Four letter words

It doesn't take a long look around my favorite blog haunts to see that there is a bit of malaise. Whether it's  "crickets" or "the vest" there has/had been a notable lull in productivity.

I'm even more guilty than the next except I have been writing and working plenty but have posted nothing. The thing is that I've been dealing with a problem and I've not been sure how much of it to put 'out there'.  There are a few words that contain more than four letters, but have the same effect as four letter words used to have. The one I've been dealing with:


but to be honest it's not really "gun-shy"...more like "gun-nervous"

That being said, I completely accept that it's my fault. I just don't know what the hell I could have done to deserve it!

Last year, in the late summer/early fall I noticed that Carson was getting progressively more storm-shy; until it was really unlike I've ever really seen in person: thunder = Slobbering, trembling, wanting to be in my lap, etc…(FWIW I didn't coddle him when it started, because I didn't want to reinforce the behavior for fear it would lead to more trouble down the road)

Fast forward to this past January. I took him out with some buddies and their dogs for a cleanup hunt the day after a continental pheasant shoot. This was not carson's first hunt, but it was his first hunt with other people not to mention dogs other than his kennel mate. The hunt started off in a planted bottom of around 10 acres. 

So...the other dogs and their owners are working a separate part of the field when they (2 gsp and a gwp fwiw) went on point, birds flushed, their owners shot (and missed, but that's another story).  

All the while my dog didn’t see any of this. 

He just heard the sound of three 12GAs going off in that bottom and I honestly think he thought it was thunder. 

At this point he was seeming pretty apprehensive and I should have stopped then and there but we kept hunting some the cover crops edges by ourselves when in another ~10 min the other group put up another bird (which they missed). 

When he heard the shot this time he went into boot-licker mode and would have preferred I picked him up (which I didn’t). 

Instead I took him directly to the car, put him in kennel, and drove home.  

The whole way home I keep thinking about the seriousness of this situation.  

Thoughts were generally variations on: 
"I can’t believe I’m going to have to live with a gunshy dog for the next 12+ years"
At this point he’s part of the family and I won’t push him down the line. Not to mention:
"he's too f'ing annoying to just be a 'pet'"
So I spent the afternoon brooding but by late in the day I finally came to the conclusion that if I was ever going to consider myself a "trainer" worth anything then I’d have to fix the situation because that’s what trainers really do-they fix problems.

Step 1 I talked to the breeder and 3 professionals. 

First thought from most of them, including myself: put him on some quail. When he’s really going after a fly away, shoot one.

I did that and he was OK, but really just ok. I thought I saw a bit of hesitation in his run so I decided to stop. 

Back to drawing board. Further input from trainers and further thinking on my part led me to:
  1. Take a BIG step back in training. Pretty much back to square 1.
  2. NO birds, guns, etc… for a few weeks. We're working on the basics.
  3. Add Masters Voice CD which I start to play several times a day. Fortunately I have an understanding wife and daughter!
  4. Seven to eight weeks later I went to my hunting lease and immediately after I sent the dog off for a dummy I had my wife( who was standing 100 yards away) fire one shot from a starting pistol. 
    1. There was no reaction
    2. We only fired that one shot as there's no sense in tempting fate.
Since then I've started firing shots closer and closer. But still only one.

Where we are:
Now I’m  firing shots very close, but that are muffled by the training shoulder-bag. I throw a dummy, send him for a retrieve, and fire starting pistol inside bag. 

Fortunately, so far no reaction.

Next step is to reintroduce some quail and then the .410 and I will probably do that in the next week or two. Biggest worry right now is that one of our thunderstorms comes through and somehow sets me back. 

He’s a wretched combination of being wickedly smart, highly driven, with dominance tendencies, and a hatred for being corrected. With positive reinforcement this dog to do anything. Sometimes I find it’s hard to have that kind of personality/behavior and so I’m learning a lot about myself here too.