How to Train Your Dog to Hunt Fox

Hard
6-8 Months
Work

Introduction

There has been much controversy in recent years over traditional fox hunting, especially in the United Kingdom, where fox hunting with hounds and horses has been a tradition for centuries. As a result, foxhunting with live foxes and dogs has become illegal in Britain and parts of Europe, though it is legal in Canada and the U.S. The controversy stems from the practice of using a pack of hounds to run a fox, followed by the pack of dogs killing the fox. As a result, some fox hunters have switched to using a drag to create a fox scent trail for dogs to follow. This provides the dogs with a hunting outlet and exercise, allowing human counterparts on foot or horse, to participate without a live fox being run and killed. However, North America has a large population of foxes, and when fox and human habitats overlap, problems can arise.  

Foxes present a problem by preying on pets and small livestock, especially poultry, and hunting fox to control the population and protect domesticated animals is necessary in many areas. Dogs may be used as a tool to locate, track, and hunt fox where and when necessary to control wild fox populations.

Defining Tasks

Fox hunting with a pack of dogs requires great stamina, agility, and courage on the part of the dogs. There is a risk of dogs being injured when a fox turns to defend itself, so a pack of experienced foxhunting dogs that can work together is necessary. Certain breeds of dog have been developed for generations to excel at this type of work including, miniature, smooth, wirehaired, American, and English foxhounds and Harriers. Dogs used for hunting foxes are started early as puppies, learning to scent fox and becoming used to the smell of foxes, and the sights, and sounds of the hunt. However, only more mature dogs should be used in an actual hunt on live fox due to the danger from strenuous physical exertion and the danger of confronting a cornered wild animal.

Getting Started

Dogs being used to hunt fox will need to learn to scent fox using commercially available fox scent, or fox hides provided to the dog for this purpose. Dogs being used for foxhunting must be in excellent physical condition, as hunting fox with dogs involves running over long distances and over rough terrain, and a dog that is not conditioned for such activity will experience muscle strain and injury as well as possible joint and other injuries. Dogs used for hunting fox and other game are often fitted with tracking collars to allow handlers to locate the dogs if they become separated from handlers or the pack. Dogs should have strong off-leash recall and a good grasp of off-leash commands prior to hunting fox in the field.

The Introducing Young Method

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Step
1
Obedience and games
Teach your dog basic obedience commands and off-leash recall. Play fetch with a toy; provide a reward for returning and releasing the toy to you.
Step
2
Introduce fox pelt
Provide a fox pelt to the dog to play with, to get them used to the scent of the fox. Start playing fetch with the fox pelt.
Step
3
Hide pelt
Hide the fox pelt and let your puppy find it. Keep it simple at first, let the young dog see you hide the pelt.
Step
4
Increase difficulty
Gradually make hiding places more complex, so your dog has to rely on scent to locate the fox pelt. Let your young dog find the pelt and bring it to you for a reward.
Step
5
Start tracking foxes
Start taking your dog out to locate fox scent in the wild and flush and chase foxes. Foxes will escape a young dog on its own, but this gets your dog excited about locating and chasing foxes. Start running your dog with more experienced packs of fox hunting dogs to complete training.
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The Tracking Scent Trails Method

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Step
1
Create scent trail
Purchase high quality fox scent and apply the scent to a drag cloth or a hide. Wear gloves and rubber boots to minimize human scent on the trail. Create a trail for your dog to follow.
Step
2
Follow trail
Introduce your dog to the scent trail. Direct and call your dog back to the scent trail as required. Encourage the dog to follow the scent trail to its conclusion, where a pelt or toy with scent is present.
Step
3
Reward
When your dog follows the scent trail to its conclusion, provide a reward such as play time with a toy covered in fox scent, or high value treats such as chicken or hot dogs.
Step
4
Practice
Repeat frequently over weeks and months. Practice making trials more complex. Encourage the dog to take more of the lead.
Step
5
Introduce pack work
Introduce following the scent trail with other dogs.
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The Experienced Team Method

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Step
1
Introduce to pack
Put an inexperienced dog with a team of more experienced dogs. Allow dogs to interact and socialize prior to the hunt.
Step
2
Use tracing devices
Ensure inexperienced dogs have tracking devices in case they become separated from the group. Take your team out and locate a created fox trail.
Step
3
Set on trail
Allow the inexperienced dog to follow the created trail, and follow it with the pack.
Step
4
Command and direct
Provide commands to stay on the trail or recall the pack so the inexperienced dog is exposed to commands and responds with the rest of the pack.
Step
5
Introduce live hunts
Allow your dog to experience a live wild fox hunt. After several experiences your dog will learn to hunt and respond with the experienced dogs.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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