What Does ‘Gun Shy’ Mean For Hunting Or Bird Dogs?

English pointer with rooster pheasant flushing out of a grass field.

(Picture Credit: JMichl/Getty Images)

There is a group of dogs referred to as “gun” or “bird” dogs. They typically assist hunters in retrieving game, usually birds. For a hunting dog, being “gun shy” means they are going to spook easily by sudden loud noises: for example, a gun shot.

In most suburbs, life is relatively quiet, and loud noises can startle people and dogs. A dog who’s spooked by loud sounds is probably going to be “gun shy” and, being unfamiliar with the startling loud noise, will be afraid of gunshots.

This usually happens when a hunter takes a dog out hunting without first exposing them to gunshots and loud noises outside of the heated environment of the hunt. Some believe that a gun shy dog is a lost cause, while others believe it can be trained out of them.

The best way to avoid the situation is by training your dog before you take them on a hunt in the first place.

Ways To Make Sure Your Dog Will Not Be Gun Shy

Adult male hunting upland game with a golden retriever.

(Picture Credit: MATTHEW PALMER/Getty Images)

Expose your dog(s) to loud noises early on. Not so loud as to damage their hearing, but loud enough to startle them and immediately follow it with some kind of positive reinforcement, like a treat or affection.

Start with loud clapping and follow it up with louder noises progressing to a starter pistol. The dog needs to feel safe and to know that something positive happens after the loud noise. This can also be helpful to dogs who show a fear of fireworks or thunder.

Just know that it is much easier to train a dog before the dog becomes gun shy than after.

While hunting with dogs is frowned upon in many dog loving communities, and hunting at all is frowned upon by many animal lovers, there are some parts of the world where people hunt for survival and where people hunt for sport.

Many countries have legislation in place that regulates hunting with dogs and, in some countries, it is prohibited. If you choose to hunt with your dog, check your local laws and restrictions first.

What are your thoughts on hunting with dogs? Or hunting at all? Please let us know in the comments below. Agree? Disagree? Then we want to hear it!

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