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Old 03-27-2009, 09:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Too old to desensitize to gun shots?

I know that this is not the SAR section but I need help for LE for my SAR dog Lexi.

She is 8 years old, has worked SAR successfully for a long time. She is usually fearless and gives me no fear related issues....except for one.

She has developed a terrible fear of any gunshots. We did not get her as a pup, she was about a year old so were not able to desensitize her as we did the others. Over the years she reacted somewhat but never like she is doing now. We live in the country and people are often target shooting ect. She has become rediculous with her fears and will try to tear down the fence to get inside if anyone shoots in the area. Her behavior has affected the whole pack and now they all try to get in.

We have separated the others and taken them out one by one to gage their reaction on their own and they are fine. Occasionally a flinch but nothing overly reactive, its just when Lexi is with them that the react.

So this is our situation. Is it possible to desensitze her at this age? How do we go about it without getting herself or one of us hurt in the process? I cannot have her reacting like this if we are out on a search and it is neccessary for LE to discharge a fire arm. She is a fantastic area search dog and by no means is ready for retirement. When the others were pups it was easy, play time accompanied by gunfire, starting with the 22 and building up calaber. Even the 12 gage does not bother them when she is not around.

I would appreciate any assistance or ideas,
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Old 03-28-2009, 05:01 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Too old to desensitize to gun shots?

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Quote: So this is our situation. Is it possible to desensitze her at this age? How do we go about it without getting herself or one of us hurt in the process? I cannot have her reacting like this if we are out on a search and it is neccessary for LE to discharge a fire arm. She is a fantastic area search dog and by no means is ready for retirement. When the others were pups it was easy, play time accompanied by gunfire, starting with the 22 and building up calaber. Even the 12 gage does not bother them when she is not around.
I had to be discouraging, but gunsyness/sound sensitivity is genetic. One cannot "desensitize" a dog out of this because it is a consequence of weak nerves. How does the dog react to severe thunderstorms? bulldozers and the like? We test police service dogs for gunshyness. Any negative reaction and we do not purchase the dog . sorry
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Old 03-28-2009, 05:43 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Too old to desensitize to gun shots?

Renee, thats what throws this whole thing off. She doesn't like severe thunderstorms (a little pacing and licking but nothing crazy). Working around large equipment bulldozers ect are no problem, nothing so much as a head check. She has heard gunfire in previous years on searches and there was no huge reaction. This seems to have escalated over the last year or so and only at home. I had her ears checked and the vet said there is nothing wrong there. I do not even know if she would react strongly out in the field at this point but wanted to know if there was anything we could do to help with this situation. I guess it is what it is.
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Old 03-30-2009, 04:46 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default 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
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Old 03-30-2009, 05:15 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Too old to desensitize to gun shots?

But there is a pretty big difference between desensitizing a dog to hearing 2 small gunshots at 2 particular points in a prescribed routine and environment that the dog has constant exposure too, and doing the same with regards to SAR or LEO work.

Also, even if a dog does react to gunshots in SchH, unless it has a complete meltdown it will still pass the trial. And even if it fails the trial, that's hardly life or death. SAR and LEO ARE life or death in many cases.

Can it be done? Yes. But it's much harder to get the dog to globalize that behavior and lack of reaction than it is to teach the dog to do it in a specific time and place when it's part of a comfortable routine. Would it be worth trying, well only the OP can decide if she has the time and resources to try, and what the potential consequences could be if a dog thought to be trained out of the issue has a relapse at some point in the future.
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Old 03-30-2009, 08:42 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Too old to desensitize to gun shots?

Quote:
Quote:. 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.
THAT is the reason that sport is pretty worthless when it comes to an evaluation for a working dog. I have seen many dogs in 20 years that were trained to pass that arbitrary routine. Get them out in the real world and they fold up because they are STILL gunshy/ nervy. A good trainer can get a weak dog to title because sport is a routine. Working dogs have to do their job anywhere. It is never routine.
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Old 03-30-2009, 08:47 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Too old to desensitize to gun shots?

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Quote:Also, even if a dog does react to gunshots in SchH, unless it has a complete meltdown it will still pass the trial. And even if it fails the trial, that's hardly life or death. SAR and LEO ARE life or death in many cases.
Exactly. Folks do not understand that a weak dog can survive that routine but put that dog out somewhere working, under stress and forget it. The weakness surfaces. We wash those nervy dogs for police work because we know the genetic weakness cannot be fixed, not because we do not want to spend the time. All the time in the world will not make a weak dog solid enough for real work
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Old 04-06-2009, 11:35 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Too old to desensitize to gun shots?

Quick question for everyone,
If I live in the suburbs in Illinois where I do not have access to an open outdoor range nearby, are there ways to test for gun shyness? As posted in another thread, I'm looking into PPD and it sure would suck for the situation to arise where I need that training only to find out that she is gun shy and runs the other way.
Thanks everyone.
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Old 04-07-2009, 01:21 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Too old to desensitize to gun shots?

I take my dogs to trap ranges or sporting clay ranges. I can get a solid idea of sound sensitivty in my dogs. 3 out of the 4 have no problems with going to either place. I keep a decent distance on first arrival to look for reactions. Two of my dogs have walked the Sporting Clay course with my DH and other shooters. I don't let them stand right next to the shooters, but a distance of 10 ft or more. My female likes to watch those little orange things fly out, so she looks where they are going and then moves so she has the best view.

Just my experience, if dogs tolerate a lot of shooting like Trap or Clays, the Gun shot test is not going to be a problem.
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Old 04-07-2009, 04:06 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Too old to desensitize to gun shots?

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Originally Posted By: spoil9Quick question for everyone,
If I live in the suburbs in Illinois where I do not have access to an open outdoor range nearby, are there ways to test for gun shyness? As posted in another thread, I'm looking into PPD and it sure would suck for the situation to arise where I need that training only to find out that she is gun shy and runs the other way.
Thanks everyone.
Where in IL? Grayslake has an outdoor range and there are some places just over the border in WI that have them.
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