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Prevent Gunshy Problems in your Pup this 4th of July

Enjoy the lake this Independence Day, but get pup to a safe and quiet place before the fireworks start. Photo by Bob St.Pierre / Pheasants Forever

Enjoy the lake this Independence Day, but get pup to a safe and quiet place before the fireworks start. Photo by Bob St.Pierre / Pheasants Forever

Many folks pick up new bird dog pups in early summer.  Consequently, family picnics on the 4th of July often provide the first opportunity for that pup to be shown off to the extended family.  As you celebrate our nation’s independence this week, beware of two common causes of gunshy bird dogs.


Bird dog puppies should be methodically introduced to gunfire in association with birds and a fun atmosphere.  A step-by-step process helps prevent gunshyness, reinforces that a gunshot equates to a retrieve and helps connect the dots through the entire process of what you’re expecting out of that pup as your new hunting companion.  Unfortunately, a fun family evening watching fireworks can seriously frighten a pup and create a fear of loud noises, and consequently gun shyness.  While I have no doubt thousands of folks who read this blog will say their bird dog pup was exposed to fireworks and didn’t end up gunshy, in response, I’ll say it’s not worth the risk testing your luck at the expense of a new pup.


As a first-time owner of my very own bird dog pup in 2007 I’d been coached to avoid fireworks, but parades caught me completely by surprise.  At 11 weeks old, my shorthair accompanied my family to a 4th of July parade in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.  As I recall, it was a beautiful day with lots of people and lots of other dogs for my pup to socialize.  It was a wonderful scenario until the local high school band started to march down the parade route pounding on drums.  I looked at my wife in panic, scooped up my puppy and yelled back to my wife that I needed to get “Trammell” away from the drums.  Fortunately, I was able to get a few blocks away without any negative effects, but I still consider it a close call.  The other piece of that story is I ended up sitting in some other dog’s poop as I waited out the parade on a random patch of grass next to a bank building.  As I remember that day, it’s not one of my favorite memories.

Any pro trainer will tell you the training necessary to reverse a guyshy dog is a long, arduous exercise.  It’s always the best plan to avoid it from happening in the first place.  To read more on the topic, I’d suggested the following articles:

How to Prevent a Gunshy Dog by Brian Lynn of Outdoor Life

Keeping your Dog from Becoming Gunshy by Steve Snell of Gun Dog Supply

The Pointer is written by Bob St.Pierre, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing.  Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre and listen to Bob and Billy Hildebrand every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

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5 Responses to “Prevent Gunshy Problems in your Pup this 4th of July”

  1. Good stuff! Very sound advise. it is always important with an pup that we be aware of our surroundings and what,when and how we expose them to new noises. It isnt related to the 4th, but I remember my OOOPS moment with one of my pups.
    I live in a small town, population of 2000 people. We have a town square and in th square is an ice cream parlor. Everyday at 7 A.M, 12 P.M, 1 P.M and 6P.M our town sounds a siren. It is a very loud siren, one they also use for tornados. Te siren is located by the town square.I bet you can see where this is going. ;-)
    I had just imported this pup from Germany and had only had him for a couple of weeks. I took him town town to show him off and get myself an ice cream I had not payed attention to the time. Midway through my ice cream I got a chill as I heard the siren begin to whine! I panicked as I saw my pups eye enlarge. At that moment i had no clue what to do, I couldnt get away! So, I reverted to my military training, Adapt and over come came ringing in my ears! I quickly took the ice cream and shoved it in my pups face!!!!! To my relief, he sat there through the siren happly licking what was left of my ice cream!!!
    Pay attention to your surroundings, they count on us to protect and guide them. if you get in a bind, adapt and over come!

  2. Bill H says:

    Just picking up my first gundog this week (a German Wirehaired Pointer). Thanks for the very timely article and recommended articles.

  3. Rich Wentworth says:

    I too have been through dogs fearing fireworks. It can wreak havoc on future training as it always seems to stay with them. My current pup, a 3yo GSP, has been exposed to fireworks, sirens, gunshots (obviously) and the often overlooked scarring noise…thunder. As most dogs do, she often looks to me to see how I react to judge if something is a threat. I am very careful to politely address the actions of those around me as well. I have been extremely consistent to not get excited at loud noises and keep those around doing the same. Dixie, now, will lift her head at a loud noise and if I do nothing at all, she will simply ignore it. She has been good enough to watch an entire fireworks show (not planned) with me and not even flinch.

  4. Larry Zucollo says:

    My GSP was gun shy. I took her to a trainer who said he thought he could cure her. I left her there 2 weeks during which every time he had contact with her during the day he shot a starter pistol near her. I think it was $50 worth of starter blanks but she turned out fine and is a great bird dog. She still doesn’t like thunder though.

  5. Sean Miller says:

    Knock on wood I’ve been very lucky to date. I always ease the dogs into noises, and always subject them to that first BANG when something fun is happening. I have a 10 month old pup right now and the neighbors kids started shooting off fireworks last night unexpectedly. I was very pleased to see her (and the older dog) run into the tall grass and start looking for downed birds. So I took the opportunity to get out the retrieving dummies and get in a training session.


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