How to Train Your Dog to Not Hunt

Medium
4-8 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

It is natural for dogs to hunt. The idea of hunter and prey is a primal instinct. Though your dog is a domestic pet, he still has natural urges to chase and hunt. This does not necessarily mean he would know what to do with an animal if he actually caught one, but it could potentially be dangerous if he pulls on your leash or runs away while you are on a walk because he is chasing an animal. It could also be quite annoying to go outside with your dog and watch him chase squirrels and rabbits while you are trying to spend time with him. Few dog owners enjoy being pulled and tugged when they are at the other end of the leash. And few owners enjoy yelling for their dog’s attention when the dog runs off to chase a squirrel or rabbit.

Defining Tasks

Besides the obvious dangers of having your dog get away from you while leash walking in public spaces, you could also find yourself in trouble with your dog on someone else's personal property or in a fight with another animal, or even injured yourself if you are still holding on to the leash when your dog decides to chase and hunt. Teaching your dog not to hunt can be challenging and rewarding for you both. You want to be able to take your dog out on leisurely walks and have his attention not have him running off and chasing wild animals. Teaching him that hunting is not an activity you are going to do together is going to take some patience, some repetition, and extreme commitment to your dog and your desires of not having a hunting dog.

Getting Started

Some techniques will require treats, toys filled with treats, enough kibble for a meal each session you have with your dog, and a leash. Be prepared to spend 10 to 15 minutes training your dog not to hunt each time you are outside together. As with any other command, teaching your dog a new behavior will take time, commitment, and patience. 

The Distract and Redirect Method

Effective
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Step
1
Start on-leash
Start with your dog on a leash in an area where he would like to hunt, preferably somewhere he cannot win a hunt such as in your backyard with squirrels.
Step
2
Watch
While on the leash, watch your dog react to a squirrel but hold the leash taut and say his name.
Step
3
Attention
When you have his attention, offer him treat.
Step
4
Repeat
Try this several times treating him each time you are able to distract him from the squirrels in the area.
Step
5
Challenge
Once your dog has this new behavior down, take him out on a longer walk in an area where he might find more critters to hunt.
Step
6
Practice
Practice the same routines with the treats and distracting your dog with a verbal cue and a tasty treat each time he looks at you instead of going after a critter.
Step
7
Build habit
Each time you do this trick, your dog will become to build the knowledge and the habit of being present with you while on walks instead of hunting.
Step
8
Improvement
As he gets better with this new habit, take him off the leash in a controlled area such as your backyard using the same method.
Recommend training method?

The Better Offering Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Key phrase
Pick a key phorase you will use to teach your dog not to hunt, such as “No Hunting.”
Step
2
High-value treat
Prepared with a deliciously attractive treat such as a hot dog or chicken or beef. Be prepared to watch your dog go after an animal in a confined space such as your yard. You will want to be near him and not let him get too far from you.
Step
3
Entice
If your dog is used to hunting a certain area like a tree or a bush for squirrels or rabbits, stand near that tree with your special treat.
Step
4
Hunting
When your dog lunges to hunt, get his attention and ask him to 'sit'.
Step
5
Reward
As a reward, offer a small morsel of the special treat while using your keywords, “no hunting.”
Step
6
Practice
Practice these steps each time you are outside and challenge your dog to stop the hunting process before it begins.
Step
7
Repetition
This technique will require repetition and retraining. It will take time and commitment to redirect your dog to sit and not hunt. If you practice this a lot with your dog, he will begin to understand he needs to stop and sit each time you say “no hunting.”
Recommend training method?

