At Linda's request...
I mentioned that we had done cap gun training in this post.
"Cap gun training? Hmmm...does that keep them from being frightened of any loud noise? Now that I think of it, it seems that any dog needs to be unafraid of a gunshot so it could be a protector. So, how is best to train a dog with a capgun? I think this calls for a whole post."
Yes, the idea is to keep them from being frightened of loud noises. If you play with guns, and have a gun shy dog, it can cause a few problems. Likewise, if you've ever had a dog afraid of a thunderstorm, or kids shrieking... you get the idea. Some gun shy dogs will hide in a corner. Or hide behind their owners. Some will howl. And some will really freak out and rip your house apart.
Ebony is very gun shy. Luckily, she is mostly of the hide in a corner variety, but occasionally will cause damage as well. She is well aware of what makes the loud bang, and starts shaking and runs to hide as soon as she sees the man (or the woman) with the big noisy stick. This makes her impossible to hunt with, as well as a bit of a pain in the ass at times.
So, new puppies mean cap gun training time. I don't know if this can be done with older dogs or not. I know with Ebony, once she figures out that we're training, she will run to hide when we fill her dish. With puppies though, it's a pretty easy procedure. Puppies are quite focussed on their food. You set out a dish of food and let the puppy take a couple of good sized gulps, then fire a cap gun. The first few times may startle the pup, but usually not enough to stop eating. After a week or so the pup will accept that loud noise means food. Food is good. Therefore, loud noise is good.
After a couple of weeks we start to vary the routine. Sometimes two shots close together. Some times two or three shots a little further apart. Sometimes no shot at all. After a couple of months, I start feeding them outside, and firing larger guns. First the .22, then the 308. The 30-06 is last. It's bang is loud enough to burst your ear drums if you're standing in the wrong spot. With the bigger guns I use special treats, such as liver or kidney- things they wouldn't get in the house. This helps prepare them for hunting, because they get the guts in the bush.
The cap gun doesn't need to be anything fancy or special. I buy mine in the kids section of the dollar store. Actual feeding times are required though. If you usually leave a dish of food down all day long, you won't be able to establish the hunger/reward/loud noise combination.
I also recommend that you take some kind of treats with you on the first few hunting trips. Waldo was very frustrated with me and all the loud bangs the first few days of partridge season, when my gun wasn't sited properly and I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. A few chunks of weiners calmed him down immensely. He much prefers when I actually hit the partridge though.