Gun Dog Help

David Prutsman

All men are equal before fish
About a month ago I was invited out to Nebraska for a whitetail hunt but came home with more than just the four whitetails I harvested. I brought home with me a German Shortair Pointer named Charlie. Here's his story.... Charlie was found roaming one of Nebraska's few (sarcasm) corn fields when someone took notice and escorted him to the Humane Society. Poor Charlie was three days from being euthanized when my buddy and his wife adopted him. This was last August when they came to Charlie's rescue but, shortly therafter had the sad realization that their three year old was allergic to him. Hence my new companion.

Charlie is amazing; everyone who meets him offers to take him home. I'm led to believe someone has worked with him becuase he doesn't lick, jump or have accidents. I am also led to believe someone was very rough with him; he cowers to loud bangs and loud firm voice. Several times, swinging my arms has caused him to flinch. Charlie is very social wit people and dogs, in fact, he is a quiet and confident Alpha with around other dogs. The vet says he is a very healthy and large (solid and lean 85#'s) three year old.

Curious to know if Charlie had any previous training I decided yesterday to put him to the test at a nearby pheasant club. I was worried about gun shyness, but figured I would immediately learn if it were an issue. I can't say that Charlie was truly gunshy because never did run for the hills. Mostly, he heeled at my side or just behind me for most the day. I had a hell of a time getting him out in front of me and when he did it was never very far. He did seem to creep out a little further and put is nose to the ground without other dogs around, though who knows what he was sniffing out. I put him on several Chukar, even clipped the wings of one, yet he seemed more interested in where the truck was parked. I know he has a drive to hunt, because he has some major beef with squirrels and rabbits. I think it's only natural to assume he has some negative associations with birds.

I had such high hopes that he would get out there and be the perfect gun dog but, at the end of the day I was frustrated and dissapointed. I was not disappointed in Charlie, he didn't do anything wrong. I was disappointed because I've never trained a gun dog, I don't know what I'm doing. I have no clue how to go about helping Charlie overcome his timidness to go after birds. Other, more experienced bird hunters did say he did better than they thought he would and they've seen much worse.

I know he has several issues to overcome and his age doesn't make things easier but, he's such a great dog and shows great potential.

Please help!

I would look for a proffesional trainer with experience working with older dogs. Said trainer would also want you to be part of the training regimen. There are a lot of potentially good field dogs improperly trained by people thinking they can train their own dog. I think once a person has a well trained dog then it is possible to self train providing one has the time.

From what you have stated it is going to take a gentle hand and patience.


David Prutsman

All men are equal before fish

I have thought about having a trainer work with Charlie and agree that it is probably the most prudent course of action. My biggest concern, however, is cost. I just can't afford a trainer. My buddy says his dog trainer is $500 a month; that's hard to do on a fireman's budget. I just might have to start saving up for a trainer but, would love to know if there are things I can do with Charlie in the meantime.

I snagged a few pheasant wings from the club and will have him retreive and hunt them out. On the other hand, I'm afraid of worsening the situation, as you had mentioned, many hunters have done with unintentional consequence. That was one thing he did do the other day, fetched dead bird we tossed by hand.



Active Member
David -

I assume that you are somewhat closer than Antarctica. WE usually train once per day, sometime twice per day. PM me if you want some pointers - so to speak....

David Prutsman

All men are equal before fish
I suppose it is time to update my location, I haven't been in Antarctica for a couple years now. Marty, I appreciate the offer.



Active Member
Since you cannot afford an expensive might as well try yourself. Good on you for giving the dog a second chance at life .

Start with hiding and retrieving wings and make it fun rewarding him every time he finds and retrieves it. Then can work up to hiding live birds and start with shooting a cap gun/ loud hand clap around him. First far away then closer. Always rewarding him after the shot. Do not expose to multiple gun fire until a few seasons hunting alone. Go out with more experienced guys and have him spend time around other working dogs. I have a few wings if you need I can send

Upton O

Blind hog fisherman
My suggestion is for you to offer your services as laborer or assistant dog handler to a trainer in return for help in teaching you how to train your dog. Notice I didn't say for the trainer to train your dog. Your work with the trainer might include cleaning kennels, preparing equipment, bird prep, etc.


