How to Train a Doberman to Hunt Rabbit

Hard
8-12 Weeks
Work

Introduction

Miles the Doberman Pinscher is fascinated by every little critter that passes his rural yardsite. He chases them up and down the fence line, barking and lunging , whenever he sees a critter pass by. There has recently been an explosion in the rabbit population in the area, as irresponsible pet owners let a few dozen rabbits loose, and they... bred like rabbits!  Now local farmers and acreage owners are having problems with rabbits raiding their gardens. Miles’ owners wonder if they could train their Doberman to hunt rabbits, to help resolve the problem, and give Miles an outlet for his prey drive.

Although Dobermans are not traditionally hunting dogs, any dog can be trained to hunt. The Doberman breed is based off several other breeds including the Weimaraner, which is a hunting and retriever breed. Dobermans that exhibit the talents of these hunting ancestors may be good candidates for hunting rabbits with some training, patience, and direction. Just keep in mind that it may take some time and practice for your Doberman to develop hunting skills and not all Dobermans will adapt to this pursuit.

Defining Tasks

Rabbits are fast, can turn on a dime, and can fit in small places, a dog cannot. This makes them challenging quarry for hunting dogs. You will want your Doberman to be very fit and able to negotiate various terrain at high speeds. You will also want your dog to be used to guns and the sound of shots fired so he doesn't get scared and develop a negative association with hunting.

Most dogs have a hard time catching quick, agile rabbit. However, a strong, athletic, clever Doberman may accomplish this and if your dog has a strong prey drive you may not have rabbit stew in the near future if your dog gets over excited with the rabbit carcass. Training your dog to chase the rabbit in a loop, stay back while the rabbit is shot, and not to catch and mangle the rabbit will make your dog a useful rabbit hunting companion.

Getting Started

If you are concerned about your dog taking off after another prey animal or becoming separated from you, consider using a radio collar to locate your dog.  Good off-leash recall and response to obedience commands, including the ability to call your dog off prey with a ‘leave it’ command is extremely useful when training hunting skills with your Doberman. Live rabbits in cages or rabbit scent that can be used for drags are also useful to help your Doberman learn to focus on rabbits as quarry.

The Hunting Skills Method

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Step
1
Explore hunting areas
Take your Doberman out in rabbit hunting areas. Explore rough terrain and brush. Practice off-leash recall and get your Dobie used to the wilderness and exploring heavily forested areas and brush.
Step
2
Exercise
Exercise your Doberman to make sure he is in top physical conditions with no injuries which could be aggravated by high speed chases and lightning fast twists and turns.
Step
3
Generate interest
Introduce your Doberman to rabbits by giving him a rabbit skin to play with to get him used to the scent. Play tug of war and fetch with the rabbit skin to generate interest.
Step
4
Locate rabbits
Take your dog to an area where you know rabbits are present. Let your Dobie scent and locate rabbits with his nose or by sight.
Step
5
Establish 'Leave It'
Practice obedience commands including off-leash recall and 'Leave It' commands. Practice with a rabbit skin and use the 'leave it' command to indicate to your dog when to release the rabbit skin. You will want to use this command to direct your dog when to back off of a rabbit to allow a clear shot.
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The Live Rabbit Method

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Use a caged rabbit
Put a tame rabbit in a wheeled cage. Cages that are shaped like a wheel, similar to a hamster ball, are available and can be used to provide your Doberman with a visual stimulus while protecting the tame rabbit.
Step
2
Pursue rabbit in wheeled cage
Allow your Doberman to investigate and chase the caged, protected, rabbit. Encourage your dog and supervise to ensure the cage rabbit is not injured.
Step
3
Explore rabbit territory
Once your Doberman is interested and focused on rabbits, start taking your dog out in wilderness areas where rabbits are present.
Step
4
Locate wild rabbits
With your dog on a leash, start exploring. Wait for your Doberman to investigate and locate a rabbit by scent or sight.
Step
5
Allow pursuit of rabbit
Let your dog off leash and allow him to flush and chase the rabbit. Rabbits tend to run in a circular path and your dog will usually return to you, chasing the rabbit. If not, be sure to have a way to recall or locate your dog.
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The Partner Hunt Method

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Step
1
Teach commands and soiclization
Establish good obedience commands and socialize your Doberman with other dogs. This should be done as early as possible to get your dog used to being around others.
Step
2
Introudce huntng partner
Introduce your dog to another experienced hunting dog, allowing dogs to become accustomed to each other. Breeds that are developed for rabbit hunting may be good choices, as they will have natural skills they can pass on to your dog. You may be able to find other handlers and dogs through local hunting clubs.
Step
3
Practice with partner
Allow your Doberman to hunt with the other dog, locate the rabbit by scent, or sight and flush the rabbit. It may take some coordination with the other owner to determine when and where to let your dogs off-leash.
Step
4
Practice solo
Once your Doberman has learned some rabbit hunting skills and has experience rabbit hunting with another dog, take your dog out solo to give him individual experience and build confidence.
Step
5
Add commands to back off of prey
Continue hunting with other dogs and solo to develop rabbit hunting skills. Practice recall and directions including backing off of the rabbit when approaching hunters to allow a clear shot. Use the verbal 'Leave It' command and introduce hand signals that can be used to direct your dog.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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