Bourjaily: Dog-Gone Gunshyness

My shorthair, Jed, is now five and a half months old and has outgrown two collars. As of Sunday, he is a puppy kindergarten graduate. In school, he learned his name, how to sit, stay, lie down, heel, and how to play well with others. Now it's time to start thinking about guns and birds.

Conventional wisdom for avoiding gunshyness says you start by making lots of noise at dinner time. As a kid, I remember shooting a cap pistol over my dad's springers while he fed them. I have been dutifully making noise, whacking the measuring cup against Jed's dogfood bowl at dinner time, but honestly, I don't know how much it helps.

What I really believe is, if dogs hear gunfire in the field while they're excited and having fun, it doesn't bother them. My setter Ike hates fireworks, thunderclaps and other loud noises but gun shots in the field don't faze him, because he associates them with a warm, dead bird on the ground. So, on Monday I took the dogs on afternoon run at the local marsh, knowing that early duck season is in and we would hear some guns going off. As Jed ran around enjoying himself he heard several gunshots, including a couple that were fairly close. He looked up, noticed that neither Ike nor I reacted, and went back to what he was doing, which was sniffing a catfish carcass.

We have a way to go before I try shooting a shotgun over his head at a bird, but so far, so good. I am certainly open for suggestions, advice and cautionary gunshyness tales as I proceed. Any ideas?