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Your Doberman makes a great family pet. He’s playful, protective, confident, and relatively easy to train. He keeps the kids occupied and makes for a great radiator in the winter months. However, you also welcomed him into your home for another reason. You want him to become your hunting companion and join you on those early morning trips. In particular, you would like him to hunt birds. He’s strong, fast and full of energy. So, he’s got all the attributes you need to turn him into an effective hunter.
Training him to hunt birds also comes with a number of benefits. Firstly, it’s a great way to instill discipline into him that can be used in other areas of his life. Secondly, it’s fantastic exercise for him and an enjoyable way to bond. Most importantly though, it could seriously enhance your hunting results.
Training a Doberman to hunt birds is far easier than if he were one of many other breeds. However, that doesn’t mean it will be straightforward. You will need to start training him as early as possible. You will need to get him familiar with his prey and get him used to his future hunting environment. In addition, you will then need to find an effective incentive to get him chasing down birds.
If he’s a puppy, he should be eager to please and much more receptive to training. You could see results in just a month or two. If he’s older and not quite the keen student he once was, then you may need up to six months before you see consistent results. Get this training right and no longer will you return home empty-handed. You may also have a means of tackling any pest control issues.
Before you get to work, you will need to gather a few bits. Bird decoys and scent spray will be required. These can be bought online and from some local stores.
You will also need a generous supply of treats or his favorite food broken into small pieces. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes each day for training. This can take place in your yard or local fields.
Once you have all the above, you just need patience and a proactive attitude, then work can begin!
The Day One Method
The earlier you can start obedience training the better. Take him to classes and train him at home. Teach him ‘down’, ‘drop’, and any other behaviors he may need later.
Reward any of the behaviors you want to see later on. So, give him treats and verbal praise whenever your Doberman shows an interest in birds, barks at them, or chases them.
Get him familiar with his future prey by giving him decoy toys. You can play tug of war and fetch. Both will help him develop some of the skills he will need later on in the hunting environment.
Take him out and practice stealthily walking through fields. You also need to expose him to the sights and sounds he will see and hear from an early age. You don’t want him bolting at the sound of a gun shot, for example.
Always make sure he gets a decent reward when he successfully tracks, flushes, or retrieves a bird. In fact, also reward him when he fails, to start with. Dobermans will quickly give up if they think there is no reward at the end.
The Lead By Example Method
Stop and point
Whenever you see your prey, stop and point. Really try and draw his attention to them as much as possible. You can talk in a high-pitched voice and get animated.
Once you have his attention on them, start charging. As you go, wave your arms in the air and shout. Dobermans mirror their owners' behavior, so if you lead by example, he will quickly catch on.
He must always get a reward for his efforts. This is particularly important at the beginning when he is still developing his skills. The greater the reward, the more eager he will be to repeat the behavior again.
You may become known as the crazy person in your area, but you need to do this every time, until he gives chase without your lead. The more worked up you get, the more excited he will get by the sight of birds.
Never punish him
It’s important you never punish him for failing. Not only will this deter him from trying next time, but he may become aggressive towards you. Because of their size and strength, you need to avoid this. Remaining calm and collected throughout is the most effective approach.
The Scent Method
Apply ascent spray to the bird decoys and play with them for a few minutes each day. Encourage him to play tug of war and fetch. You need him to be familiar with both the sight and smell of his future prey. Dobermans have a decent sense of smell. So, you need to put that to good use.
After a week or so of playing with the decoys, head out into the yard. Create a scent trail from the door, around your yard and finishing at a decoy hidden in a bush. You are going to train him to sniff out his future prey.
Secure him to a leash and take him to the beginning of the scent trail. Encourage him to follow it by pointing to it. If he comes off the trail, pull him back towards it and talk in an animated voice. Make sure you lead him all the way to the end of the trail, so he always knows there is something rewarding waiting at the end. Then play with the decoy for a minute or so as a reward.
Try and take him out on scent trails in your yard several times a week. Then once he has got the hang of it, you can start making them in local fields. Make these harder and more spread out. This will also get him familiar with his hunting ground. The more you practice, the quicker you will see results.
Soon enough he will naturally start sniffing out and hunting birds when you take him out. At this point, you can stop taking him on scent trails. He’s ready for the real deal. Just be there to encourage him and give him a generous reward at the end.
By James Barra
Published: 02/01/2018, edited: 01/08/2021