How to Train Your Dog to Hunt

Hard
1-12 Months
Work

Introduction

If you’re a dog owner with an active, outdoorsy-type personality then you know there are plenty of fun adventures to be had. Running, hiking, swimming, retrieving and more are all great forms of exercise and engagement for humans and canines alike. Hunting is another recreational activity that can be enjoyed by both dogs and their human owners. In fact, dogs can be trained to be valuable assets during hunting excursions. From duck hunting to retrieving and more, here we delve into the basics when it comes to teaching your dog to hunt.

Defining Tasks

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.

Getting Started

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.

The Desensitizing to Loud Noises Method

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Most Recommended
3 Votes
Desensitizing to Loud Noises method for Hunt
Step
1
Introduce noise
Expose your pooch to loud noises as soon as possible. While a puppy, banging on a drum or pot is a good way to introduce them to normal household noises.
Step
2
Treat for ignoring sounds
While your dog may initially startle at these loud household sounds, they will slowly become acclimated and even ignore them. If your dog remains calm, treat and praise immediately, creating a positive association.
Step
3
Increase sound level and variety
As your dog becomes comfortable with sound around the house, increase the variety and volume of sound by taking them to noisy places outdoors. A Park near a busy highway is an ideal place to get your dog used to car noises and backfires.
Step
4
Introduce relevant sounds
Expose your dog to gun sounds on tape. If you plan on hunting with a gun, you’ll need to acclimate your dog to the sound and vibration associated with gunfire. There are many recordings available online that can help you simulate the noise while getting your dog ready for in-person training.
Step
5
Training your dog with gun noises
This can be done gradually by taking your dog hunting but leaving them well behind the main line of hunters. As your dog becomes used to the noise over time, they can slowly be brought closer to the action. It’s important to remember that noise exposure should be gradual and at your dog’s own individual pace.
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The Acclimation to Obstacles Method

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Effective
2 Votes
Acclimation to Obstacles method for Hunt
Step
1
Footing flexibility
As a puppy, your dog should be exposed to a variety of floorings. Line their crate with fake grass, take them to visit turf, and try laying down a piece of BBQ or other grating and encourage walking, running and jumping on these items with the use of treats.
Step
2
Teach your dog to love obstacles
Your puppy should be exposed to doggy agility training as soon as possible in order to help develop solid hunting skills. Going up and down various apparatus at your local dog agility course or park is the perfect way to prepare for climbing boulders or rough terrain.
Step
3
Overhead hanging items
Many dogs often have an issue with branches or other overhanging items that cast shadows or brush against them from above. Help your dog adjust to these obstacles by hanging towels or other items from their crate.
Step
4
Tunnel training
Another important step in obstacle training will be teaching your dog to climb through tunnels and holes. Many agility courses stock tunnels of various lengths and materials. You should teach your dog to enter and exit these on command.
Step
5
Combine spaces with noises
Once your dog is acclimated to noises and spaces, combine these two elements. Loud banging while running through a tunnel or rustling bags while moving under hanging obstacles will simulate real life scenarios.
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The Teaching an Advanced, Distraction-Free “Return” Method

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Least Recommended
2 Votes
Teaching an Advanced, Distraction-Free “Return” method for Hunt
Step
1
Touching your hand
Teach your dog to touch your hand by holding a small treat. When your dog noses that hand, instantly release the treat.
Step
2
Increase distance
Once your dog has mastered touching your hand, gradually increase the distance your dog has to travel to touch. It is helpful to teach sit and stay first before teaching come or return.
Step
3
Remove the treat from the hand
Once your dog is reliably touching your hand at many distances, remove the treat from your hand and encourage them still to touch. You should still reward your dog, but do so with the alternate hand, associating the touch with a reward even when there is no food present in the hand being touched.
Step
4
Add the command
Verbal and hand signals should be added once your dog is reliably touching your hand. You should pick a word that will only be used for an immediate recall of your dog. Come and return are acceptable, but feel free to think outside the box. A hand signal, such as a raised arm, is also a great association since it can be seen even when your dog can’t hear you.
Step
5
Add distractions
Once your dog has mastered their recall you should practice in areas of increasing distraction. Parks, dog parks, sidewalks and dog-friendly stores and fairs are great places to strengthen the command and your dog’s ability to reply readily despite the surroundings.
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 09/20/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Jess
Border Collie
6 Weeks
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Question
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Jess
Border Collie
6 Weeks

I don’t yet have this dog however I’m wanting to make her a beating and retrieving dog for pheasants I already have a 8 year old Labrador who comes beating with me however she isn’t interested in retrieving pheasants any advice for training my new dog

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ben, I would expose the puppy to bird wings, small dead birds (removing before they start chewing on the bird, but getting them used to sniffing it out and chasing after it's movement and picking up), the terrain pup will be on, and a positive association with gun fire (start this gradually from a distance and pair with pup's favorite things - Border Collies are prone to noise sensitivity). Set realistic expectations. Border Collies are sight oriented and sensitive. Although very smart, training a Border Collie requires a soft, more consistent hand and methodology than most retrievers. Using their nose to track may not come as naturally to a Collie as a retriever, so I would play treat hiding games, hide and seek come, and other tracking games early to get pup used to relying on their nose more. Pup might be great at marking a fall being more visual however. I would play a lot of retrieval games but remove items and trade for another item before pup chews bumpers. You want to make retrieval and interest in movement really fun for a Border Collie. Reward pup bringing you items. Border Collies aren't typically natural retrievers, but they are interested in chase and movement and even grabbing. Brining an item back will need to be taught though in most cases. Early on, focus on socialization, building drive and making retrievals and scenting fun, and your general obedience outside of hunting - until pup is at an off-leash level with that, then proof in the hunting environments around birds too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Amber
Labrador Retriever
8 Years
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Amber
Labrador Retriever
8 Years

I take her beating and have done for a few years now and recently she’s taking interest in the dead birds by sniffing them however refuses to grab and carry them I was wondering if/how to teach her to sniff them out and retrieve the dead pheasants

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ben, This is often caused by one of two things. Either pup needs to be force fetched because she isn't focusing well, or training has been too strict and motivation and fun needs to be focused on for a while. Often motivation is built through your own energy and excitement, using live caged birds for a while, and dragging dead birds along a line to add movement. Because these two solutions and underlying training needs are almost opposite each other, without more details I can't tell you which is needed. You will need to evaluate whether structure is lacking in your training or fun and motivation is lacking. Often a hunting dog needs the balance of both. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Banjo
Australian Shepherd
5 Years
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Question
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Banjo
Australian Shepherd
5 Years

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

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

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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Question
Teva
Tennessee Treeing Brindle
1 Year
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Question
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Teva
Tennessee Treeing Brindle
1 Year

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.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1109 Dog owners recommended

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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Question
Diesel
Labrador Retriever
3 Months
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Question
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Diesel
Labrador Retriever
3 Months

Just want to teach him to hunt

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
257 Dog owners recommended

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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