More on Gun Shy Dogs…..

Hi Steve, I was reading your article on gun shy dogs. I thought it was pretty much right on. I have trained for many years myself, both pointing dogs and retrievers, field trial dogs and gundogs. I am a nut when it comes to genetics and I do have one question for you. In your article you said that some dogs are more prone to being gun shy but it is not a genetic flaw. How can they be more prone without it being a genetic flaw? In my experience with years of training and breeding that almost everything to do with any animal or person for that matter is genetic. If I am missing the boat on this please explain about being prone and not genetic. I appreciate it.

Thanks for contacting Gun Dog Supply. I appreciate you taking the time to email me.

I might need to add to the gun shy article a little.  My experience where a dog might be “prone to being gun shy”, but not genetic, is one that has not been properly socialized and exposed to the many sights, sounds and experiences of the world.  This would be a lack of a proper environment and proper “raising” and the fault of the handler not the dog or the genes. 

I call these dogs “spooky” but I would not call it a genetic flaw.  A personal example is one of my pointers.  Ruby came out of a litter that we raised and I kept one of the pups.  She was very bold and had an enormous amount of time spent with her and loads of experience as a pup.  Around the time that she turned one, I got a call from a man that had purchased two litter mates to Ruby – Patch and Dot. He was not happy with them from a Field Trial standpoint and just wanted to let me know that he was selling them.  I was so happy with Ruby that I bought her two sisters back from him.

It was pretty obvious that neither one of them had been handled much. Both were “hand shy” and very “standoffish.”   I expect that they spent most of their first year in a kennel run with little or no human contact.  I do not know if they had any kind of gun introduction so I started at square one with both.  Both worked out fine but I had to go really slow because of their lack of “worldly experience” that I require and put in a young dog.

Had I gone about shooting over them too close or too fast or without the correct association (birds), I expect that they both could have been “gun shy.”

So here are three dogs from the same litter but from different environments.  I don’t see where “genes” play a role in “gun shy” dogs.
Now, I do agree that some litters might be “spookier” than others and that could be genes but if they are raised correctly and introduced to the world and guns correctly, they should not have a problem.
Another major thing to keep in mind here is that a good breeder will do a bunch of these things with his dogs.  I am real picky about who I get my dogs from because you can do a bunch with them in the first 8 to 10 weeks.  Some guys are just breeding pups and don’t spend any time with them.
I don’t raise dogs right now, (too many kids and too much work at the office) but when we did we introduced our pups to birds, water, cover, guns, trucks, duck calls, and anything else we could come up with. It takes time but it pays off.
Now if I had to guess, you are one of the guys that DOES all of the correct things with a pup and it is second nature to you.  Since you are raising them in the best possible environment, getting the best genes is the way to have the best dogs.  The raising isn’t an issue.
I find an amazingly large number of folks that have no idea HOW to raise a pup and they miss a lot of things.  Then at some point they take pup out to “see if he’s gunshy.”  They fire off 4 or 5 – 12 guage rounds when pup is close by.  It scares him to death and he heads for the hills.  “That pup must be gunshy…”
It really comes down to a slow and proper introduction with the correct association.  I want my dogs to LOVE guns.  It makes everything easier.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  We do appreciate your business.


Steve Snell
Gun Dog Supply –

400 Industrial Park Road, Suite G
Starkville, MS 39759

New Pups

Last month we added two new pups to the Gun Dog Supply Pro Staff.

“Mac” and “Apple” are English Pointers and are the half brother and half sister to Click, Stud, and Merle. All 5 dogs share the same sire – Phantom’s Wizard.

I have really enjoyed having them around the kennel. This is the first time since the last litter we raised that I have had multiple young dogs at the same time. I think it’s a better way for me to train.

Both dogs have very different personalities. Apple is going to be a big running independent dog. Mac looks like he will be a little more focused on me and will not run as big. I expect he will still cover some ground but not like Apple.

The important thing to do with pups is exposure to the world that you expect them to live and work in.

So far Mac and Apple have been exposed to other dogs, goats, horses, riding in the dog truck, going to the vet, going to the office, my kids, living in the kennel, crossing water, ponds, heavy cover, 4 wheelers, lawnmowers, pigeons, quail and we have started on gunfire.

After we get the basic bird introduction done we start to add basic gunfire. I do this with a little Daisy Pop gun. It makes a sound when you cock it and a “pop” when you fire it.

Using this gun gets them used to the site of a gun in my hands as we walk out in the field. Some dogs never see a shotgun in the hands of their owner until they go to the field on opening day. This can lead to a big problem.

We go out in my bird field every day to see the world. We work on coming when called, turning on command, and going in the direction that I am going.

We also play the dog version of “hide and seek”. Every time they get stretched out from me, I hide behind a tree. After a few minutes, they start to wonder where I went. As they double back to find me, I get down on their level and give them lots of praise.

I love big running dogs, but I want them to hunt for me and check in from time to time.

Treats for Training

Treats for training.

Today I spoke with a lady having issues with her dogs while off leash at the local dog park. This is a pretty common call for us since most “trained” dogs don’t hold up in high distraction situations.

Come to find out her dog had been clicker trained with treat rewards.

Clicker training works. It works a little too well If you ask me but it seldom holds up in high prey drive animals.

It does not fit the way their brains work and it isn’t going to get the attention of a dog that has any thing more interesting going on around him.

The idea behind how we use ecollars is to communicate with the dog. This can be with stimulation, vibration or tone. We also use the ecollar to correct the dog in situations where he chooses to ignore learned verbal commands.

The mistake that folks make when using food as a reward is that it isn’t always something that all dogs care about all the time.

I do think it’s important to reward your dog for doing the correct things.

The reward comes in the form of praise and love.

Steve Snell

Day 4 part 2

After a good nap, I took Em on her walk. We roaded another mile and a half. Few things build muscle like a work out in a roading harness.

After that I took Brandy on a quick run. We headed out to a long food plot that is up on the hill close to the house.

We flushed a few dove but no pheasants.   At the end of the row, Brandy locked up on point. She held it for about 10 seconds and then busted in. Nothing came out and she started running in a big cast.

At about 200 yards she found a big rooster pheasant and put him in the air. She chased him as far as she could.

While she was running she found a hen pheasant and put her in the air. After that she was gone. Good thing I had my Astro on her. I went to her and picked her up. No question she will make a bird dog.