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With the 4th coming, I just thought it may be nice to share my training approach for firearms/booms. Though the specifics aren't exactly 'general' the overall progressive, positive approach has worked very well for my 5mo pup, as well as with friend's dogs who have gone through it. The overarching methodology stands with redirection and positive association.


The set-up is consistent - Her 'safe place' is under the chair I'm sitting in, so originally, we started with an airgun. I'd sit in the chair about 10m behind the shooter, who would be shooting the other direction on queue. The shooter, or to generalize, 'buddy' should also be actively participating in play between firings. We don't want our dog to always be associating this person with loud, angry noises. With 'booms', the setup was similar, except the charge was placed no less than 50m away and was < 50g of HE (high explosive) compound. Though it'd be incredibly rare that she'd be out while a detonation test happened, the signature of 'boom' generated is much different than a firearm. (will elaborate later)
I would get her to 'touch' my hand, requiring that she was out from under the chair, and after treating her for the touch would queue the detonation/firing. Immediately after the sound, I would offer her a treat. If she didn't take it and/or went under the chair, we would do 5 min of play and repeat with twice the distance (20m for firearms, 100m for explosives). If the doubling didn't help, we'd play for about a 1/2 hour and call it a day, backtracking to the less loud explosive/firearm the next time to reinforce.

For both combustion firearms and explosives, this was done with a buddy at a private fenced range, with my car nearby with a door open. Though she never went further than just going under the chair, multiple safe 'fallbacks' seemed like a good idea. The sequence of the firearms/charges used were:

Sequence - Charge/Firearm - Noise level @ firing position(db) - notes

1-.177cal pellet gun - 90 -
2- .68cal paintball gun - 105 -
3- 1g 'Flash Powder' Charge - N/A - Equivalent to slightly beefed up firecracker
4- .22lr Ruger 10/22 - 118 - Suppressed, subsonic ammo
5- .9mm Glock 17 - 120 - Suppressed, subsonic ammo
6- 5g 'Flash Powder' charge - N/A - Somewhat equivalent to 'M-80' Firework, minor blast shock.
*- Current Progress Stops here (see notes below)
7- .22lr Ruger 10/22 - 140 - Repeated twice
*- Extended initial distance to 15m starting here
8- .45 HK UMP - 142
9- 12ga Remington 870 - 150
10- 20g 'Flash Powder' charge - N/A - Significant blast shock
11- 5.56x45 Colt AR-15 - 154 - Took treat, but not as playfully
12- 7.62x39 AK-47 Clone - 156
13- 7x57mm Mauser - 157

As a refresher on db levels -
> Whisper @ 6ft - 30db
> Our Doorbell - 71db
> Quickly Opening soda can - 82db
> Circular saw cutting dry 2x4 - 110db

My girl had progressed a bit faster than I had expected through this, so for the time being, am waiting at least a month before resuming. She's just over 5mo old, and even if she's comfortable with the noises, I don't think > 120-130db is good for her developing ears.

Notes and important clarifications.

>With fireworks, aside from the visual stimuli, It seems like the most upsetting part is the actual shockwave from mortar shells. Most dogs, even those exposed and adjusted to loud urban noises, find the effect that the sonic boom of the shells have on their body to be terrifying. That being said, the approach of playing said sounds through an audio system just don't seem to cut it, for no system that I'm aware of can emulate a sonic boom. This effect, without actually having fireworks/explosives, is quite difficult for your normal joe to safely and legally emulate in a controlled environment. The point of incorporating these is to expose her to these forces in a controlled, comfortable environment in reasonable increments, and associate the effect with treats and play.

>With high-powered rifles (5.56x45 and above), being well behind the direction of the shooter is imperative. Not only are the noise levels significantly decreased, but directly to the sides, and closely out front of the shooter, a concussion wave from the weapon is felt, and even with hearing protection is both dangerously loud and disorienting. Regardless of a dog's comfort with firearms, I would never recommend having a dog in that area when a high-powered rifle is being fired. In addition to the hearing damage / inevitable regression for your dog, being ahead of a shooter is just plain dumb.

> Though you should be rigid and disciplined with the steps and distances, never forget that you are doing this for your dog. It's especially important that they know of, and demonstrate the freedom to go to at least one 'safe place'. Before attempting this training, know what these are for y
our dog, make them available, and most importantly ALWAYS keep a controlled environment. During training, NEVER grab the dog's collar or attempt to restrain them unless (through a slip in your 'controlled environment' procedure) their, or another living being's life is in immediate danger. Again, this approach relies heavily on proactive setup and planning to give your dog the best chance of success.

> Especially when using firearms in a progression, a buddy is to be used. You want to devote 100% of your attention towards your dog. Missing the quick and subtle clues your dog can give to show their mood will work against you, and lacking another person to actually make the noise will remove the distance necessary for your dog to feel safe at first.

> Depending on your preferences, you may want allow your dog to investigate the noise making methods you use before and after use. With firearms, the weapon should be cleared, then cleared again. Do not allow the dog to in any way, touch a firearm. This is a fantastic time to reinforce an impulse control command such as 'Leave it'. There is one obvious exception to all of this, and that is while using an explosive charge. Under no circumstance should the dog be near any explosive device, even a firecracker. This presides over training the dog simply by virtue of safety.

> Most don't have access to everything I used, but if that's the biggest issue, you'd be missing the point. This approach works for any kind of noise conditioning, it's just that in my case, my work makes her being around the noises I used a very plausible occurrence. For a suburban dog, maybe starting a lawnmower is in the progression, or slamming a cupboard, or firing up a loud motorcycle. Maybe it ends with stomping a flat 4' 2x4 into cement to create a loud 'crack', or just a loud car door slamming... This is entirely up to you and should be crafted with respect to starting at the dog's typical environment, and ending with plausible, yet unlikely extremes.


Again, I can't stress more to make your dog's safety #0, comfort #1, and patience a close second. You may very well be closing cupboards for months before your dog dismisses the noise, takes the treat freely and readily plays. The payoff is in your hard work though (as is with anything), for without that, the number of outside noises equivalent or worse than the hang-up would be much more discomforting in the uncontrolled environment.

1,116 Posts
Poor dog... God save her ear drums! Dogs experience pain in their ears when hear anything you listed. One of resons why hunting dogs have their ears hanging soft, not prickly pointed like in GSD. I wonder, what the intervals between sounds might be? The number of trials you listed, IMHO, must be distributed over 10 year period.

7,265 Posts
I never did anything planned with my two females, but they both do well with different noises. our neighborhood is filled with people launching bottle rockets, m-80s and what not starting any day now and on through the 4th. We take them with us to the fireworks show and both years we've gone, its just been a fun night out. They pay little attention to the noise and flashes of light. We shoot 10-22s, glock 19 & 21 and a 30-06 sometimes when we go camping and again they don't seem to care. We just keep them at a safe distance.
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