Why Taking Your Dog To The Gun Range To "Get Him Used To Gun Fire" Is a Really Bad Idea
All gun shy dogs are created, not born. While genetics can make a dog more prone to becoming gun shy, whether or not a dog will ultimately end up gun shy is totally dependent on their experiences with gun fire, not their genetics. How your dog is introduced to gun fire for the first time is a critical part of making sure your dog does not become gun shy. It’s also important to understand that a dog becoming gun shy is not always the result of a single event. In many cases the dog is exposed to repeated gun fire with nothing to help them overcome the stress of the experience, and the dog that was “always fine with it before” appears to suddenly become gun shy out of nowhere. That is why it’s important to continue to be careful with how and when your dog is exposed to gun fire, even after they’ve been conditioned to it.
Simply hearing the sound of gun fire is not a pleasant experience for your dog. It’s loud, they may not understand what it is, which is scary, and it can also be a physically painful experience at times. If you don’t know what I mean, go stand next to your buddy while he fires off a few rounds or go spend some time sitting in a duck blind with a few other people and see how your ears feel by the end. Remember, your dogs hearing is far more
sensitive than your own, so that effect is amplified for them. When training your dog to tolerate gun fire, the sound of gun fire needs to be associated with something the dog enjoys. Simply having the dog around the sound of gun fire so they “get used to it” is ineffective and is a great way to end up with a gun shy dog. People who enjoy the sound of gun fire enjoy it because of the experiences they associate with it, not because the sound of gun fire on its own is an enjoyable sound. We need to associate enjoyable experiences with the sound of gun fire for our dogs as well if we want a dog that will tolerate gun fire.
Taking your dog to the gun range to just hang out while you shoot is one of the fastest ways to create a gun shy dog no matter how careful you are. The timing of when rounds are fired and the distance they are fired from in relation to your dog is absolutely vital during the initial conditioning phase. Unless you are at the shooting range by yourself and can guarantee no one else will show up and you will remain completely alone, you do not have full control of either the timing of shots or the distance from which they are fired. It’s also impossible to use live fire to introduce your dog to gun fire by yourself, the process requires the help of another person who understands the process of gun fire conditioning dogs and is able to make the right moves at the right time. It's also preferable to use a specialized blank gun that replicates gun fire without actually firing a projectile instead of live gun fire for initial gun fire introduction if possible. You may know someone or know of someone that used a gun range to gun fire condition their dog that claims the dog turned out just fine. I promise you either there are issues with that dog that just haven't revealed themselves yet, or the stars just happened to align that day and that person just happened to get lucky. Getting lucky does happen but you also may not get lucky. Keep in mind that gun fire conditioning done right is usually a fairly simple and inexpensive process, whereas fixing a gun shy dog can be a highly complex, time consuming, and expensive process. If you are unsure of how to introduce your dog to gun fire, have any questions about the process, or you need equipment and/or a place to do it that isn't the gun range, please contact me and I would be happy to help you out!