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Episode 20: Introducing Gunfire

Drew: Today we're going to talk about introducing your pup to gunfire and the importance of that at a very young age. Steve's going to talk about all the different tricks and tools for it and the different levels.

Steve: Drew, I think it's probably the most important thing. If you screw this up, you are in a hole, and it's a hole that a lot of folks never ever get out of. And I like to do it at a really young age. Like everything else, it builds on all sorts of things—it's part of the socialization, part of the conditioning, getting your dog used to noise and then moving that up to gunfire.

But the most important thing is tying the gunfire to birds. I want my dogs thinking birds when they hear gunfire. I want those two things to be hand in hand for them. That's crucial. And it will save you a lot of headache if you can get that done and get it done at a young age.

Things can happen outside of your control, whether it's a car backfiring, your next door neighbor shooting off fireworks, just something that spooks that dog. Typically, for me, I'm going to be at 12 weeks trying to add the gunfire in.

We've got a lot of different things that you can start off with. Something that's really important is having a visual that's positive. I've got this little bitty popgun. It's a little daisy popgun that I keep around puppies, because I want them to see a gun and I want them to see it in a positive situation. I don't want it to be something where the first time they hear gunfire is the first time they see a shotgun. We're going to use that around them at the house.

One of the reasons I like this is I've got young kids, so I can take it with me anywhere and it's not a big deal. The puppy gets to see it. Then we're going to move up to a really quiet .22 caliber blank. We've got the blank pistols, which are much safer than using anything else. And we've got different volumes when it comes to a .22 caliber where you can step up.

And then you can moved up to primed hulls or poppers to get a louder sound. But it's a gradual process. You don't want to just go out there and see if your dog is gun shy.

Drew: Testing and not training.

Steve: Exactly. When folks go, "Well let's go out here and fire off five rounds out of my 870 and see what happens." You scare them to death.

Steve: The key thing is once you start off with the lowest volume that you can and you work closer and the dog is comfortable with that, you don't want to immediately move up to a 12 gauge at that same spot. You want to back up again and repeat the process.

Same thing here, you cannot go to slow on this. If you go too fast, once you realize you've gone too far, it's too late.

Drew: The damage is already done.

Steve: Exactly. It is very important that once you get your bird instruction going, then you add the gunfire in and get them where they love them. It's a huge part of it. And digging out of that hole, it's almost impossible. It can be done, but...

Joe: It's a major job.

Steve: We start off, and it's one shot. After you get them comfortable with that you've got to build them up to multiple shots. Because if you've got three or four guys in a duck blind and everybody is shooting three times, that's a lot. And you can't take a dog from just throwing a dummy and firing one shot to taking them into a duck blind. You have to build up to that also.

Joe: Of course, you know, when you are taking a puppy into the duck blind, his first time you want to go with just one gun and get him used to that first. Everything is gradual. You don't want to do anything suddenly with a dog or introduce them to anything real sudden, like loud noises.

Drew: That's your Honey Brake Gun Dog Tip of the Week.

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