Follow these guidelines to train your dog to hunt and bring him on your next trip.
Once you have done your research on the type of dog you want to take hunting with you, the real work begins. Obedience and enthusiasm are important characteristics in a hunting dog, so here are some steps to help you train your pup to hunt.
Socializing your pup at a young age is very important. He needs to learn to react to different situations in a positive way. Taking your dog with you everywhere you can is a great way to start. Take him to family BBQs, tailgate parties, the park, or any other place with large groups of people.
A puppy training kit from your local sporting store or a catalogue is a great way to start training your dog to hunt. These kits usually include a training dummy, a training whistle, and a lead.
At the beginning, keep your training sessions short. Two or three five-minute sessions a day is a good starting point. Make sure the session does not feel like a training session. Instead, keep it fun and playful for your dog. Always end your session with your dog wanting to retrieve more.
Don’t make these two common mistakes when beginning training: throwing the dummy too many times and steadying the dog too early. Your dog may lose interest in retrieving after too many throws and can lose desire to retrieve if you hold him back too early in the training stages.
A great way to train your dog to hunt is to throw a duck wing, pigeon wing, or dummy down the hallway in your house. Make sure all the doors down the hallway are closed, so your dog can only chase the dummy and come back to you. The hallway and closed doors limits his range and ability to form bad habits.
One of the easiest ways to get your dog ready for retrieving steadiness is by practicing during feeding times. Place your dog’s food bowl in front of him and tell him to sit and wait. When he has relaxed a little you can give him the “Ok” command to release him and let him eat. This is an easy technique to practice everyday and can be transferred to retrieving a ball, dummy, or live animal.
The feeding training technique discussed above sets the stage for steadiness training. In the early stages, use a platform about 10 inches off the ground so your dog can identify a specific spot to sit and stay. If he leaves the spot or “breaks,” correct him and bring him back to it.
Once he understands he cannot leave the platform without your command, use the platform as the spot he retrieves from. Correct him if he breaks from the spot, but do not correct him if he leaves the spot to retrieve. It is very important your dog understands the difference between breaking from the spot and leaving it to retrieve for you.
Once he understands the difference, use a piece of cardboard instead of the platform and eventually take that away too. Your dog should understand he should stay in the spot you tell him to, not just the marked spot on the ground.
Gun Fire Training
It is very important to take this training slow. This should be done a little at a time with positive association for your dog.
To begin, let your dog into the field and let him chase birds around. It is important for him to show enthusiasm for chasing and that he is having fun.
While your dog is running and chasing, fire something small like a .22 crimp shell about 75 to 100 meters away. Your dog probably won’t even notice the small fire, because he is so focused on chasing. If he does not show a reaction, try getting closer and firing again.
Once your dog seems comfortable with a .22 crimp, move to something larger like a .22 blank. Start far and move closer. Then try a shotgun and start the transition again.
Any time you move to a larger or louder gun, start far away from your dog and move closer. If he hesitates or shows any negative reaction from the shot, stop and wait about a week and try again.
Focus on obedience and positive reactions from your dog, and you will be ready for the next hunting season.