Active Member
My suggestion is for you to offer your services as laborer or assistant dog handler to a trainer in return for help in teaching you how to train your dog. Notice I didn't say for the trainer to train your dog. Your work with the trainer might include cleaning kennels, preparing equipment, bird prep, etc.
That is how I got started when I was a teenager. Works as an adult too. Trainers always need reliable field help.
I have had the same thing happen to me.
I picked up a GSP in the pound and took her right out to the field on the last day of pheasant season.
Got her out of the car and headed up the wind row along the corn field.
she was working great and went on point I walked up a flushed a covey of quail, good dog.
I did not shoot because I was looking for Mr. rooster.
Up the wind row some and another point, rooster comes up I shoot, rooster falls, good dog, fetch the bird!
No dog, no dog to be seen anywhere! Where did my good dog go?
I go pick up my bird and finish walking the wind row around the field wondering the hole time wtf happen to the dog.
I get back to the car and there she is sitting by the car door.
Gun shy, broom shy, anything that was over 4' long.
Well, I had my work cut out for me.
Where I lived there were lots of wheat fields that were in or close to the city limits "no hunts" lots of pheasant.
I used a cap gun once she learned no one was gonna hurt her in the field.
Opening day of the season the next year she pointed, the rooster came up, was shot and the dog came to heel.
After lots of love she would get out there and hunt some more.
I was never able to get her to retrieve a bird in the 4years I had her.
She was also crazy about rabbits and squirrels, that is hard to break, try a shock collar.

You might look in to NAVHDA- North American Versatile Hunting Dog Assoc. I am pretty sure there are a few chapters in Colorado. If there is one nearby you could get together with folks from the club to train. NAVHDA is full of folks with shorthairs and similar pointing breeds, and they will know where to train and where to find birds.

As far as your dog goes- sounds like he needs some time to get his confidence back. I would not let anyone with a gun near him. He might not be gun shy, but he is not going to gain anything from hearing gunfire. Usually a dog like this will open up some after getting him into some birds. I would plant some birds in some light cover, take a vow of silence, and let him do whatever he wants around those birds. He might surprise you.

Good luck!

David Prutsman

All men are equal before fish
Once again, thanks so much for all the pointers! I already feel more confident in getting Charlie's groove back. I learned yesterday he has no problems with birds, dead ones at least. I left him in my truck for about 30 minutes and found feathers strewn about the cab upon my return. He jumped in the front seat where I had left a ziplock full of Chukar wings I'd intended for training and destroyed all but one of them. My first instinct was to become angry, then I remembered someone telling me "if a dog makes you angry, he's defeated you". So I had to laugh about it and hope he trained himself a little :)

Alot of great suggestions here. Your biggest hurdle will be patience. Not knowing the history of Charlie makes it difficult to determine what actions are needed. If he's holding tight to you in the field he could either be gun shy or have been negatively reinforced around birds in the field, hard to determine without seeing. If you were planning on working with him on your own I would suggest to keep a gun out of the scenario for now and make finding birds the most positive and rewarding experience possible.
One exercise we do when teaching quartering or getting young dogs excited about birds is walk through a field with 2 guys, each carrying a bird about 15-20 yards apart. One guy shows the dog the live flapping bird and excitedly calls the dogs name over and over until the dog runs in his direction...then he hides the bird and the other guy repeats the same thing until the dog runs his way. It's basically just getting the dog excited and associating birds in the process.
Whatever you do keep it positive and reward the dog with alot of praise. Another thing to keep in mind is he may not have prey drive on birds and you can't force that. Hopefully he responds but either way it sounds like Charlie has found a great home. Best of luck to you and Charlie.