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Dog Training: Gunshyness and Noise Fright
( Originally Published 1943 )
The Fourth of July would be abolished, had the dog the authority to do so. It is a day of dread to most of them. Let your dog find a quiet spot in the basement or under a bed for that day.
But never tease a sensitive puppy with fireworks in order to habituate him to them. It is useless and cruel and makes him still more fearful. Certain loud noises, the firing of guns, tire blowouts, thunder and other similar heavy noises frighten most dogs, especially nervous dogs. The fright is not one of cowardice by any means. Do not punish your dog for running away; most dogs will run away by instinct when first frightened by these noises.
Perhaps the instinct has developed out of the many centuries by the association of gunfiring with injury, blood and death on the hunting field. Most birds will hurry in flight upon hearing the distant noise of a tire blowout.
Training against fright from the sound of firing guns or of other noises should begin early in puppybood. As you go into the kennel or as you approach your dog, make considerable noise, bang the door, rattle the tins, strike the broom against the wall, and thus get him accustomed to all sorts of sudden and unusual noises.
A small-caliber gun should be fired at some distance, perhaps fifty yards from the dog. The owner of the dog standing by the dog's side should pat the dog on the head as the sound is heard. The firing can come closer each time, the master holding the dog all the while.
Later a large-caliber gun is used and the action repeated. The master next may go away, leaving the dog tied. And after two weeks of this the dog may be permitted loose as the firing is done. Bring the gun to him after the firing; let him smell it and see it at close range.
The best cure for gunshyness is the prevention of it. And this prevention can best be had by starting it very early and after the dog's full confidence has been had.
Before the age of six months, an excellent plan is to work upon the puppy's stomach. The dog's great appetite is an aid in many things in the way of training. He does almost anything for the sake of food.
At feeding time, take a twenty-two caliber rifle rather than a pistol. Give the dog his pan of food and while be is busily devouring it, fire the rifle, but not too near him. After a time, you can fire the rifle as a signal for feeding time.
"Burning" or "peppering" a dog, that is, firing into him at a distance with a shotgun with fine shot to frighten him, is employed by some persons. It is a silly cruel method denoting a coarse spirit within the owner.
Owners of bird and field dogs place gunshyness with distemper as their two great worries. We think that not a little of the gunshyness is caused by the owners. It can not be said to be hereditary, tho of course, shy dogs, being such by heredity, are more disposed to show gunshyness.
It is strangely true that not a few dogs have been made gunshy in the effort to cure them of the vice. A dog is received and the new owner at once shoots over the dog to determine whether he is gunsby. If he was not already so, be is now.
One must win the full confidence of a dog over six months of age before trying to prevent gunshyness. After the dog knows and loves you take him in the field and as he is in the very act of working on birds, fire the gun in the air. Do not fire until be is on game. He should always ; associate the sound with game and the excitement of flushing and retrieving it. Preferably, take him in the field along with dogs devoid of gunshyness.
It is worth following a correct method of preventing gunshyness for a gunshy dog is utterly worthless in the field. And the wrong method may only serve to increase gunshyness.