How to Train Your Older Dog to Hunt Rabbits

Hard
3-12 Months
Work

Introduction

Can an old dog learn new tricks? Yes, especially if they are motivated to do it. However, it may take a little more time and patience to teach an older dog how to hunt rabbits for you, and as part of a team. Dogs are natural hunters, and hunting small game like rabbits is not only natural for them but a task they are usually very excited about participating in. The trick, however, is that your dog learns to hunt rabbits as part of a team, with you or with other dogs, and does not go off on his own or mangle prey beyond recognition! An older dog may have already developed his own notion of how to hunt and may have developed his own habits around responding to commands. Some may be good, some may be bad, but if the dog wasn't raised by you those habits and responses may not be the ones you expect. Training an older dog to hunt rabbits, which requires a lot of communication and a close relationship to be successful, can be challenging with an older dog that you did not raise. Some time patience and reorienting will be required.

Defining Tasks

Although almost all dogs will happily chase rabbits of their own accord, training an older dog to hunt rabbits means training him to hunt them for you! Certain hunting or sport breeds are more likely to be physically able to hunt rabbits and respond to your directions while hunting, as they have been bred for that, so selecting an appropriate dog is important. Also, if you are using an older dog, you will need to make sure the dog is in good enough physical shape to hunt. As dogs age, they can develop orthopedic problems that can be aggravated by strenuous physical activity, especially that which occurs during hunting. Hunting rabbits means locating the scent, tracking the rabbit to locate it, and flushing the rabbit to allow their owner to get a good shot. This requires chasing the rabbit, which is extremely agile and quick and makes fast turns. A dog that can scent, track, and keep up with a rabbit's tight fast turns is required to successfully hunt rabbits. Not all older dogs have these abilities. A hunting or sport dog that is in good shape is required. In addition, the dog should be obedient and fit.

Prior to training to hunt with an older dog, try different commands and establish obedience. The dog may have been trained with a different command word originally, or may associate certain commands with negative experiences, so these should be avoided. Trial and error will be required to discover what works for an older dog you did not raise. You may need to start at the beginning, establishing simple obedience commands such as sit, stay, come. This will not only establish these behaviors, but will reinforce your role as trainer, and theirs as the learner. Exercise your dog during the off-season, to not only get them in shape, but build a working relationship with you. It can take up to a year to teach your dog to hunt rabbits successfully, work as a team, and respond to your commands. Hunting with your dog is not a simple process to teach and time and patience will be required. Remember, this is supposed to be fun for you and your dog!

Getting Started

Make sure the dog is used to your gun and gunshots before taking them out in the field. When you shoot your quarry, you do not want your dog to startle or become scared and associate flushing the rabbit with a negative experience. Make sure you have a leash to keep your dog contained when necessary and treats to reward them for successful hunting behavior. Getting your dog used to rabbit scent usually involves using a rabbit skin or a tame rabbit prior to going out in the field. Many hunters train their dog in conjunction with other, more experienced hunting dogs. If you do not know other hunters with trained dogs, there are many clubs and associations you can join that will put you in contact with others in the sport.

The Getting Interested Method

Effective
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Getting Interested method for Hunt Rabbits
Step
1
Introduce a rabbit skin
Introduce the older dog to rabbits by giving him a rabbit skin to play with to get him used to the scent and to use as a toy.
Step
2
Create a scent trail
Next, tie your dog up and drag the skin away, creating a scent trail. Hide the rabbit skin.
Step
3
Follow the trail
Release your dog and encourage him to the scent trail. When the dog picks up the scent trail and uses it as a tool to help him find the hidden rabbit skin, reward your dog and play with him and the skin. You may have to encourage and help your dog locate the scent and skin at first.
Step
4
The real deal
Take the dog to an area where your know a rabbit is present. It is better if the dog does not see the rabbit, so they discover the scent first. Allow your dog to follow the scent and locate the rabbit.
Step
5
Reward!
When the rabbit is flushed, reward the dog for locating and flushing the rabbit.
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The Group Hunting Method

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Group Hunting method for Hunt Rabbits
Step
1
The basics
Expose your dog to rabbit scent with skins or by taking them rabbit hunting individually prior to introducing them to hunting in a pack. Your dog should be able to run for 20 minutes before hunting with a pack.
Step
2
Introduce a pack
Introduce the dog to a small pack of 3 or 4 experienced hunting dogs in a safe, calm environment. Allow the dogs to become familiar with each other.
Step
3
Run with the pack
Allow your dog to run with the pack, to locate the rabbit scent as part of the group, and participate in flushing the rabbit.
Step
4
Practice
This will have to be done multiple times over a period of weeks, so your dog learns from the other pack members. Gradually introduce them to hunting with larger packs if desired.
Step
5
Alternate solo trips
Intersperse pack hunting with solo hunting, to build your dog’s confidence. Keep it fun; reward your dog for locating rabbits and obeying commands.After several months, the dog should be excited and motivated to hunt, locate scent, and flush rabbits, while still listening to your commands.
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The Tame Rabbit Method

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Tame Rabbit method for Hunt Rabbits
Step
1
Introduce tame rabbit
Introduce your older dog to a tame rabbit in a rabbit pen. Hold the dog and the rabbit, do not allow the dog to harm the rabbit, but he should get excited about the rabbit and pull on the leash trying to approach the rabbit.
Step
2
Follow the rabbit
Allow the rabbit loose, and with the dog on leash, allow the dog to locate the rabbit. If the rabbit hides, allow the dog to locate it with scent.
Step
3
Find the rabbit
Gradually move to a larger area, letting the rabbit loose. Also let the dog loose, to chase the tame rabbit. Do not allow the dog to harm the rabbit – strict supervision will be required.
Step
4
Move on to wild rabbits
Once the dog is interested in pursuing the rabbit and learns to find the rabbit using scent, take your dog to an open area where you know there are wild rabbits and allow your dog loose to scent, track, and chase wild rabbits.
Step
5
Reward!
Reward your dog for tracking and locating wild rabbits.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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