How to Train a Hunting Dog
There is nothing better than having a well-bred hunting dog that loves to hunt just as much as you do. But the training process can be a little daunting, especially for first-time hunting dog owners. You need to start early — as in, the moment you gather that little furball into your arms — and continue his or her training well into adulthood. You also need to have a lot of patience and introduce new concepts to your dog at what may seem like a snail’s pace.
With the right approach and plenty of patience, you can encourage your pup’s predatory instincts while keeping them under control. So, are you ready to introduce your pup to your favorite pastime? Read on to learn how to train a hunting dog that follows your every command.
How to Train a Hunting Dog
Right off the bat, you need to start socializing your puppy. Introduce your dog to new people and places, as well as other dogs. Exposing your dog to new and dynamic environments from a young age is key to building their confidence and developing a versatile hunting companion in the field.
When introducing your dog to new situations, be sure to watch your dog’s body language closely. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm or frighten your pup.
2. Basic Obedience
Before you can start teaching your dog hunting drills, they first need to have a good grasp on basic obedience. Basic commands such as “sit,” “stay” and “heel” will serve as the foundation for your pup’s training, so don’t rush the early learning process.
Teaching your dog basic obedience is also an excellent way to deepen your relationship with them. Why is this important? Because as all good dog trainers know, forming a stronger bond with your dog will pay dividends later in terms of training.
3. Crate Training
Training your puppy to willingly go into a crate is useful for several reasons. For one thing, a crate-trained puppy is generally much easier to housebreak. It also makes traveling with your pup a safer experience for both of you.
To crate-train your puppy, start by making her crate as comfortable as possible. Choose the correct crate size for your dog based on her size and weight. Stick treats in the crate and try to make it a relaxing space for her.
When it comes to traveling with your dog, start by taking short trips with her in the crate. Work your way up to longer car rides, keeping in mind how long your dog can go between bathroom breaks.
Note: Even if your dog is in a crate, remember to keep your guns safely stored in hard cases during transport.
4. Bird Introduction
Around two or three months of age, you can introduce your dog to birds. Do not start with a live bird as an introduction, as this could frighten an impressionable puppy.
To keep your dog calm, introduce a cold, dead pigeon, quail or chukar to her. Then, introduce a live bird with only one wing free. Chances are, that the free wing will ignite her prey drive and get her excited.
5. Gunfire Introduction
Before you grab your rifle case and take your new pup to the gun range, hit the pause button. Introducing your dog to your gun in this way is a surefire way to end up with a gun-shy dog.
You need to take things slow and steady by first practicing with a starter pistol. At this stage, your dog should be steady — meaning, he should be able to sit and stay without moving as you toss a bumper behind you.
Take your dog out in the field and stand about 15 feet away from him. Toss the training dummy behind you and fire the starter pistol behind your back to muffle the noise. You don’t want to fire it above your head and startle him.
If your dog handles the first shot pretty well, take one step closer and repeat the process. Then, go back to your starting point and repeat the process with your starter pistol above your head.
If your dog has a negative reaction at any point, increase the distance. Take it soft and slow!
A Great Companion in the Field
Developing a well-rounded, versatile hunting dog doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes a lot of time, effort and patience to train your pup to hunt in a variety of situations. But if you’re up for the task, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible hunting partner that gets excited at the mere sight of you taking out your gun case in advance of a hunting trip. Happy hunting!