How to Train Your Dog to Perform a Hunt Test

Hard
12-36 Months
Work

Introduction

For any hunting enthusiast, adding a trained canine to your posse is a sure way to up your hunting game. Hunting dogs can be trained to head in the direction of a kill and retrieve animals. But good hunting dogs aren't just born, they're taught.

Certain breeds excel in the hunting world. Retrievers, Spaniels, and Pointers shine in their natural hunting skills when compared with other breeds. There are many things you can do to prepare your pooch for their important job, some of which start right from when the pup first comes home.

Defining Tasks

Hunt tests are a key way to prepare both handler and pooch for what lays ahead. These tests also tend to use the dog's individual performance against breed norms, making them less of a competition and more of an education. They also are great for spotting hounds with true potential in the hunting world.

Most hunt tests are run by local kennel clubs that are connected with the AKC, NAVHDA or UKC. The entry-level tests have sections focusing on both natural hunting ability and exposure to distractions. By putting your dog through a hunt test, you'll be able to determine how much training that specific dog should be given.

Getting Started

While personality does play a big part in how good your four-legged friend will be out in the field, there are preparations you can take to improve their results. Below are some things you'll need for the process:

  • A Membership: Source out a club for your breed near your home. Learn the ins and outs about the test from members who have already taken it.
  • Training and Seminar Schedules: Once you find out when and where they are, make sure you attend! You'll know the best way to prepare your pup after being at lots of these.
  • The Rulebook: Don't be one of the many who get disqualified! Request a rulebook from the officiating kennel club to know what not to do.
  • Hunting Gear: This means proper vests, jackets, and footwear. Bright orange is always a must when guns are involved.
  • Everything Else: Any of the items you'd bring with you on a hunting trip should be introduced to your dog. If they are familiar with stuff used during a hunt, they're less likely to be distracted by such things in a test.

To do well in a hunt test, punctuality is a must! The directions for the test are given beforehand, and it's easy to fail if you don't have all the details. Also, make sure to focus on control during your practice sessions, as that is a big part of most tests.

Below are some popular methods to get your pooch on point before test day!

The Junior Hunter Method

Effective
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Step
1
Work on the basics
Make sure your dog responds perfectly to basic commands. Control over a hunting dog is a must.
Step
2
Go hunt
Get a few hunts under both of your belts. During these hunts, you can focus on specific situations that might be featured on the test.
Step
3
Keep your dog heeled
Teach your dog to remain by your side at the sight of a falling bird.
Step
4
Master the retrieve
You can practice using a toy or ball at first, but your dog needs to know how to bring back an actual dead duck, no questions asked.
Step
5
Use a whistle
Teach your dog to react when a whistle is blown. This will come in handy when working with larger distances.
Step
6
Vary your setting
Switch up the terrain on which you practice. Your pooch should be ready for anything.
Recommend training method?

The Senior Hunter Method

Effective
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Step
1
Perfect the Junior Method
Practice everything a Junior Hunter is required to do until it is second nature.
Step
2
Bring in hand signals
You should be able to direct your dog through a field using only your hands.
Step
3
Try blind retrieves
Work on retrieves where the dog hasn't seen the fallen prey. He must rely on only you and not his nose for this task.
Step
4
Practice
Practice until the dog is looking to you on each retrieve to determine when the job is done.
Step
5
Go with another dog
Teach your dog some manners, so that he knows to sit quietly on the sidelines when it is not his retrieve.
Recommend training method?

The Master Hunter Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Keep practicing!
Getting out on regular hunts is a must for shaping a top hunting dog.
Step
2
Use more ducks
Add more ducks to your dog's retrieve, as many as four at a time.
Step
3
Bring in obstacles
Throw some distractions into the retrieve, and help your fur buddy learn how to ignore them.
Step
4
More practice!
No really, if you're putting in all of the work to get a Master title, your dog needs to be “on” all of the time.
Step
5
Take it to the water
Repeat all of your on-land training in the water. The dog should be able to complete the task no matter what's under his feet.
Recommend training method?

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