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Occasional gunshyness

I have a 3 year old Vizsla, and she's got some serious problems. She was pointing pheasant wings at 4 months and has shown brilliance in the field various times through her life. Shes always had the instinct, and aggresiveness OCCASIONALLY. She went through 6 months of gunshyness at 1.5 ,and has gone on timid spells 3 or 4 times. I can't figure out why she keeps hitting these spells. Her very timid nature might contribute. But then again, on the chase of a cottontail, shes far from timid. I guess I'm asking if theres any hope or for suggestions.

Viszla Owner,
Some dogs tend to be timid due to outside factors. Some are just genetically "less aggressive" than other dogs. The Germans did well to keep aggressiveness alive in the development of the Shorthair, for example. A timid dog can at times be difficult to predict, tough to train, and perplexing to say the least. However, a dog that has found its way into your life is worth saving.

As far as what could help the dog be less timid, the following are some suggestions:
We are large imposing creatures to a 23 inch tall animal, at times we are unaware of our LOOMING postures over a dog afield, or on Point. Be most careful of your Body Language. Soft given commands can relax a dog while out training also. Do try not to be too aggressive while training the timid dog, either verbally or physically. Watch the dogs body language too, you can tell when a dog is getting confused, or lacking in composure. A tucked tail or low set ears tell volumes.

Try to incorporate bird work in very short playful sets, letting the dog bump and chase if necessary. We are building confidence, the breaking process has to be set back. We want the dog to be enthusiastic once again, so forgive the ill manners until signs of restored confidence reemerge. Sight pointed birds, out in the open will charge up the dog and instill the desire to pursue. Pointing may or may not occur, don't worry, for now we again can forgive the dog for bad manners. We'll get after that later. Lavish praise on the dog for any positives, we want to inject the fun back into the routine.

As to the gunshy spell. Well, that is another issue entirely, but most important at this time is to get the dog back on track with birds. Eventually, when the dog has its confidence back, the shots will have little effect. The dog will be too keyed on the hunt and likely be distracted enough to put up with the shot, provided you do the proper reintroduction to the gun.

Time and patience can revitalize the dog, but take the pains to go slow. Do not expect sweeping gains in the early sets. keep things fun for both you and the dog. As I like to say, "If you're not having fun, you're doing something wrong."

Best of Luck to you, Steve Anker
Anker Outfitters

For more information on GunShyness, try:
Gunshyness - Jan Burkholder
Gunshy dog
Gun Shyness III
Occasional gunshyness

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