The 'Find It' Game Method

Effective
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Step
1
Hide treats
Because hunting is related to your dog's natural instincts and senses, hide some good smelling treats around your yard or along your path and play a game of 'find it'.
Step
2
Scatter kibble
Before your dog heads outside, scatter his meal time kibble across the grass in your yard.
Step
3
Send hunting
Send your dog out to hunt for his meal one piece of kibble at a time.
Step
4
Instict
This trick will allow him to use his hunting instinct, reward him with a meal, and tire him out, so he has no time for hunting squirrels and rabbits in your backyard.
Step
5
Chase
If your dog loves the chasing part of hunting, you can make a game of chase as well and have him hunt a ball that you throw for him or a toy filled with treats.
Step
6
Make Note
Remember hunting is a natural instinct for dogs. Prey is very often searched for by scent, so make your treats and rewards enticing for your pup.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Bailey
Bull and Terrier
5 Years
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Question
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Bailey
Bull and Terrier
5 Years

To fulfill Bailey's love for hunting I have been taking her into the bush where she loves to chase kangaroos when she finds them. Her behavior is getting intolerable. She is now barking at other dogs and people - it is like she thinks she is Henry VIII and "Off with the Head!!!". I am at my wits end. Please help. I love her so much but am not coping at all with this hunting thing.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lisa, It sounds like Bailey needs to practice an 'off' switch. I suggest stopping the kangaroo chasing trips because he becoming aroused is likely making this worse right now. Instead she needs to practice exercises that are mentally challenging - to wear her out mentally, require a lot of focus, calmness, and self-control. She needs to develop impulse control. She also needs to be interrupted when she starts to get aroused before she is barking and feeling crazy. Watch for subtle signs of her tensing up, staring, scanning the horizon for things to react toward, and generally thinking about being in an obsessive stat and trying to see if there is something to react toward. Once she is highly aroused by something, it will be very difficult to break her focus - it needs to be stopped before she gets too excited to keep her in a calmer state. I suggest hiring a trainer who uses fair correction and positive reinforcement who can help you correct her at the right time when she starts to get into the wrong mindset on a walk, and who can also reward her calmly when she is behaving well and is more relaxed - you want to reward relaxed body language NOT excitement right now, until she starts calming down you may not be able to give rewards at all at first. Work on teaching the following commands to help build her impulse control - that is the first step, in addition to working with a trainer for correcting the behavior on walks. Teaching her how to function out of a calmer place in general and building her respect for you is a huge foundation that needs to be laid for other training to be as effective as it could be. Have her work for everything she gets in life right now. Follow the working method for this; https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Work on teaching her a Place command and work up to her being able to stay on Place for up to an hour at a time while you move throughout the house - not just standing beside her...This command is huge for teaching impulse control and dealing with OCB or anxious behavior: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Work on teaching her to stay in a crate even when the door is open: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M It is extremely important that when you walk her her muzzle is behind your leg and not poking in front, or completely out in front of you. She should not be able to scan the horizon for other people or animals. She should not be leading the walk and where she cannot even see what you are doing. Starting a walk out with lots of structure, where she is expected to stay focused on you the whole time can make a huge difference in reactive behavior and calmness. Be strict about the walk. Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Pando
Border Collie
4 Years
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Question
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Pando
Border Collie
4 Years

Pando has a strong hunting instinct. Once she hears or sees a deer in a forest or a rabbit in a field, she is gone. She is so focused and so fast, there’s nothing we can do. She can’t hear us and doesn’t respond. She’s fine with other dogs. We’re at our wits end!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Rebekah, For strong prey drive and recall training, I suggest in your case hiring a professional trainer who combines positive reinforcement training with rewards for coming, with working level e-collar training for follow through. This will require a lot of practice using a long leash before adding the e-collar. There is a very specific way the e-collar training needs to be done so you need someone experienced to work with you. Do not simply go out and purchase an e-collar and start using it without a thorough understanding of it. Check out the article linked below and begin working on an initial come using those methods before adding in 5he e-collar. Pup needs to get the point where they are reliably coming around distractions while on the long leash. Be careful not to get pulled over while pup is on 5he long leash. Come articles: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Check of this trainer on YouTube for an overview of how proper e-collar training with come should be done. Look for a trainer who trains in that way also. Come e-collar overview: https://youtu.be/rtJxSXu4rfs Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Dean
German Shepherd
3 Years
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Question
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Dean
German Shepherd
3 Years

