9 Steps on How To Train Hunting Dogs
The Importance of Selecting The Right Dog To Train
It is always best to start with a puppy. Training an older dog can be done, but the process is a lot more difficult. A puppy is young and easily motivated with a reward system. Plus, a younger dog has more energy for the hunt. No one wants a dog lying down on the job. Training should begin around the age of 7 to 10 weeks. Watch a video below from Willow Creek Kennels that will help you with training your new pup.
You want to start young before they develop any bad habits. Be selective with the dog you choose. A pet may be chosen for looks, but a hunting dog needs to be chosen for skill. They need to have a keen sense of smell and good eyesight. In many cases, they will not be able to see the game, but they will be able to smell them.
Don’t make rash decisions when selecting a dog. Bring along some treats to the breeder and try some “sniff” tests. Take them out in the yard and play with them. You want to make sure you pick the right dog or it is a waste of money. Every dog has their own personality. There are some that will grasp new concepts in training quicker than others. Spend some time with the litter, and find the one that is going to work out best for you, if any. Don’t be afraid to keep on looking till you find the right dog.
After you make your selection, you need to be very careful about their diet. A dog’s diet will mean everything on a hunt. An overweight pup won’t have the stamina of a canine in good physical condition. Keeping them healthy and fit is one of the biggest battles owners have. Never feed them table scraps, and don’t use low-quality dog foods that are full of unhealthy fillers. To reduce sugar and increase natural energy, try a food that is grain free. They will consume less food, have fewer bowel movements, and be overall healthier. According to Bob West at Gun Dog Magazine, he states that proper nutrition is the brick and mortar foundation for an excellent hunting dog.
Step 1: Obedience Is The First Lesson
Have you ever seen or owned a dog that was stubborn? Just like people, dogs can have a mind of their own. You must start your training journey with obedience training. Simple commands like sit, stay, roll over, and lay down, are what you must master first. You are teaching the dog “tricks,” but you are also instilling obedience at your commands. When you are out on a hunting trip, you must be able to give commands, and they must obey.
According to Mike O’Reilly from www.outdoorhub.com, use basic commands like “come,” “heel” and “whoa.” What if there is a dangerous situation and your dog won’t obey your instruction? You must master the obedience before they can be good hunters. The ability to sniff out the game is a natural ability you can only enhance, but you can teach them how to obey their master.
It is important that one “master” be involved in the training process. Though others may help, the person who is going to be hunting the dog should be the leader of the pack. Many dogs will not take orders from more than one person. They must be comfortable with responding to your requests. Having more than one person giving commands can be confusing for the dog. They need to identify who is their master from the beginning. Until your dog can master these obedience skills, don’t move on to anything else.
Step 2: Teaching Respect and Learning The Right Tone
If you have children, you probably know that shouting at them is not going to get them to respond favorably. The same can be said of dogs. An animal will respond much better when they have a mutual respect relationship with their master. While you want them to hunt and bring home the big catch, you also want to ensure that you have a good association with the animal.
An animal master connection that is built on love and trust will go further than anything else. You want your dog to know that they can depend on you. In return, you want to make sure you can depend on the dog. Never shout or get mad. A good instructor can motivate without raising their voice. Dogs understand a whole lot more than what people give them credit for.
They will learn command words and be able to tell your disappointment or approval based on your tone. Praise them when they do good, and they will try harder to please you the next time.
Step 3: Mastering The E-Collar
Many hunters use an e-collar to fine-tune their pup. It allows you to extend your control. More importantly, it can save your animal’s life. Some may think of it as a magic bullet, but it is more of a polishing tool. It helps with the enforcement and to minimize distances. Your dog should already have basic skills and be able to sit, stay, roll over, etc. This tool is going to help you polish their skills, but it will not alone fix behavioral issues.
It is important to learn what level of static stimulation to use. Always start off at level one. Most collars will go up to nine or ten. Never start out at the highest range. Start out on the lower end of the spectrum and work your way up. Get to know your dog and the level of stimulation they need to be successful. This is important if you plan on hunting more than one dog. Some dogs will be a one while others will be an eight. It all comes about from trial and error.
