By Robert Milner
Save the gun introduction until Pup is working well on marked retrieves and has done some water work. You will need a friend with a dog to help you on gun introduction. Find a lake or pond where your friend can work his dog on water retrieves while you and Pup stand and watch from at least 150 yards away. Use a 20-gauge or 12-gauge shotgun and use light field loads.
Your friend should work his dog on two or three short water retrieves as Pup watches. When Pup is thoroughly intrigued and excited by all the activity accompanying the dummy throws-the splashing and retrieving-your friend should add a shot as he throws the dummy.
If the shot doesn't bother Pup, move him closer at whatever rate he feels comfortable. After several shots, you and Pup should be standing next to your friend, and Pup should have developed the best of associations with gunshots.
A proper introduction to the gun should last a lifetime. If, however, a dog gets gun-shy subsequent to the proper gun introduction, then it is probably because he had his ears "rung" by muzzle blast. If Pup gets out in front of the muzzle blast from your shotgun, it will hurt him and will certainly contribute to early deafness.