How to Train Your Dog to Hunt Birds

Hard
3-8 Weeks
Work

Introduction

You’re up bright and early to creep through the fields, a shotgun on your back and your trusty canine pal at your side. Nothing bonds man and dog more than a good old-fashioned hunting trip. But when you take aim and fire at the bird on the horizon, finding it afterward can be half the battle. You know it went down, you saw it hit the ground, but there’s over a hundred feet of dense grass and bush to navigate before you find it. If you had a bird dog with you though, who could hunt and catch birds, well your hunting trips might prove a bit more fruitful.

Not only will a bird dog help you hone in and bring down your prey, but he’ll make the retrieval process smooth as well. If that means a tasty and free pheasant for lunch, what have you got to lose?

Defining Tasks

Training your dog to hunt birds won’t be like training him to sit, or lie down. It will be challenging and require patience and persistence. The challenging part comes from bringing out his natural instincts in a controlled fashion. Rigorous obedience training will be needed to keep a handle on your hunting companion. If he’s a puppy, he should be receptive and eager to learn. He could respond to training in just 3 weeks. If he’s older and not quite the energetic intellectual he was in his youth, then be prepared to spend up to a couple months training.

Succeed with this training and you’ll have a dependable hunting partner who will effectively help you catch and retrieve prey. Training of this nature will also help you assert yourself as the pack leader and make teaching him any number of other things easier too.

Getting Started

Before you both head out to tackle birds and game, you’ll need to gather a few things. Decoy birds and bird scent will be needed to familiarize him with birds initially. You’ll also need a generous supply of treats or his favorite food to motivate him.

Ensure you can set aside 15-20 minutes a day, each day, for the duration of training. Consistency is key, so the more regularly you train, the quicker you will see results.

Then just bring a good degree of patience and a can-do attitude and you’re ready to get to work!

The Choose Right Method

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Step
1
The right breed
How hard you have to train, how long you have to train, and how successful training will be will partly depend on the initial steps you take in selecting a hunting dog. Select a breed that naturally has the hunting attributes. Retrievers and Springer Spaniels are popular choices.
Step
2
Start with a puppy
While you can train older dogs, if you get him as a puppy you’re chances of success will be higher. You can be rigorous with training from day one, when his brain is most receptive.
Step
3
Practice obedience commands
If he’s to hunt birds with you, you need to be able to effectively control him when you’re out hunting. Training him to ‘sit’, ‘lie down’ and ‘wait’ will all massively help position yourself as the pack leader.
Step
4
Expose him to real hunting situations first
Before you take him out to hunt, he needs to get used to the hunting environment. That means get him used to quietly stalking through fields, get him used to the sound of gun shots, and ensure he’s seen the birds he’ll be tasked to hunt.
Step
5
Practice with decoys
Before he hunts birds for real, he needs to get used to playing with decoys. Play tug of war with them, leave them in his bed, and cover them with bird scent spray. This will all familiarize him with his future prey and get him ready for the real thing.
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The Retrieving Method

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Step
1
Tug of war
Before you move onto hunting birds in the wild, get him used to playing around with decoy birds at home. Spend a few minutes each day playing tug of war with the decoy. Really make the experience as playful and exciting as possible, then he’ll be more eager to play again.
Step
2
Upgrade to fetch
Once he loves his decoys, start training him to play fetch with them. Head outside and throw the decoys. Then call him over and lure him with treats and a high pitched voice.
Step
3
Reward system
Every time he brings the decoy back, give him a treat and loads of verbal praise. It’s important he’s motivated to bring it back each time with a treat, otherwise he’ll hold onto birds in the wild.
Step
4
Work together
Once you’re confident he’s comfortable with his decoys and has mastered the fetch game, it’s time to put your practice to the test. The first few times you go, work as a team. Dogs mirror their owners behavior, so when you see a bird, stalk it together. Then encourage him to chase it himself, point to it and run towards it.
Step
5
Never punish failure
If he fails to catch or retrieve the bird, don’t scold him. Many owners make this mistake and then the dog won’t bother trying again. As long as he tried and showed the intention, then he should be encouraged and rewarded with treats. Keep practicing every day and over time he will become a more skilled and effective hunter.
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The Show How It’s Done Method

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1
Make a fuss
Whenever you see a bird, hit the roof. I mean shout, scream, chase it and go crazy. You won’t catch the bird, but you’ll make your dog go into overdrive and excitable whenever he sees a bird. Do this for a week or two and the mere sight of a bird will send him over the edge.
Step
2
Get hold of a friend
Have a friend tie a decoy with bird scent to the back of a vehicle. Then have him drive it through a field while you and your dog chase it. Again, go crazy and make it all into a big game, the more fun he’s having the quicker he will learn.
Step
3
Always let him win
When chasing the decoy, make sure the friend drives slow enough that your dog catches up with it. If he loses he’ll quickly give up on chasing birds. When he does catch it, both run over to him to give him treats and lots of praise. This will incentivise him to do the same with real birds.
Step
4
Up the stakes
Head out on a real hunting trip. When you see a bird, point to it, stalk it and then start chasing it. At this point he probably won’t need you to lead by example, he’ll want to chase it himself. But until he hunts them of his own accord, you need to work together as a team to show him how it’s done.
Step
5
Always reward generously
It is essential that when he does catch a bird he is suitably rewarded, especially if you’re going to take it from him. That means have his tastiest treats to hand and dish plenty out when he’s successful. As long as you reward him, he’ll want to continue hunting.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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