How to Train a Labrador Puppy to Hunt Pheasant

Hard
8-10 Months
Work

Introduction

The countryside is tranquil, peaceful, and serene. What better way to spend your afternoons than a lovely walk through the woodlands and hills? An even better idea is to turn it into a hobby. Teaching your Labrador companion to hunt pheasants with you will create a bond between you like no other. 

Labradors have been bred to be hunting dogs and their energetic, driven nature make them the ideal hunting buddy. There are two types of Labradors that can both be used for hunting. Fieldline Labradors are the ones that really rise to the challenge. They are extremely fast runners with an agile physique. Showline Labs are also able to be trained to hunt, however, they are a little slower. An advantage to this is that they are a little more docile and great as family pets.

Defining Tasks

Pheasant hunting has been around since the 11th century. Popularised in England, it was brought over to The United States in the 16th century. 

During the dry season, pheasants like to hang around water and so it is perfect that your pooch is bred to be a keen swimmer and retriever. Pheasants will often retreat uphill into grassy land and so your Labrador will be the perfect dog for the task. Their fast pace allows them to chase the pheasants at ease on an incline. Combine this with their award-winning sense of smell, as they need not see the bird to find it. 

The command is hard to teach and will take anywhere from eight to ten months. Even so, Labradors are extremely intelligent dogs and so their bright personality and willingness to learn makes the challenge easier. 

Getting Started

To get started, your pooch will need to be used to the sound of gunfire as it will be you that does most of the hunting. Take your Lab to a shooting range in which are you allowed to walk dogs. This can be done when your pup is around ten weeks old. As your puppy begins to get older and used to the sound of gunfire, begin to walk your pup closer to the sounds. Eventually, you should be able to shoot the gun yourself with your dog staying calm and by your side. 

Labradors are food lovers and so an extremely helpful tip is to stock up on their favourite treats for them to snack on when they have done a good job. 

The Flushing Method

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Step
1
Pheasant scent
Teach your pooch to get used to the scent of pheasants. You can do this by sourcing a pheasant from a local hunter and allowing your dog to play with it.
Step
2
String tie
Tie the pheasant to a piece of string and drag it along the floor. Allow your pooch to track the pheasant with its nose and reward your pup with a treat when it is found.
Step
3
Large distance
Increase the distance of the string tie and hide the pheasant from your dog's sight. This will allow him to track the pheasant using his sense of smell.
Step
4
Grassland
Carry out the same process. However, this time move to grassy land which can mimic the type of field setting you will be in on your typical hunting trips.
Step
5
Flushing
Teach your dog that once he has found the pheasant, to run through the grassland to chase it. This will cause the bird to fly out of the shrubbery and into the sky. This tactic is known as 'flushing'.
Step
6
Collecting the prize
From here, you are able to shoot down the pheasant and collect your prize. You will need to get your dog adjusted to the sound of the gun over time before he can be trusted to not run off in fear.
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The Tracking Method

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Step
1
Scent recognition
Teach your pooch the scent of a pheasant by holding a dead pheasant in front of his nose. You'll want to do this often in order to develop a familiarity between your dog and the bird.
Step
2
Drag method
Drag a pheasant along the ground in front of your pup and allow your pooch to follow the scent. Reward with treats whenever he stays on track and follows the bird to completion.
Step
3
Increase distance
Move into an area in which you can increase the distance of the drag. Once this has been mastered, it's time to carry out the rest of the process. Do not show your pup where you are dragging the pheasant or leaving it. He should use his nose tracking over his eye tracking.
Step
4
Retrieval
Once this has been mastered, teach your pooch to retrieve the pheasant and bring it back to you. Encourage him to return to you every time by being enthusiastic and rewarding appropriately.
Step
5
Live hunt
It is time to use real-life pheasants. Take your pooch to a hunting ground in which you know that there are plenty of pheasants. Allow your dog to roam the grounds and pick up trails of pheasant scent. He should be able to find the pheasant and bring it back to you with enough practice.
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The Water Retrieval Method

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1
Recall
Teach your pup the 'recall' and 'retrieve' command. Throw a favourite toy in front of him and when he brings it back to you, give him lots of praise and a treats.
Step
2
Larger scale
The next stage is to do this on a greater scale. In a large field is best, as your dog can run, leap, and make his way through the sort of terrain that will be typical of hunting independently.
Step
3
Retrieve
Teach your dog to retrieve pheasants by swapping out his favourite toy for a recently poached pheasant. This will get him used to pheasant retrieval.
Step
4
Gunfire
Get your dog used to gunfire by allowing him to roam near an area where gunfire can be heard. Slowly move him closer to the sounds over time, but remember that gunfire can also be dangerous. Make sure you have a solid recall before letting your dog loose in these areas.
Step
5
The real hunt
Take your pup to an area in which it is safe to shoot and hunt. Here, you can shoot your pheasant and use your dog's new eye tracking and retrieval skills to find the pheasant and bring it back to you. It may take some time to develop these independent skills, so remember to be patient.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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