Dogs and SD Shooting

Not open for further replies.
Dec 25, 2002
Salem, Oregon
Okay, a quick search does not bring up anything recent, so my question is what the effect of the loud noise of a 12 GA being fired in self defense in one's home is on a dog that is in the thick of things.

Is there any way to prepare the dog for such an eventuality/minimize harm?
take it bird hunting...

the dog will learn to go get what you shot, so if you shoot the BG outside the front door the dog will drag it into the house for you :evil:
I don't know how practical (or truthful) this advice is...but I have heard people say they train their dogs at feeding time....set out bowl of food and pick a fair distance away and fire...and day by day come in closer and closer.

Seems to me if he's hungry enough he should overcome any nervousness or shock.
Of course you can train your dog to be used to gunfire. Any well trained guard dog will be familiar with the noise and won't bolt. You don't have to subject them to dangerous levels of noise. A mild .22 blank actually seems to bug dogs more than bigger firearms.
My SO has a coworker that breeds Labs, not for hunting purposes, but she desensitizes them to noise by banging pots and pans together while they're still puppies.

Might be worth a shot.

I've also been shooting a buddy's house before and his two dogs are polar opposites when it comes to noise. One runs off into the back yard at the first sign of gun fire. The other doesn't care one whit. Example: We had 8 guys going whole hog with various handguns on a line. I was banging through 26 rounds of .40S&W in a Glock and had to stop before I finished to shoo the dog away from me. It had wandered over and was standing right below my pistol while I fired. He never trained it to be comfortable around gun fire, it just was.
My boxer/pit is freaked out by any loud noise. I took him to the range once...big mistake. He got so worked up I had to cut my range trip way short and take him home.

My GSD could care less. She'll lay on the ground right next to my bench and won't even flinch at the shot. Not one ounce of fear in her.

If it ever came down to a shootout in my home. I'd guess the boxer would just freak out and run around in circles, barking hysterically. The GSD would calmly proceed to ripping off the arms of anyone who appeared to be a threat.
Keep in mind you can train them all you want in an outdoor environment but the sound inside close walls will probably do a little damage to their ear.
Here's what I did with my Lab pups years ago. Take them to a firing range. Start in the parking lot and over a half hour or so, walk them up to just behind the firing liner. Talking gently and encouraging them along the way is a good idea. They acclimate to the noise. Follow up visits recommended periodically unless you shoot over them hunting regularly.
I assume that there will be some damage to the dog's ears. If the dog can cope with the noise and keep focus on the situation that would be as much as I could hope for.

I expect that a home defense situation is going to leave scars on everyone. On top of our emotional recovery I would not want to have to put the dog back together personality wise.


the dog is an Aussie shepherd. She's great on cat and squirrel patrol, but haven't the foggiest how she would react to intruders. We have had indication that she is at least aggressively noisy in such situations.

Your post came in after I posted. Dogs are not allowed at our ranges, but I think I might try the parking area nearest the firing line just for starters.

It seems that the best solution would to be able to find an open field shooting area like many here have available. Unfortunately, the lack of open shooting areas in the SF Bay area is probably the main reason for our wealth of formal ranges.
First we'll talk about the harm part:

Just like people, dogs can suffer hearing loss from REPEATED exposure to loud noises, HOWEVER, even though their hearing is more sensitive than ours, you shouldn't worry overly much about it....If it was a serious problem, all dogs would be deaf after exposure to a couple thunderstorms.

You can acclimate a dog to gunfire, simply by starting far away, with a "quiet gun" and moving gradually closer. Having the dog play(distraction), or get a reward for not reacting helps.

NOW, I have seen a (very)few dogs that are truly "gunshy", and they appear to be born that way, and we've never made any headway in breaking them of it. They usually react badly to thunderstorms and other loud noises as well.

My dogs (GSDs), because they've all been trained for Shutzhund Sport, get all cranked up when they hear gunfire....time to WORK!!!! 4th of July is NO fun around my house!
You can train most dogs to do this, the police do. However, some can never get used to the sound of a gun.

