How to Train Your Rescue Dog to Hunt

Hard
1-6 Months
Work

Introduction

You don’t know too much about his life before, you just know you’re ready to give your rescue dog a warm and welcoming home. You don’t just want him to mess around and cuddle with, though. You want to train him up to be a hunting dog. You regularly go out hunting and you’re in need of a trusty canine companion to help you. It will require discipline and self-control, things he’s lacking somewhat at the moment. For now, you can barely get him to ‘sit’ and ‘wait’. If he’s going to be an effective hunting dog that is all going to have to change.

Succeed with this training and you’ll have more than a hunting dog. You’ll have a well-behaved dog who follows your instructions. This means teaching him any number of other commands will be easier too.

Defining Tasks

Training a rescue dog to hunt isn’t going to be straightforward. They require serious discipline and if they haven’t had it before then you have an uphill battle. Fortunately, it is a battle you can win. You’ll need to start with basic obedience commands. Then you’ll need to get him familiar with a hunting environment and the prey you’ll be after. You can use both food and toys to motivate him and keep him on task during training. 

If he’s a young rescue dog he should be a fast learner and you could see results in just a few weeks. If he’s older and stuck in his ways then you may need several months. Get this training right and you’ll never need to hunt alone again. You’ll hunt faster and smarter in a team. It will also be fantastic bonding time for you both!

Getting Started

You’ll need to collect several things before you can start training. You’ll need a generous supply of treats or his favorite food. You’ll also need decoys to get him used to his new prey. 

The main component you need will be time. You need to set aside 15 minutes every day if possible. The more consistently you train the quicker you’ll see results. You can train in the yard and out on walks.

Apart from all that you just need patience and a proactive attitude, then your work can begin!

The Early Steps Method

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Step
1
Breed
You may not get too much of a choice when choosing between rescue dogs. However, if you can choose between several breeds, opt for the one that has the most natural hunting characteristics. Retrievers and German shepherds, for example, are both good choices.
Step
2
Start early
Start training from the moment you get him. The younger he is when you instill discipline into him the easier it will be later on.
Step
3
Obedience commands
Start by teaching him ‘sit’ and ‘down’. Then you can upgrade to ‘stay’ and so on. Obedience training will help cement your position as the pack leader and give you greater control when you’re out hunting.
Step
4
Hunting environment
You need to get him used to the hunting environment. You don’t want him to bolt the moment he hears a gun shot. So, get him used to the sound of guns. You can also practice walking quietly through fields.
Step
5
Reward
Reward any signs of retrieving or hunting behavior during training. Make sure you hand over a treat and give him lots of verbal praise. To start with, all promising signs should be encouraged.
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The Decoy Method

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Step
1
Play time
Spend a few minutes each day playing tug of war and fetch with decoy toys. This will help get him used to the look of his prey. Then when you release him on a hunt he will know to use his mouth and bring it back to you.
Step
2
Scent spray
Also start spraying the toy with scent. You can get scent sprays online and from local stores. This will help get him familiar with the smell. When you take him out hunting he will then naturally take an interest when he catches their scent.
Step
3
Reward
Whenever he brings the toy back to you during training make sure you give him a treat and praise. Rescue dogs in particular may be nervous and unsure of themselves. This means they need as much encouragement and approval as possible.
Step
4
Get him water friendly
If he’s going to need to chase down prey in the water, you need to get him comfortable there. To do that reward him for any play in the water. You can also throw his decoys in there and encourage him to bring them back to you.
Step
5
Never punish him
It’s important you build a healthy relationship. If you shout at him or punish him then he’ll only become terrified of you. He’s then more likely to make mistakes when he’s hunting. Punishing him will only slow the learning process.
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The Dummy Run Method

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Step
1
Start at home
Before you take him out on a real hunt you need to replicate hunting situations at home. If you can control him when he’s in his own environment then you’ll have a better chance when you’re out and there are distractions around.
Step
2
Hide a decoy
Hide a decoy somewhere in the yard. But make sure you leave a scent trail from the back door to wherever it is hidden.
Step
3
Fire
Head outside and pretend you’ve shot at an animal. This will also make sure he’s comfortable with the sound of gun shots. Then encourage him to go and chase to find the decoy. You can do this by pointing and talking in an animated voice.
Step
4
Lead him
If he can’t follow the scent trail to the decoy on his own then give him a helping hand. Lead him along the route until he finds it. As soon as he does encourage him to bring it to you and then hand over a tasty treat. The greater the reward the more likely he’ll be to repeat the behavior.
Step
5
Practice
Practice this every few days until he’s got the hang of it. When he automatically goes to sniff the decoy out and bring it back to you without any encouragement, then he’s ready. Then just make sure you have treats to hand when you take him out to hunt for real.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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