She has been a partner on hunting trips and shooting range trips for the last year. She’s heard guns for a quite a long time. I can’t get her to even except a 22 at ease. She’s been around guns long before I entered this forums. I understand what you were asking though.
These are good questions. Answer bobman's and I may have a few others. Also, no more trips to the shooting range. Too many variables can happen while hearing the gunshots. My questions are if she's around guns, then she's been exposed to birds? What does she act like if birds are present or she knows they are there? Still scared? Less Scared? I have recently broke 2 dogs that were gunshy. A lab and a shorthair. It took a month for the shorthair cause he was more sensitive but the lab took about 12 days. There are things to try but need more info....
You don't "Gun Break" a dog. Instead you introduce them to the sound and teach them that the shot of a gun leads to positive things. I start my dogs off at 7 weeks of age. First, I have a training pistol, not a 22, but one that shoots the short crimps. I have a helper 80 yds away. As the puppy is diving into his food bowl for his supper, my helper fires off one single shot as the puppy is eating. We do this for one week. The next week we move to a distance of 70 yds, then the next week is 60 yds. Eventually when we get to about 50 yds we stop.
The next step is to have helper stand at a distance of 80 yds and fire off a single shot at the puppy is running hard for a retrieve. Then we work are way in and continue till the pup is about 4 months. At this time I repeat the procedure on the retrieve with a 20 gauge light load and have the handler about 100 yds away. Then work are way in to 50 yds.
When the pup is about 5 or 6 months old and ready to begin formal training, I have a dog that knows that the gun shot means retrieve and birds.
You teach a dog and break a horse. You need to stop what you are doing and begin teaching instead of testing before you ruin the dog completely.
I'll take that as a yes you have tree squirrels in your area... good this sure fire way to get a dog past its noise shyness.
First let me define that a gun noise shy dog with good prey drive normally just hasn't yet made the connection in his mind with the
"flush/boom/ I get to bite the critter" sequence
what you are going to do is teach him what the sequence is so the dog expects to grab a squirrel when the gun fires
1) start taking the dog on a leash to a local park or woods full of squirrels.. city parks work best because the squirrels are relatively tame and sassy. DO this before work at dawn if you can, there will be few or no people and the squirrels are active.
What your going to do is sit in a place with your back up against a tree with the dog sitting between your knees and let the dog start to watch squirrels running around doing their thing. Bail them if you have to, everyones bird feeder is a squirrel magnet.
Once he really starts looking like he’s dying to chase one, wait until the squirrel is far enough away from a tree that its going to be very close call for the squirrel then let him off the leash and let him chase it. If you time it right the squirrel will just barely beat the dog back to a tree and hopefully the dog will be looking up at the squirrel maybe even yipping at it.
That’s good you want the dog really fired up and looking up at the squirrel.
encourage him with lots of “good boys”
now lead him to another part of the park and do it again
Once you can tell he understands the drill usually about 6-10 days of these "hunts" you will move to step two
2) getting him to expect the kill (NO FIREARMS)
Obviously you will have to find some spot you can legally ( or at least get away with killing squirrels)
Forget any kind of firearm 22 blank pistols are not a good starting point for a gun-shy dog.
The dog at this point should by now be running squirrels up trees and dancing around under the trees watching them run the limbs.
If he’s to that point you will start shooting the squirrels back out of those trees.
While you are working on step one buy or borrow a powerful pellet rifle and practice with it away from the dog so he’s not hearing it, a noise shy dog will be afraid of it.
Do this practicing until you are confident you can whack a squirrel on the first shot with it, if you can put a scope on it all the better. (22 caliber minimum) pellet rifles like a good Benjamin work well.
Start killing squirrels, try to kill them with one shot or at least hit them so they fall, the dog will kill them.
