when I took him and my two other dogs to the car wash. I really thought he was going to die of fright when the water started spraying on the car. He, like most of my other dogs, was scared of any loud noises.

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