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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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

Effective
1 Vote
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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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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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Addison
pitbull
9 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Addison
pitbull
9 Weeks

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?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
115 Dog owners recommended

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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Question
Miso
Mini Goldendoodle
7 Months
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Question
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Miso
Mini Goldendoodle
7 Months

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?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
115 Dog owners recommended

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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