Re: Too old to desensitize to gun shots?
I had a friend with a dog she wished to work in Schutzhund. The dog was gunshy, and she was told that she would never be successful with that particular dog because of that problem. She took it as a challenge, and, over time, was able to so thoroughly desensitize the dog to gunfire that the dog eventually was able to earn not only the Sch I title, but to go all the way through to a SchIII title. Pat proved that it can be done. It took time, determination, a good deal of planning, the help and cooperation of other people and effort. I believe that in most cases people declare that such dogs are unsalvageable because they simply do not want to put in the time and effort.
Pat desensitized her dog by using a very matter of fact tone of voice and manner while working her dog on leash while in the presence of gunfire. At first the gunfire was produced from an area very far away, so that the sound was barely audible to the human ear. Slowly, very, very slowly, Pat brought the dog closer to the sound, ignoring it herself and occasionally treating and playing with toys with the dog--not as a response to the gunfire, but just as a general atmosphere she created around the dog. Gradually, she increased the calibre of the guns used and decreased the distance between the dog and the sound and eventually, the dog learned to ignore it and continue working without any reaction. This did not happen in a matter of days! It took months, and a good deal of dedication, and steady nerves on Pat's part. My comment: Pat was not a neophyte trainer. She had trained numerous SchIII dogs in the past, and had a SchIII champion in Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the United States. She knew what she was doing.
All that said, I see no reason for you not to try. Whether you succeed or not, you will have learned something to add to your store of knowledge about dogs and training, and it seems to me that end is always a good one, and may help you in future with other dogs. People working 'professional' dogs such as military and police dogs simply do not have the time or the money to spend with a dog which is not optimal to begin with. They have budget and time constraints which do not allow them to do this kind of long term desensitization. You do not have to allow yourself to be limited by such considerations if you do not want to with your own personal dog. Good luck. Khawk