NOTE You may need an assistant at first to do the shooting. He shoots you while you hold the dogs collar and talk it up with “get it get it” when it falls. Some dogs are so afraid of guns they will run at the sight of them so have your assistant have his gun on a sling until you have control of the dogs collar. You want your shooter to walk out in front of you and your dog and raise the pellet rifle and kill the squirell WHILE THE DOG IS WATCHING the squirrel so the dog sees the entire process.
DO this for a couple weeks until the dog gets to the point that when you raise the pellet rifle he’s expecting the squirrel to drop for him to catch.
When you get to the point the dog knows the squirrel is about to fall (you will see it in his actions when you raise the gun) you will move to step three
Do not rush to this step the dog must be expecting a squirrel to fall.
3)you are ready for the firearm part.
This is the transition where its very important you kill with one shot (use a heavy load of fours and a 12 guage Ideally one with a long barrel you can aim well)
It’s extremely important that WHEN the dog hears the shot he SEES the squirrel falling toward him instantly. This is where his prey drive combined with his expectation of grabbing the squirrel will overcome his fear of the noise.
1)use a gun set up so you only shoot once and the squirrel falls immediately, a long barreled gun ( less muzzle blast)12 ga with a IMP cylinder choke, is what I used for this purpose.
2) practice so you hit the first squirrel you shoot at
If your aim is true the dog will pounce on the falling squirrel and ignore the gun.
ONE SHOT ONLY MAKE IT COUNT NO BOOM BOOM BOOM
Don’t even put more than one shell in the gun so you aren't tempted. Before you try this take the shotgun somewhere where the dog cannot hear and shoot some stationary cans, aiming a shotgun is different than wing shooting.
Take the easy shots don’t shoot at a squirrel you might miss
3) talk the dog up telling him what a good boy he is in an excited voice so he’s really fired up.
Next you can move to birds if there are wild bird in you area great if not pigeons will be fine.
Now you need to start over, you have to build the same prey drive and birdyness you did with the squirells
1)First put the gun away, then work the dog for a while on birds, get him birdy really talk her up after the flush with no gun shots, just work her on birds until he really shows he knows what a bird is and is really birdy with great excitement. If he chases flushed birds that’s good let her, in fact encourage it, let her know that finding and chasing birds is really a good thing. You can fix this later if need be.
2)Next do the same thing for a week or two ( a lot of bird contacts and points )with the gun and no shells, let her get used to the sight of the gun until she ignores it and focuses completely on the birds.
3) then with a 22 rifle ( NOT A PISTOL) and the weakest blanks available, start shooting after the flush when she’s chasing and really keyed up, shoot just once use a single shot bolt action 22 rifle, not a pistol, point the muzzle away from him and shoot only when she’s really focused and chasing the flushed bird.
4) Shoot only once every two or three birds for the first week, until she pays no attention to it at all.
5) If he shows any fear or uncertainty go back to just bird work until he is focused on the birds again.
6)after she shows no sign of hearing the 22 with the light blanks....
Just like the squirrel drill its time to shoot a pheasant
Again use only one shot use a stout load so the bird falls and make that shot count this part is important because he has to see the bird fall at the instant the shot occurs, that will overcome any residual fear she may have.
7) next hunting season only hunt her by yourself and try to never shoot more than once, do not hunt with multiple people NO BOOM BOOM BOOM at missed birds, one shot if you miss let it fly off.
After a season she should be OK but I would be cautious even second season.
Never shoot at a bird that volunteers up that the dog is not after, this will set the dog back
don’t allow a multiple shots to be fired over the dog
never allow this dog or any dogs to be exposed to fireworks
I bring my whole kennel in my house on the fourth of JULY and turn up music so they don’t here the fools around my home with their fireworks. I hate fireworks.
Squirrels are cheap plentiful and every dog on earth loves to chase them. I’ve used this method to cure dogs so afraid of guns they would tremble and hide at the sight of one
Note you will need a small game license for your shooter.
The real key is go slow stick with each step until the dog shows its really progressed, don’t rush to firearms hunt squirrels with the pellet rifle until the dog is a squirrel hunt fanatic before you move on to firearms