How to Train a German Shepherd to Hunt

Hard
1-6 Months
Work

Introduction

All week you work hard and look forward to the weekend. You can then spend your mornings on the weekend stealthily walking through nature on the hunt. You’ve got your rifle on your back, the sun is out and the air is still. You love being out in it. However, you’re getting to a stage where you think it might be nice to have some company. Fortunately, you have an energetic German Shepherd waiting for you at home who naturally has many of the attributes needed to be an effective hunter already.

Training your Shepherd to hunt comes with several advantages. Firstly, you’ll have some company on those hunting trips. Secondly, you’ll have an effective hunter who can help you track and catch prey. This means ultimately, your dog may help improve your hunting results. Finally, you’ll have a brilliant way to bond with your favorite canine.

Defining Tasks

Training a German Shepherd to hunt does come with its challenges. You will need to use strict obedience training to ensure they follow your every instruction when out hunting. You will also need to get them familiar with their future prey from an early age as possible. You will then need to use positive reinforcements to teach them how to hunt.

Training your dog to hunt could take as little as a month or two if they are eager to please. However, if they are older and more interested in lying around than hunting, then you may need several months. If you stick with training you’ll have a fantastic degree of control that you can use to teach your German Shepherd a wide range of commands and behaviors. But most importantly, locating and tracking prey may be far easier with your Shepherd's powerful nose at your disposal.

Getting Started

Before you start training, you will need to gather a few items. Stock up on tasty treats or break Fido's favorite food into small pieces. You will also need some decoy toys of their future prey and some scent spray.

A training leash will also be required, as will a place to train, such as a yard or a local park or field. Set aside 15 minutes or so each day for training. The more often you train, the sooner you will see results.

Once you have the above, just bring patience and a proactive attitude, then work can begin!

The Full Package Method

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Step
1
Obedience classes
Start training your German Shepherd to hunt from as early as possible. Your dog will be most receptive when still a puppy. So start taking them to obedience classes. This will teach them basic useful commands, such as ‘down’ and ‘wait’. But it will also socialize them with other pets and people.
Step
2
Play games
Spend a few minutes each day playing tug of war and fetch. This is a great way to naturally develop some of the skills and behaviors they will need when they are out hunting.
Step
3
Environment ready
Take your dog out every now and then with you hunting. They need to get used to the sights and smells. You don’t want them sprinting in the opposite direction as soon as they hear a gun shot.
Step
4
Rewards
Hand over tasty treats and verbal praise whenever you see any encouraging behaviors. Barking or interest in their future prey should be encouraged whenever possible.
Step
5
Avoid punishment
It is important that you do not punish your German Shepherd. You may make them aggressive and then potentially dangerous. Your dog will respond best to positive reinforcement.
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The Mentor Method

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Step
1
Draw their attention
Regularly attach your German Shepherd to a leash and take them out looking for prey. Walk slowly and quietly to show them how it’s done. Then when you come across prey, draw their attention to it by pointing and whispering.
Step
2
Charge
If your goal is to have the dog flush or chase prey, you need to get them worked up about it. So charge towards the prey, shouting as you go. German Shepherds learn by mirroring their owners' behavior. So if they see you running towards it, they will quickly catch on.
Step
3
Repeat
Now all you need to do is repeat this behavior whenever you see prey. You may look strange but your Shepherd will quickly start following your lead and soon enough will start chasing down prey without your help.
Step
4
Reward
Make sure your pooch gets a tasty reward whenever they give chase. It’s also important to make sure you give a reward even if they aren’t successful, particularly at the beginning. If you don’t, they may quickly give up trying.
Step
5
Socialize
It’s also important you socialize your German Shepherd with other pets and people. Encourage positive play with toys and treats when he plays calmly. It’s vital he can separate friend from foe.
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The Follow Your Nose Method

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Step
1
Decoy play
Spend a few minutes each day playing around with decoy toys prepared with scent spray. Play tug of war and fetch to get the dog as worked up as possible. This will get your German Shepherd familiar with the sight and smell of their future prey.
Step
2
Make a trail
Head out into the yard and create a scent trail with one of the decoys. Wipe it along the ground and then hide it somewhere at the end. You are going to use these trails to teach Fido how to find the prey.
Step
3
Start line
Secure the dog to a leash and encourage them to follow the trail. Point, get low to the ground and whisper to draw their attention. Then pull them back onto the trail if they get distracted. Make sure they follow the trail until the end. It is important the dog knows there is always something waiting for them at the end.
Step
4
Reward
As soon as your German Shepherd gets to the end of the trail, hand over a tasty reward. You can also give them verbal praise or play with a toy for a minute or so. The happier they feel afterwards, the more they will want to play again.
Step
5
Increase the difficulty
Continue to make scent trails a few times a week. However, make each one slightly longer and more spread out. You can then upgrade to making them in local fields. Before you know it, they will actively be seeking out and hunting down prey. At that point, you know your work is done. All you have to do is make sure they get a decent reward when they return.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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