Teaching your dog to hunt won’t happen overnight. Instead of simple commands such as sit, stay or come, hunting requires building multiple skills and advanced behaviors. The best hunting dogs are so well trained, in fact, that they can anticipate where they need to be at all stages and become an extension of their owner as they romp around the great outdoors. Training your dog to hunt should begin with solid obedience training and socialization as a puppy and progress as your dog learns and grows in both mental and physical stamina.
Before you start training your dog in traits that are specific to hunting, you’ll want to ensure they have the basic obedience commands down pat. The ability to come, sit, down, stay, and fetch on command will all be fundamental skills. You’ll also want to train your pooch to “settle” or relax their energy level to avoid creating excess noise or distractions. Finally, a solid heel will be useful for keeping your dog behind you and out of danger during critical hunting moments.
Depending on the type of hunting you are planning on doing with your dog, there are various essential tools you’ll need. First, safety is always the highest priority and your dog should have a bright vest designed specifically for canines to distinguish them from other animals while hunting. Also, supply a solid buckle collar, long leash, and various retrieving dummies to help teach proper bird retrieval.
Finally, your dog should receive proper socialization and exposure to various elements they may encounter while hunting. Below are several methods for getting your dog trained to encounter noises, obstacles, and distractions which will build a solid foundation for your doggy hunting buddy.
Socialization will be a critical step in training your hunting dog. Below are three methods for teaching critical acclimation skills your dog will need in order to be an effective hunting companion.
My dog hates loud noises, so she shivers when she hears them. I think I exposed her too soon with the shots sounding too loud so she's now traumatized. I've tried playing fireworks cassettes and gunshots to get her to be used to it, which she is fine when it's low volume but when they are louder she starts barking loudly and presses her body against mine. Her legs were shaking while she does this, it's obvious she's afraid. What else can I do to get her desensitized to gunshot noises?
Hello Janice, When you were exposing her to loud noises growing up did you pair those noises with rewarding things also? It is important for loud noise to be paired with very positive experiences and rewards. Most hunting dogs continue to like loud noises rather than develop a fear of them over time because the sound of the gun while hunting is usually paired with the activity of bird retrieval, which is extremely rewarding for a bird dog. I would work on pairing the recordings that you have with extremely rewarding activities and rewards. Start by playing the recordings on the low level that Miso can currently remain calm while listening to. Find extremely exciting and fun things to do with Miso while the recording is playing in the background. It needs to be one of her favorite activities. Get creative, it can be anything very fun and exciting. When she is acting very confident, excited, and happy, with zero signs of fear, then slightly turn the volume up on the recording. Go slow, it is important that she is extremely happy at the current volume level before you turn the volume up even slightly. Noise phobias can take a long time to address so this will require patience and practice. Once she can handle the recordings at full volume with absolutely no signs of fear and total confidence, then you can introduce the real thing at a distance, such as at a hundred yards away in a safe field area. When you do this, the noise also needs to be paired with something extremely rewarding. Many people will use frozen ducks from a previous hunt. A duck call is blown, then the gun is shot at a distance, and then the duck is thrown out for the dog to see and practice retrieving. Watch for any regression towards fearfulness again, and go slow decreasing the distance of the gunshot. Also continue to pair all loud noises with rewarding activities or favorite toys or treats even once the fear has gone so that the noise does not become a source of fear again in the future. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Well I was kind of wondering what kind of diet they should have and how to train them to jump over obstacles. Also can pitbulls be a hunting dog if trained properly?
Hello Orlando, At nine weeks of age, if she has already been weaned which she should be, Addison should be eating a dry kibble puppy food that is formulated for puppies, unless your vet recommends something different. Many brands include a suggested feeding amount based on your puppy's current age and weight and her expected size as an adult. Some brands make all-life stage foods that are acceptable for puppies but you might want to check the calcium, protein, carbohydrate, and fat content of the specific food you are comparing to make sure it mimics most other puppy formulas because puppies have specific nutrient requirements for things like calcium that are different than what adult dogs need. Dry dog food is preferable to wet dog food because the dry kibble will lead to less plaque build up on teeth. To teach her to jump over obstacles check out this Wag! article I have linked bellow: https://wagwalking.com/training/jump-over-obstacles Whether or not a Pitbull can be a hunting dog depends mainly on two things. One, what you would like to hunt. And two, the instincts of your specific dog. Breeds that are similar to Pitbulls are traditionally used to hunt wild pigs and small game, but hunting tasks that require natural pointing and retrieving instincts, like Pheasant and Duck Hunting, would be much harder to train, and for some dogs unfeasible. Even though Pitbulls are not bred for retrieving, tracking, or flushing occasionally a dog will inherit some characteristics that make that dog trainable for that task, such as a natural retrieving instinct. As your dog grows, you can pay attention to her natural pointing, retrieving, and flushing abilities. As well as her ability to swim, track, or tree an animal. If your puppy exhibits those traits, then you should be able to train her to use those skills for hunting. If you are considering duck hunting, then a large concern needs to be whether or not your puppy can efficiently swim with her particular build. Some PitBulls are good swimmers, but others struggle to stay afloat, and a good duck hunting dog has to be able to swim. You can go ahead and thoroughly socialize her, work on general training, and expose to things like water and the outdoors when it is safe to do so, to prepare her for the possibility of being a hunting dog. If she never shows the instincts to become one, then you will still reap the benefits of a well trained, well socialized dog, that is confident around new things. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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I would like for my dog to be more protective and less friendly to people he doesn’t know I need help
