Find out how to train a hunting dog with these basic tips.
Training a hunting dog offers many rewards for an outdoorsman: convenience, companionship, a helpful sense of smell and better targeting strategy. While the payoff is well worth the effort, anyone who has experienced dog training on any level knows you need to be willing to put the time and work required to do it right.
Not sure where to start? Just follow these tips and soon you'll have a lean, mean, hunting machine.
Before you do anything, teach your pup the basic skills
That's right, your dog needs to know how to obey commands before he can start to learn the tricky stuff. Make sure your pup can sit, stay, leave it and be quiet before you move onto anything else. While the other skills will become important to know, nothing's worse than a dog who can't stop barking when you need him to. Master these essentials before you move onto anything else.
Get your pet used to the sound of gunfire
While this isn't really a command, your dog needs to know not to run for cover when you fire that first shot. Quite simply, this factor could make or break a hunting dog. The loud boom of a barrel can be very startling for anyone, but it can be particularly frightening for your pet. Ease your pup's stress by letting him know he's safe when your firearm goes off. That way, your dog will be ready to retrieve instead of ready to hide.
Let your pup explore the territory beforehand
Before you head out on your first hunt together, let your dog explore the territory (or at the very least, a similar setting). Your pup needs to feel confident in the area so he can roam with you like a true companion and not like a timid follower. Helping your dog explore the property will familiarize him with the smells, feel and walking distance that you both will be experiencing. Then, when you finally do go on your hunt together, your dog will be more concerned about the task at hand instead of the new place he's in.
Introduce your dog to what you'll be hunting
While this isn't always possible, try to give your dog the closest version of what you'll need him to retrieve. You'd be surprised that dogs aren't immediately taken to just any animal, and more so, a live or dead version of the animal. With enough exposure, any dog can develop a fondness for bird, deer and more. For example, expose your young pup to a dead bird first and teach him not to hardmouth or shake it. That way, when you pet encounters a fresh one from your hunt, he'll know what to do instead of being confused.
Make sure your dog knows when to pick up a decoy and when to pick up the real thing
This lesson is crucial - nothing's more embarrassing than when your dog retrieves a dummy instead of a duck. While your dog will notice the obvious difference between a decoy and the real thing, make sure he knows the command "Leave it." The more he can differentiate your needs, the better. Teach your pet when to leave the decoy and when to retrieve it. Make sure he doesn't get tangled in any lines or ropes. It takes a little bit of time, but this lesson will definitely pay off in the long run.
While these are just a few tips for how to train a hunting dog, the biggest piece of advice we can offer is to treat your pet with kindness, patience and trust. After all, your new pup is a lasting companion for your hunt and is more than excited to share new outdoor experiences with you.
What other tips would you include? How long did it take your canine hunting companion to learn his trade? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments section below!
Featured image via Sacred Hunter