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Have new chocolate lab, three years old, with great hunter bloodlines. He's not afraid of lawnmower noise, thunder, or truck engines whizzing by. I'm wondering if firing a blank pistol is the right approach to getting him used to the noise of a shotgun? If it is, what pistol would you recommend? Do you start with the pistol outdoors and link it to pleasurable food eating sessions indoors? Do you use it when honing the retrieve, firing it, then throwing the decoy?
 

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I don't know but I'll tell you what my trainer does with young dogs. He uses a cap gun to start pups. Like you say, he'll take a dead bird, put the dog on whoa, fire the cap gun and throw the bird and have them fetch. Once they're used to that he'll put them in the kennel a hundred yds or so away from somebody shooting clay birds, then gradually move them closer. If they get nervous he'll stop for the day and try it again a couple of days later until they're used to it.

He's adamant about 1) not rushing young dogs if they seem a little nervous at first. There's plenty of time to get them used to that. Work on the come, whoa, etc in the meantime; and 2) keep young dogs away from rifles other than maybe 22's. Claims he has seen more than one ruined by shooting centerfire rifles around them.

According to him the most common mistake non-pros make is trying to rush the dog. Be patient and make it fun for them, never a negative or punishment during training when starting them.
 

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A solid gold statement, Lucky! It is so much easier to start them right than to break 'em. I would crack two flat lathes together a couple of times when I came out of the house to feed the dogs (cheaper than caps ;D ) and would gradually work up until I was right beside the pens. There is a lot of ways to go about it but you want them to associate the sharp noise with something good happening.

I saw a guy with a very promising dog walk up behind him on point and open up with a 12 gauge right over him and that was the first gun fire the dog had ever heard. He was enraged that the pup cut and ran back to the truck and crawled under it.
 

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I've seen a couple of guys with dogs in the back of trucks at an outdoor gun range I go to. Sometimes they aren't even shooting just bsing with the ro and letting the dogs get used to the noise.
 

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That's what I do I take a pup or pups to my local skeet range and start back a couple hundred yards and then keep getting closer as the pup allows until we are standing just behind the shooting positions. I has always worked for me just be patient and let the dog set the pace.
 
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