Hello Janniel, Proceed very cautiously with teaching protectiveness. It can easily turn into possessiveness, true aggression, fearfulness, and end in a law-suit. Instead of teaching true protectiveness (which many Pitbulls will naturally be if you were truly attacked), you can teach your dog to bark when someone suspicious approaches you and to ignore people he is not told to "Say Hi" to. This makes your dog appear more intimidating without increasing your dog's aggression and changing his personality. A structured heel and intermediate and advanced obedience where the dog is only rewarded if he maintains focus on you around distractions, is a good place to start with him learning to ignore other people. Having him wear a vest that says "in training" to discourage people from petting him without permission can also help. If someone asks to pet him, have him focus on you first and wait until he is told to "say Hi" so that he learns that pets from strangers are only by permission. Recruiting friends your dog hasn't met to pretend to be strangers and working on your dogs obedience and focus around them is a good place to start. You can also teach your dog the "Speak" command (but use a more intimidating word, like "Watch", "Alert", "Defend", "Whose That", ect...) and tell your dog to Speak when someone suspicious tries to come up to you - I suggest hiring a trainer who can pretend to be a suspicious person to practice this, then reward his barking and have the person leave when your dog barks. Practicing that, can teach your pup that barking scares away odd people and that's what he should do when someone odd approaches. Teach Speak: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-to-speak Check out the article linked below for more details on protection training. I don't suggest proceeding past teaching your dog to ignore strangers and focus on you instead, and teaching him to bark when suspicious acting people approach. If you decide to proceed past that point, then joining a Schlutzhund or protection training group is a better way to teach protectiveness than trying to do it yourself, because the dog also needs to learn an extremely reliable off-switch and be extremely responsive to commands - if he isn't, you simply create a dog that is aggression toward people in general and may bite those you don't want him to, and could be taken away from you. https://pethelpful.com/dogs/train-guard-dog Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Just want to teach him to hunt
Hello! The process to train a dog how to hunt is a very long one. There is no one easy step or piece of advice to give. So I am going to provide you with an article packed with great information. If you have questions after reading the article. Please feel free to message again. https://wagwalking.com/training/hunt
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Teva does well with recall but lately when she is coming back she has started getting too aggressive in her return and has actually knocked me over after basically "launching" herself at me. She exhibits this behavior, along with some growling and teeth-baring, more consistently with me than with my boyfriend (we live and own her together). I came across information about different types of aggressive behavior and found Predatory Aggression to be most descriptive of her behavior as she is more often than not being recalled after taking off after wildlife or neighboring dogs. We are currently enrolled in a basic dog obedience class but are having trouble with results. She gets distracted very easily and becomes fixated on the treats being used for reward thus we can't break her concentration and won't follow our commands. I understand training takes time and patience but am looking for some additional insight as to how to approach it.
Hello Suzanne, For the running into you, I would work on a moving Sit - where you start by practicing heel and giving a sit command mid heel. Practice until she can immediately sit during heel. Once she can do that, practice the same thing but when she is commanded sit, you continue walking and use the leash to guide her backwards if she continues forward with you. Practice until she can sit while you keep walking, then gradually practice the same thing but at a faster speed, until you are running together and she can immediately sit while you continue running. Next, have a second person hold a the end of a long leash and practice calling her back and forth with the person with the leash the person she is running away from. Start from very short distances at first so she doesn't get her from a harsh jerks and use a padded back clip harness for a harness and not something around her neck. Practice the Come and the Sit mid run, gradually working up to calling her from further and further away as she improves and can stop mid run before she gets to you. For the over excitement about treats, try switching the reward, such as using her daily meal kibble and not treats, a toy she is averagely excited about but doesn't have a high prey drive towards, or even just praise if she is pretty enthusiastic. If the training itself involves using rewards to lure her into a behavior like Sit in the first place, you can also try using a toy or kibble instead, but there are also alternative methods to teach the same commands, so switching methods might be needed. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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How can I train my male Aussie to hunt waterfowl when he is resistant to going in water, not all together but he doesn’t love it and would likely avoid it
Hello Joe, There are two parts to this. The first is that you want to strongly encourage the love of birds out of the water so that the birds help motivate pup enough to eventually go in the water - even if they don't love the water. Practicing with frozen wings or dead ducks - thawed right before practice is one way to help pup learn, eventually shooting caged birds that are released in more upland territory is another way to further build pup's love of birds before they are ready for water. The second part, is working on pup's confidence around water without the birds. Brining other dogs along to swim, getting in yourself, practicing short retrievals into the water - where pup doesn't have to get very wet at first, and progressing to further out when pup is more relaxed, very gradually. Choosing very calm water without waves...You want water to be super fun and low pressure, and for pup to feel a bit left out if they don't choose to get in because others are having fun in it. Once pup is good with both of these separately, you can move toward retrievals in water, starting with the dead ducks and wings being retrieved in shallow, calm water first - after pup is used to retrieving bumpers there. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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