Pick­ing up the pieces

Sporting Gun - - SHOOTING ANSWERS -

My six-month-old Labrador was com­ing along fine un­til I stupidly had a shot at a mag­pie at the front door when he was in his cage in the kitchen. When I came back in­side, he was a ner­vous wreck. Now I just need to bring the gun out and he slinks away.

It may sound very ob­vi­ous, but his be­hav­iour is a nor­mal re­sponse to fear and the ob­ject of fear

Neil says:

will al­ways be the ini­tial fo­cus of the dog’s at­ten­tion. You must deal with this by a com­bi­na­tion of de­sen­si­ti­sa­tion and counter-con­di­tion­ing.

De­sen­si­ti­sa­tion in­volves a large num­ber of neu­tral pre­sen­ta­tions of the stim­u­lus, so that it ceases to pro­duce a sig­nif­i­cant emo­tional ef­fect.

This might re­quire a friend to fire shots far away while you go about your daily busi­ness. If there is any re­sponse from the dog, your pal is too close.

Counter-con­di­tion­ing is used to cre­ate a new and pos­i­tive emo­tional re­sponse with the de­sen­si­tised stim­u­lus. Per­haps a friend might have a gun out­with the dis­tance that it pro­vokes fear and give food to your dog up un­til they go away. Your dog does not have to do any­thing to get this food. This can be re­peated with the friend get­ting closer. When your dog looks at you when the gun ap­pears, you know you are get­ting some­where. It may then be worth in­vest­ing in a cheap, old gun, re­mov­ing the fore-end, and leav­ing it ly­ing when your dog is be­ing fed.

It’s cru­cial that ev­ery time the stim­u­lus is ex­pe­ri­enced (gun­shot or ap­pear­ance of gun), there is an emo­tional swing to­wards a happy and re­laxed dog. This will re­quire con­sid­er­able pa­tience.

If you are strug­gling, there are some drug ther­a­pies that can help but you shouldn’t need them.

A com­bi­na­tion of de­sen­si­ti­sa­tion and counter-con­di­tion­ing will re­move the dog’s gun fear

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