About 15 years ago, my parents picked up a dog that had failed out of the doggy police academy. They had to kick her out because she wet the floor everytime a gun was fired and never improved.
the dog will learn to go get what you shot, so if you shoot the BG outside the front door the dog will drag it into the house for you

Is this actually a good thing. Pool of blood with streaks going through the front door into your home. Train the dog to drag it somewhere else:evil:
I helped train one GSD female who believe it or not would CHASE THE BULLETS. She'd hear them smack to ground and would run off after them. Crazy dog thought it was some sort of supersonic game of fetch. Her hearing was good enough to pick up the impact sounds we usually can't hear.
A dog's hearing can be hurt by gunfire, just like ours.
It may actually be worse since their hearing is more sensative.
You cannot minimize the damage unless you pin the pooch down and stuff something in its ears.

As far as getting them used to guns, some dogs just don't care.
My border collie went to the woods with me to shoot guns and never seemed to care that there was a loud noise.
Our Australian shepherd mut is scared of loud noises...haven't tried a gunshot yet. I bet she'd be afraid.

One thing to note, if you shoot a gun near a dog and it freaks out DO NOT comfort the dog.
Comforting the dog will make the dog think that it is okay to react the way it did (freaking out).
Just act like nothing has happend.
Does your dog like to be with you in the car?
Here's what I did for one lab to acclimatize.
As suggested above, I drove to a trap range. Parked about 100 yards from the field with the windows cracked. Just stayed in the car, listened to the radio and read for awhile. After a few rounds of trap, I opened the windows about halfway. Drove home after a few more rounds.
Repeated once a week for a few weeks, parking closer each time.
Always watched for signs of anxiety/discomfort.

If you can do it in a controlled enough area, also try to associate this sound with a favorite toy or type of play.

Now, this dog can handle what would be a duck blind type situation. (For other reasons he isn't actually hunted)

But, when it really comes down to it; in a SD situation your dog's feelings and hearing as well as your own don't really matter.
If I have to fire a 12ga. in my house, well...all the rest are secondary concerns.

However, I happen to value my hearing a great deal, and I take great care not to risk it. If I have to fire in a SD confrontation, so be it.

The plain fact is, if someone breaks into my house and the dogs give resistance, he'll just shoot them. That, and they're terrified of loud noises. Fortunately, I have this drill that they've gotten the hang of.

I have my back/side yard fenced off, with a door in back of the house leading out. They figure they can scare anything off (big wimps) by barking at it from behind the fence. So, whenever a stranger comes up, they both make a beeline for the back door.

If I've got to fire, they'll both be waiting at the back door to go out :rolleyes:
Mutt Muffs!


You may want to paint them a more tactical color and possibly install a laser and tac-light. :p
Okay, you guys are getting to be too much. I am trying to sneak a peek here while I am at a customer's site and my breaking out in loud uncontrollable laughter is making it hard to be subtle. :D
Last edited:
I just have to brag a little bit...
One night my girlfriend's brother told my girlfriend that he was going to come over and get a key to her office.
He never showed up to get the key, so she went to bed.
The dog normally sleeps in m girlfriend's bedroom (NOT on the bed btw).

My girlfriend said all she remembered was the dog nudged the heck out of her to wake her up at 2am. The dog then ran and crouched against the wall next to the doorway inside of the bedroom and she heard her brother yelling the dog's name out.
The brother then explained that he let himself in (he has a copy of her house key) so he could get the office key. He walked through the foyer and felt a burning pain in the back of his thigh, which was the dog chomping down on him. He turned around to grab the dog, but the dog slipped past, ran to wake my girlfriend up, then got ready to ambush him when he got to the bedroom.

Normally our dog barks a lot if she hears anything at night. But, I think the dog didn't have enough time to bark before the supposed intruder was in the house because he had a key. He must've caught her off guard.
Never been more proud of that dog:D
My lab doesn't mind the sound of gunfire at all. He will try and play with me while I am shooting a .308.

My other dog is terrified of any loud noises, and I think it would be a heck of a job to de-sensitize her. Whenever I used to take her out shooting she would hide in my truck at the sound of the first shot.

I have tried to get both of them to wear ear-plugs, but neither of them will put up with that.
Not open for further replies.