Training a Hunting Dog
Dog is man’s best friend – this adage might resonate even more if you’ve ever hunted with a capable canine. Ending your expedition with game in hand is one of the obvious benefits of hunting with a dog. However, there is certainly a lot more to look forward to while hunting with a dog. They can be quite crafty, helpful and to extents, really daring. It is just one of those things that provide a new experience every single time.
Just like human beings, dogs need and enjoy multiple forms of exercise. This includes things like hiking, running and retrieving. This is one of the reasons why dogs are perfect to bring along on your hunting expeditions.
While it may seem pretty obvious, it is worth noting that not all dogs are great hunting assistants. In fact, it takes a combination of luck, finding the right breed, and continuous training just to get a capable canine hunting companion.
The bottom line is that thorough training is mandatory for any dog to be a valuable asset in hunting. If you are a hunting aficionado that owns a canine, here are some essential dog training tips to get you started.
What Are the Best Dog Hunting Breeds?
There is a wide variety of dog breeds that can be transformed into capable hunters. Unfortunately, these breeds don’t include home pets such as Chihuahuas.
That said, you are in luck if you own a Basset Hound – widely regarded as the best hunting companions due to their impeccable sniffing power. Labrador Retrievers serve as ideal for small bodied creatures and birds thanks to their tender mouths. Other great dog hunting breeds include Blood Hounds, American Bull Dogs, Lacy Dogs and Walker Hounds just to mention a few.
Steps on How to Train a Dog to Hunt
Here are a few tips and considerations to consider when training a hunting dog.
1. Select a Puppy
While you can train an adult canine to hunt, it is generally advisable to start the training process while it’s still young. Besides, practice makes perfect and your dog is more likely to achieve peak efficiency in its prime, rather than while aging. Moreover, training the dog as a puppy allows it time to get acquainted to your specific hunting style and techniques. For instance, if you enjoy hunting ducks in water, you want a breed with an innate swimming and retrieving instinct. Be sure to do your homework to find a reputable breeder.
There are a few characteristics to look for regardless of whether you are in the market for a big game hunting companion or bird dog. It is imperative to go for a breed that’s not only quick, but also one that’s aggressive, obedient, vigilant and courageous. However, it should all boil down to preference. Some breeds make good water retrievers, while others are best suited for the big stage. Therefore, be sure to engage in some research to find out what breed complements your hunting style the best.
What use is a dog that doesn’t heed your call in the first place? Generally speaking, the first year of training is the most crucial mainly because everything the pup learns will get instilled for life. With this in mind, you want to kick-start your training session by teaching the pup about obedience. In short, the canine has to know who’s the boss. While it is advisable to let the dog learn in a friendly manner, some breeds are just too hyperactive and aggressive. In these cases, an electronic collar might be your best choice.
3. The Basics
While training your dog to sit, stay or lie down may come out as cliché commands, they ultimately serve as the fundamental commands even in hunting. Besides, if your canine can’t obey basic commands at home, what makes you so sure he will once out in the rough? Use incentives to teach – give it a treat once the dog sits and repeat this over and over. Remember, dog training is all about instilling the right habits in a friendly way if possible.
Regardless of the breed you have, it would be in your best interest to introduce the dog to the terrain you’ll both be hunting. For instance, expose your dog to water if it’s a retriever or take it for a walk in the woods if it’s meant for big game hunting. While at it, try to make it understand the difference between a decoy and a real animal or bird. Once the canine realizes that roaming and sniffing out stuff can earn him some incentives, it will always be on toes.
In a nutshell, nothing matches the practicality of actual situations. A dog trained in theory will almost always not live up to expectations in the rough. Try setting up simulated hunts in surreal gaming environments to enhance its skills. Remember conditioning is as important as the hunt itself and your canine has to be prepared if you expect it to perform like a seasoned hunting companion.
5. The Scents and Creatures
As mentioned above, nothing beats real action. What use would it be to train your dog if it is only restricted to the backyard? Introduce it to fellow hunters, new scents and other creatures. A dog’s main strength lies in its sniffing abilities. Introducing it to new scents only goes to strengthen these senses.
