Dog is man’s best friend – this adage might resonate even better if you’ve ever hunted with a capable canine before. While ending your expedition every time with a game at hand is one of the more obvious benefits of hunting with a dog, there is certainly a lot to look forward to with canines. 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 all forms of exercise including hiking, running and retrieving. It is for this reason and more, you want to bring your dog along for future hunting expeditions. While it may seem pretty straightforward mainly because humans have used dogs to hunt for ages, it is worth noting that not all dogs are great hunting assistants. In fact, it takes a combination of luck in finding the right breed, with continuous training just to get a capable canine hunting companion.
The bottom line is, thorough training is mandatory for any canine to be graded as 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 array of dog breeds that can be transformed into capable hunters. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of 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, while Pit Bulls can be great for big game hunts due to their aggressive nature. 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 Your Dog to Hunt
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 meaning 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 so as to find a reputable breeder.
Regardless of whether you are in the market for a big game hunting companion or bird’s 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, well, best suited for the big stage. Therefore, be sure to engage in some research to find out what breed complements your hunting style best.
Of 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 all about obedience. In short, the canine has to know who the boss is. While it is advisable to let the dog learn in a friendly manner, some breeds are just too hyperactive and aggressive meaning an electronic collar is your safest bet.
3. The Basics
While training your dog to sit, stay or lay 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 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 in. For instance, expose your dog to water if it’s a retriever or take it for a walk in wild terrains if it’s meant for big game hunting. While at it, try to make it understand the difference between a decoy and real duck. 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 meaning 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 for the big stage if you expect it to perform like a seasoned hunting companion.
5. The Scents and Creatures
As mentioned above, nothing beats the real action. Of what use would be your training if your dog remains restricted to the backyard? Introduce it to fellow hunters, new scents and other creatures as well. A dog’s main strength lays in its sniffing abilities and 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
The basic steps above leading to this one 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 paramount aspect of dog training. Overall, though, your hunting companion would be best suited for the rough if exposed to a number of surface floorings 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 into 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, training your dog to successfully hunt won’t happen overnight. In fact, you are better off working with a pup because 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 and not tool. It all starts with obedience, though. Also worth writing home about is safety and in this regard, 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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q. How can I stop my pet from hunting at my feet?
A. Well, this is 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 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 the dog has been broken from his mother.
Q. Can Chihuahuas be trained how to hunt?
A. As mentioned earlier, 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. There are lots of options to go with here. For small games such as rabbits or waterfowls, beagles of Labradors serve as ideal. You want a dog with a soft mouth.
Wrapping It Up
The bottom line here is, training your dog how to hunt 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 to training a dog for hunting applications. 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 and rightfully so. Even the most seasoned hunters didn’t become pros overnight, so why should your dog be the first?