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Cooper is larger than life. In fact, he’s a Great Dane so they really are rather huge. But their size just makes them all the more loveable. Seeing them bound towards you desperate to jump into your arms and cover you in slobber just melts your heart. However, while you love treating Cooper like a prince, you also have other ideas for his time. You’re a keen hunter and you’d like to improve your results by taking Cooper out with you. Alternatively, you may have a pest problem in your yard that you want to train him to tackle.
Training a Great Dane to hunt is a worthwhile endeavor for several reasons. It’s first and foremost a fantastic way to bond with your canine companion. It’s also a great way to teach them a range of useful obedience commands. But perhaps most importantly, you may find your days of coming home empty-handed are over.
Training a Great Dane to hunt isn’t without its challenges. It will require hard work and patience from both of you. You will need to get them familiar with their future prey from an early age. You’ll also need to develop the skills needed to be an effective canine hunter. Throughout training, you will use positive reinforcements, such as treats and toys to encourage your dog. With the right incentive, they will soon be eager to seek out their prey.
If your Great Dane is just a puppy then you could see results in just a month or two. This is because they will be at their most receptive and eager to please their owner. But if they’re older and never been terribly well-trained, then it could be around six months before they’re an efficient hunter. Get training right and early morning hunting will never be a lonely affair again.
Before you get to work, you’ll need to make sure you have a few bits. Decoy toys and scent spray will play an important role. You will also need a generous supply of tasty treats or the dog’s favorite food broken into small pieces.
You’ll need a large yard and local fields to train in. You should also set aside around 15 minutes every other day for training. In fact, the more frequently you practice, the sooner you will see results.
Once you have all that, just bring patience and a can-do attitude, then work can begin!
The Full Package Method
The first thing you should do is take your Great Dane to obedience classes. They will teach them all the basic obedience commands you will need later on, from ‘down’ to ‘wait’.
Regularly play games such as fetch and tug of war. These games will naturally develop the hunting skills your dog will need later on. Using decoy toys for the games will also get them aquatinted with their future prey.
Make sure your dog always gets a reward when they chase prey, even if they don’t succeed. This is particularly important at the beginning, as they may quickly give up if they don’t receive anything for their effort.
Take your Great Dane out for stealthy walks through their future hunting environment. Also get them used to the sounds and smells they are likely to encounter, such as gun shots. You don’t want them running for the hills when you fire your rifle.
Don’t use punishment
It is vital that you don’t use punishment during training. This will only scare your Great Dane and make them overly aggressive and therefore harder to control. All dogs respond best to positive reinforcements.
The Show Me Method
Draw their attention
Take your dog out for walks in search of prey regularly. When you see it, point, whisper and do everything you can to draw their attention. Don’t worry if it takes them a little while to catch your drift.
Once they know what you’re getting worked up by, charge towards the prey waving your arms and shouting. You may look crazy, but dogs learn by mirroring their owners behavior. So if your Great Dane always see you chasing, they will soon pick up the habit.
Now you simply need to do this every time you see prey. Before you know it they will be in the habit of doing it and you won’t have to run alongside them anymore. But if you stop getting animated at the beginning, they will lose interest too.
Make sure your dog always gets a reward for their hard effort. It could be a treat or you can play around with a toy for a little while. If you use a clicker for training, click each time they return. Additional verbal praise certainly won’t do any harm either.
The younger your Great Dane is when you start using this method, the quicker they will pick it up. Habits form faster when they are younger, so when they are a puppy is the perfect time to get to work.
The Use Your Nose Method
Apply scent spray to a decoy toy or two. Then spend a few minutes each day playing with the toys and getting your Great Dane worked up. Talk in a high pitched voice and really get them excited. You want them jumping up and down as soon as they see it.
Create a trail
Now head out into your yard and wipe the toy along the ground from the door to the end of your yard. Hide the toy somewhere at the end. You’re going to use the trail to teach them how to sniff out their prey.
Now secure your dog to a leash and take them to the start line. Point at the ground and whisper to encourage them to get sniffing. Don’t give up if it takes a few minutes for them to catch what you’re on about. Help lead them along the trail and pull them back onto it if they get distracted.
Make sure they get to the end of the trail and find the toy. It’s important they know there’s always something waiting for them if they keep sniffing. You can then give them a toy to play with or some treats to munch on.
Mix it up
Now you just need to make a couple of these scent trails each week. However, make them harder and more spread out each time. Then start setting them up in fields and their future hunting ground. Continue to do this until your Great Dane actively starts sniffing out prey without your encouragement.
By James Barra
Published: 05/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021