Well my dog Dean and I are in quite the predicament as he loves hunting! He is very well at responding/obeying but due to where I live/work he tends to have roaming/him time. Thus resulting in him being animal aggressive towards our own pets, such as cows and pigs along with other wild animals. He is a very good dog and is very people friendly and attentive to me, however he sneaks out and goes on hunts which could cost my ownership over him. Any recommendations on what I could do to help prevent this problem as he is very loyal and beloved by me.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Avery, Check out James Penrith from TaketheLeadDogTraining. He has a Youtube channel. He works with dogs that chase and sometimes will kill livestock. To stop the killing you would need to pursue training like that. Day 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgNbWCK9lFc Day 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpf5Bn-MNko&t=14s Day 3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xj3nMvvHhwQ Day 4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxrGQ-AZylY Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
sami
German Shorthaired Pointer
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
sami
German Shorthaired Pointer
5 Years

I have a german shorthaired pointer and she loves to hunt. she pulls on the leash too much to go out on one. that being said, we cant take her on walks. she burns energy by running around in our big yard. We often get bunnies born in our yard and she is unresponsive when we try to get her to stop hunting the bunnies. she's killed lots of birds and bunnies over the years. On the rare occasion we get to take her for a walk, she pulls towards animals she smells and she barks the whole time, so we end up cutting the walk short. Im not sure what to do about her, but yelling and most training doesn't work because she has bad anxiety and gives up due to being too anxious. any advice?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
662 Dog owners recommended

Hello Avery, It sounds like it's time to hire a professional trainer who is experienced with anxiety, prey drive, and high drive dogs. Pup needs to learn commands like Leave It, Out, Heel, and Watch Me first. Since you have struggled teaching commands due to pup's anxiety, that is where the right, experienced trainer can help. The right trainer can demonstrate how to apply the right amount of pressure with pup in training - challenging pup enough for them to learn without overwhelming him. This can be a bit of an art with some dogs and has a lot to do with reading pup's body language and adjusting the training as you go depending on how pup is responding. Once pup knows some of those commands and can obey when not around prey, then it's time to gradually work up to pup obeying in the presence of distractions. That will involve finding an interrupter that works well for pup - which needs to be tested out in person to see what's effective without overwhelming, a leash tug, calm Ah Ah, fast paced heel, with lots of changes in direction, spray with a pet convincer, ect...Are all interrupters. There are many to choose from, and which works best depends on technique and the individual dog's temperament. Pup needs to understand what they are supposed to be doing - such as heeling and Leave it. Pup needs to be interrupted when they don't obey, early on when they first start tuning you out and fixating on something - before they are fully in prey drive, which requires good timing from you. Pup needs their attention then redirected back to you after they were interrupted, usually by doing something like a fast paced, drill-like heel, with lots of commands in quick succession to get pup's mind off the animals and back on you. Pup is then rewarded while in a calm and focused state around the prey animal. Pup gradually works up to being attentive around harder and harder distractions as they improve. Many high strung dogs are trained to heel, come and obey a variety of commands with the distraction of prey during hunting. It will require a trainer with that level of off-leash, high drive dog, experience though, so ask lots of questions to find the right help. Look for someone who has experience with anxiety, prey drive, behavior issues, high drive dogs, and advanced obedience. Many trainers don't have that type of experience, so do some research on the trainer. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bubba
Labrador Retriever
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Bubba
Labrador Retriever
5 Years

We just adopted a lab that I’m pretty sure was used for hunting. He walks right beside whoever has the leash, but is overly interested in larger birds, squirrels and neighborhood cats. I try to continue walking and ignore when he “tracks” and make him continue walking with me. However, he has lunged and tried to run a couple times. What are the commands that hunters typically use to tell the dog to stop tracking? And what other methods can I use to help him get over this? Other than this, he is the perfect dog and is quickly learning how amazing indoor life can be.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I am not sure of the tracking commands. Perhaps Google a club near you and ask to speak to a trainer. I do think that training Bubba to focus while on walks when you need him to will go a long way. Teach him to heel with the Turns Method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel. As well, listening is essential: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you. All of the methods are good. Have fun!

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