The Long Professionally Recommended Process:
1. Bang a pan while the very young pup is feeding.
2. Stand off a way (20 yards or more) and fire a pistol with light blanks while the pup is feeding.
3. Take the pup out to the field at 3 or 4 months, fire a pistol blank a way off while the pup is distracted. The best distraction would be a field with live wild birds for it to find. Or take some pigeons for it to chase. Do this several times.
4. Take the pup out to the field again, fire a 410. or 20 Ga., while it is chasing a pigeon. Use the lightest loads you can get. Again, make sure the pup is 40 yards or more from the gun. Do this a few times multiple days.
5. At 4 to 5 Mo’s assuming the pup has shown no aversion to the gunfire, cut the distance down a bit. Continue to fire as the pup chases birds. You are working to form a positive association between the fun of chasing a bird and gunfire.
6. At 5 to 6 Mo’s move up to a 12 Ga. and increase distance from the gun to the pup back to 40 yards plus. Again, use the lightest loads possible. Again fire a few rounds while the pup chases birds.
7. If all is well decreasing the distance a bit. Always fire when the pup is distracted by chasing birds.
At all stages of the process watch for reaction to the gunfire. If the pup is not bothered, move slowly closer to it as you fire the gun. If he reacts negatively back off but do not make a big deal of it. Sometimes the best thing is to give the dog a break and try again in a week or maybe even longer.
The Process I Use:
1. Have the pup live inside your home and Potty Train it. If you must keep the pup outdoors, make sure to have a doghouse with a banging metal flap. I have found that having Pups used to the daily banging of doors, and other noises of home life, goes a long way to getting a pup used to new, and loud noise experiences. Bona’s Kennels, where Rango, Doree, and Greta were whelped have banging metal doors. They were also raised in the house where there were exposed to a lot of ruckus. All three ran to the sound of the gun when introduced to gunfire.
2. When my pups are 4 to 5 Mo’s old, they are taken out to a field. We take along a few pigeons and a 20 ga shotgun. I’ll have my helper take the dog off 40 yards. I’ll toss a pigeon out when the pup is looking my way and fire the shotgun.
3. If the pup reacts well, we will shorten the distance five yards. Toss out another pigeon and fire again.
4. If the pup still reacts well and is excited, we will go to 30 yards distance, and let the pup chase and catch a clipped wing pigeon. Fire the gun as the pup is boring down on the pigeon. I’m looking to create a strong positive association between gunfire and birds and do it quickly. I convinced by experience that it can be done much quicker than the pros would have you believe.
5. Call it a day and repeat process as soon as possible. Starting at 30 yards with the pup chasing down a clipped wing bird. I keep the sessions short and then let the pup play a while before heading in.
6.If at any point the pup does not react well and is nervous, I would quit right away. Act like it’s no big deal and give it a lock winged pigeon to play with. This will help the pup quickly forget what scared it. Wait a week before trying again so the pup has the chance to forget any fear. Next time out give it another locked wing pigeon and fire a 20 ga from 60 yards when it is busy with the pigeon. It probably will be so excited it will hardly notice the gun. Then work in closer a couple of shots. Call it a day. Later do step five again, starting around 45 yards, this time firing when the pup is chasing a bird.
The well- bred and well-adjusted pup after two or three training sessions should already be looking forward to seeing the gun come out. This shorter process was all it took to create a positive association to gunfire, for all but one of the dozen plus pups, I have trained over the years. The one exception was a Weimaraner who had been scared by fireworks. In time she adjusted and turned out to be a fine hunter.