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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