6. Gun Training
Most dogs are gun shy at first, but unfortunately, some remain that way. It is worth mentioning that a gun-shy dog has no place in the woods or hunting altogether. The best way to get rid of the shyness is to simply take the dog with you to target practice. The mere exposure to gunshots in the shooting area should take care of the fear or hesitations for loud bangs.
7. The Power of Incentives
All a dog ever wants is to please its owner. With this in mind, you want to make sure that your companion knows when it does a great job out in the field. Give it a pat, hug or tasty treat once it retrieves a duck or sniffs out a squirrel. Reinforcing good behavior in dogs can go a long way in making them loyal lifetime hunting companions. Besides, it’s only right to treat the dog that retrieves your treat, don’t you think?
8. Keep the Training Simple
These steps are basically all you need to transform a couch-happy dog into a hunting canine. All you need is to simply get your dog to go after, retrieve and bring back your game. Anything more would be asking too much out of it. Ensure that the training is done on a daily basis if possible as consistency is key.
Additional Training Tips:
You may have gathered by now that conditioning is a key aspect of dog training. Overall, though, your hunting companion will be more prepared for the rough if he/she is exposed to different types of ground cover as a pup. Try lining the dog’s crate with aesthetic grass or walk it on turf to gauge its footing flexibility.
Once you are certain of its footing, follow through by teaching it to love obstacles as the woods is filled with them. Agility training can greatly enhance a canine’s hunting skills by preparing it to climb boulders or navigate rough terrains.
Finally, teach your dog to climb through holes and tunnels where most small creatures live. The main idea here, though, is to teach it to enter or exit on your command only.
Mistakes to Avoid When Teaching Your Dog How to Hunt:
- When teaching your dog how to get rid of gun shyness, never shoot right over it until it is acclimatized to the loud bangs. Start out by shooting slightly away from the canine as you slowly make your way back.
- Always be patient with your pet especially when teaching them not to chew birds. At first, its natural instinct will lead it to munching on your game, but this should reduce once the training kicks in.
- Avoid using treats often as incentives. If your beloved canine gets attached to treats, he will always be looking forward to them even while out in the woods.
The bottom line is that training your dog to successfully hunt won’t happen overnight. In fact, you are better off working with a pup. By the time it matures, you’ll have instilled most of the habits through constant training and repetition. A well-trained hunting dog can easily anticipate where to go next without even waiting for the owner to bark orders.
Basically, you want the dog to become a part of you as you stalk prey throughout the woods. Instead of hunting as two entities, the dog should serve as an extension of you and not a tool. It all starts with obedience, though.
It also worth mentioning safety. Ensure your pet is properly equipped with a bright vest to distinguish it from other creatures. Cutting short your hunting expedition just because you shot down your companion by mistake can be a bummer to say the least.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q. How can I stop my pet from hunting at my feet?
A. It’s a common problem with most dogs and usually a sign of shyness. As usual, the best way to solve this is by using incentives. Give the dog a treat when it hunts away from your feet and when it does, act disappointed and shun it away.
Q. What’s the best age to start training my dog?
A. When it comes to teaching your dog to hunt, there is no right age. However, it is always advisable to start any form of training when it’s still a pup. In short, start training immediately after the dog has been broken from his mother.
Q. Can Chihuahuas be trained how to hunt?
A. Not all dogs are hunters. Chihuahuas in particular are quite small and their coat thickness doesn’t allow them to hang around in cold water or climates for long periods.
Q. What’s the best breed for small game hunting?
A. For small game such as rabbits or waterfowls, beagles or Labradors serve as an ideal hunting dog. You want a dog with a soft mouth.
Wrapping It Up
The bottom line is that learning how to train your dog to hunt isn’t easy. It is more or less the same as rising up your kid. It takes great patience and consistency. For instance, never expect your dog to automatically understand your commands especially during the initial stages. Rather, get it to understand by using simple incentives when it achieves what you want it to do.
Remember, hunting is always a learning process even for the pros out there. It takes great zeal, time and dedication to hone skills – the same applies to your beloved pet.
The above steps, however, should get you started on your quest of training your dog to hunt. The main idea is to always keep it simple and remain consistent so as to instill the right habits. You’ll have to put in work before you can expect any good out of it.
Even the most seasoned hunters didn’t become pros overnight, so why should your dog be the first?