You need to learn infraction levels. If the dog won’t obey a simple command, then that might be a level one or two infractions. However, if the dog takes off when you tell them time and time again to come back, then that would probably be a level six. You will be able to learn what level it takes to get their attention. A dog that takes off at the shot without being sent should be at a seven. Breaking like this endangers him and you. What if the dog knocked the shotgun out of your hand? Assign levels based on their behaviors. Remember, this tool is not barbaric; it is life saving.
Step 4: Begin Using Training Aids
Once you feel your dog is ready for a trial run, it is time to purchase some other gear. Sporting goods stores have a large selection based on your hunting needs. If you are going to train a dog to hunt quail or pheasants, then you can get dummy wings from the store. Dummies are a great training aid as you can use them to learn the scent. You will need a whistle to help signal their attention, and anything else important for training. They sell all sorts of gadgets and gizmos that can make the your job a whole lot easier. The more time you spend in training, the better hunter your dog will be.
Step 5: Make Sure The Dog Is Socialized
You may think it is crazy to “socialize” your dog. According to pet expert Cesar Millan, people are the ones who complicate the relationship between man and pet. One of the biggest reasons that people have issues with their canine friends is because they have forgotten that they are dogs. They don’t let them be normal. They are not humans so they are not going to act like a human being. Let a dog be a dog. They need to be used to being around other pets.
Take them to a dog park and let them interact with other people and animals. A dog that has not been socialized with not have respect for boundaries. Unsocialized dogs are usually the ones with behavioral issues and violent tempers. While most hunting dogs are not known for violence, there is always the few that don’t fit the textbook on temperament. It is great to teach the dog to hunt and encourage them to be good at it, but you must remember that at the end of the day, they are still a dog.
Step 6: Take Them On Practice Runs
Before going hunting with a group of buddies and other dogs, spend some time one-on-one with your dog. You need to take them out in the situation that they are required to perform in. Climate is also important. If it is really hot outside, make sure you have plenty of water. Hunting dogs tend to drink way more water than a dog at home. Your dog can dehydrate quickly in the sun. To have a productive day, keep water close by.
On your trial run, don’t expect perfection the first time out. You may need to have many trial runs before you actually go on a hunt with your buddies. Remember how long it took you to get your child to walk, talk, and potty-train? Those milestones don’t happen overnight, and neither will your dog be trained overnight. The last thing you need is an untrained dog running wild when there are multiple guns and dogs around. It can be a recipe for disaster.
Step 7: Know When Enough Is Enough
One of the biggest problems that a trainer faces is knowing when to back off. If your dog is not responding and seems uninterested, try again another day. Dogs have mood swings and have off days too. They may not feel like training. If you force them to train when they don’t feel like it, your efforts can be counterproductive.
According to Mike Graves from Game and Fishing Magazine, dogs have five basic levels of behavior. They are basic irritability, reflexes, instincts, emotion and intelligence. You must learn these behaviors and their affect that day to be productive.
You don’t want them to associate hunting as something bad. Rather, you want to teach them to enjoy what they do. They already have the senses in their genetic makeup for the job, but you have to show them how to expand upon their inherited abilities. Read more here
Step 8: Turning Them Loose
When you feel the time is right, take them on a hunt. Turn your dog loose and see what they can do. Their first time out may be a bit frustrating for both of you. Remember to have patience, and never yell at them. Make sure they have mastered their basic commands and are able to use the shock collar with ease. If your dog is properly socialized, then they will not have any problem hunting alongside other dogs.
Step 9: Reap The Rewards Of Your Labor
The process is long and tedious. However, your hard work will pay off. Whether you want to hunt deer, rabbits, quail, pheasants, or whatever else there is running wild, you will know that your trusted sidekick is ready for action when you are. Together, you can make wonderful memories and stock the freezer full. The thrill of the hunt will bond you and your canine together for their life. According to wikihow.com, training takes a whole lot of patience and treats.
For more tips on training your dog, check out Mat Cervantes’s video that explains in detail about training. You can find the video below.