Scared gundog: When I fired the starting pistol during training recently, my gundog ran back to my van and tried getting into it, presumably to get out of the way.

Is she a lost cause and, if not, what do you advise to try and overcome this problem of a scared gundog?

Mark Whitehouse says: Try and convert the scared gundog’s perception of loud noises and bangs from an unpleasant experience to a pleasant experience. Gundogs enjoy feed times, so as she starts to eat, clap at the front of the kennel and watch her reaction.

If the dog leaves the food and retreats to her box, take her into the garden (a more open space) and once again encourage the dog to her food.

Increase the distance and clap again, assessing the reaction every time and reassuring her with lots of praise.

spaniel shoot day.jpgMake the scared gundog aware that noise is not something to be frightened of.

Providing there is no sign of nervousness, work your way closer so you can eventually stand over her and clap without visible signs of fright.

Repeat this exercise with the starting pistol once again at a good distance to start with and then work your way closer, assessing her reaction at each stage.

If there is a reaction you are not happy with try again until you are sure the scared gundog is totally confident with the situation.

Now to take this exercise to the training pen.

Set the scared gundog off hunting and when she comes into contact with a rabbit fire the starting pistol, inside your game bag to start with, and watch for her reaction.

If she stops hunting and looks disturbed give her lots of reassurance and encouragement to carry on hunting and after a few minutes repeat this exercise.

Only reduce the distance from her if she doesn’t react to the loud noise or bang negatively.

As her confidence grows and she is hunting freely continue firing shots outside of the game bag and reintroduce the stop whistle and give her lots of praise and reassurance.

The end product is the opposite of a scared dog hunting freely with confidence and which has no concerns about shots and loud noises.

This will take time and lots of patience and understanding but will be well worth it in the end.

For more gundog training advice click here

  • Julie Barrie

    When we were training our Springer we found that she was scared of a starting pistol but was perfectly happy with the sound from a gun. I think it may have had something to do with the pitch of the starting pistol. There was never any nervousness with a gun but she stopped picking up dummies when we used the starting pistol and like you we thought we had frightened her forever.

    Just a thought, we are, however, by no means experts.