How to Train a Vizsla to Hunt Deer

Hard
2-4 Months
Work

Introduction

Mike has a Vizsla named Buddy, so named because he loves his people, and is as close to his family members as he can possibly get.  Mike also hunts deer and wonders if Buddy would make a good deer hunting dog. Could he help find deer trails and locate wounded deer when necessary? The answer is yes, because Vizslas are hunting and sport dogs! Although Vizsla are primarily a pointing and retrieving breed, their excellent scenting ability can be adapted to hunting deer. 


It is important to understand something about the Vizsla’s style. They are sometimes called the 'Velcro Vizsla' because of their tendency to stick so close to their owners.  This is because the breed was developed to hunt close, looking for game with his nose, eyes, and ears, and then indicate prey so handlers can harvest the game. If you are planning on using your Vizsla to hunt deer, you will need to work with and capitalize on this tendency, following your dog closely, as he follows a game trail and then freezes to point out deer.

Defining Tasks

To hunt deer, your Vizsla will need to learn to identify and follow deer trails. A Vizsla is also a pointing dog. He will tend to freeze and point his head and possibly even his leg to indicate that game is present. If you have a young, excited dog, you will need to reinforce this freezing behavior, as you do not want your dog to rush at a deer. Praise and affection are big with these dogs and they will work for your approval. Vizslas also need their handlers to be calm, but in control, so they can have confidence and attend to directions. Since these dogs are highly trainable, shaping their natural behaviors is the best method to train your Vizsla to hunt deer. You will need to train your dog on the terrain you will be hunting deer on so that he is comfortable working and scenting in that environment. This may mean training and working in heavy bush and over long distances, so make sure your dog responds well to directions and commands without being distracted.

Getting Started

Treats are always welcome for reinforcement and shaping behaviors, although your loving Vizsla will work for praise and affection as well. To train scenting deer, you will need deer scent, available commercially, from road kill, or from a butchered carcass. Deer blood can be used to teach your dog to flow a blood trail, which will be useful in locating a wounded animal when necessary.  You will also need to teach your dog to freeze and wait when deer are located. Using a check rope is a method often employed by hunters to prevent their dog from rushing in and frightening game away, spoiling the opportunity to take a shot.

The Freezing Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Rig a check rope
Obtain a check rope rigging from other hunters, or from a sport supply shop. Get your dog used to wearing the check rope. A check rope runs down your dog's side, under his belly, and up over his back. The end is then slid under itself on your dog's back, forming a half hitch with the tail of the rope is left dragging behind. When you pull on the tail end, the loop will tighten on your dog's flank.
Step
2
Employ rope and add command
As your dog walks forward, give the command 'whoa' and step on, or pick up the tail of the rope to make your dog stop. Get your dog used to this. Make him stand for a few minutes at first, then longer. Vary the time required to freeze and then provide a release command. Practice in controlled environments and out in wilderness areas.
Step
3
Practice in wilderness
Once your dog is responding well to the check rope and commands to freeze and release, you can take your dog out to hunting environments to practice.
Step
4
Find trails and locate deer
Allow your dog to follow a scent trail to locate a deer. You may need to wander around in the environment for some time before he can find the appropriate trail.
Step
5
Direct to 'freeze'
When your dog locates and indicates the deer, add your command to freeze and pick up the check rope to restrain your dog. Practice until your dog freezes and indicates when he locates the deer without the rope being tightened. Gradually remove the check rope and then the verbal command so as not to startle game. Remove the check rope.
Recommend training method?

The Deer Blood Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Reinforce deer blood scent
Put some deer blood on a sponge and present it to your Vizsla. When your dog sniffs the sponge, praise him, and give him a treat to reinforce the scent.
Step
2
Create blood trail
Create a blood trail with deer blood. Keep initial trails simple and short. Place a deer-scented item or toy at the end of the trail to encourage your Vizsla to pursue it.
Step
3
Follow blood trail
Let your Vizsla discover the beginning of the trail and then encourage him to follow it to the end. You may need to put him on a leash at first to guide him.
Step
4
Reinforce trail
When he reaches the end of the trail, let him play with the toy or deer-scented item for some positive reinforcement and reward.
Step
5
Add difficulty
Make subsequent deer blood trails more complex, longer, and with turns and distractions present. Let your dog practice until he can locate and follow the trail off-leash to receive a reward at the end.
Recommend training method?

The Scent Deer Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Introduce deer scent
Take some deer scent obtained from a piece of deer hide, preferably from the rear leg near the tarsal glands, or purchased commercially. Put scent on a drag item and present to your Vizsla. Pair with a treat to reinforce. The scented item could be a deer hide or piece of cloth.
Step
2
Create simple scent trail
Create a simple scent trail in a straight line by dragging the scented item. Put the hide, scented item, toy, or piece of butchered deer meat at the end of the trail as a reward.
Step
3
Follow trails
Take your Vizsla near the beginning of the trail and let him pick up the scent. Encourage him to follow the trail. Guide him if necessary.
Step
4
Reward following trails
When your dog reaches the end of the trail, reward him with play with the scented drag item or the piece of deer meat to reinforce the behaviors.
Step
5
Increase the difficulty
Make more scent trails and add complexity. Make the trail longer and with more twists and turns. Use terrain that is more difficult to scent in and negotiate. Practice and continue to reward.
Recommend training method?

The Teammate Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Adjust to the area
Let your Vizsla practice working in heavily forested areas and where there is lots of deep brush. Let him practice using his nose and becoming accustomed to the environment.
Step
2
Meet a teammate
Introduce your dog to another experienced hunting dog. Make sure they are comfortable with each other before venturing out to hunting areas. Another Vizsla is ideal, as these dogs prefer to work close to hunters and dogs with different hunting styles will not work as well together. The goal is for your inexperienced dog to learn from the experienced hunting dog.
Step
3
Search for deer
Take the dogs to an area where deer are present and allow them to work together looking for deer scent trails.
Step
4
Reinforce desired behaviors
When the dogs locate and follow a scent trail, reward with praise and affection, even when a deer is not located.
Step
5
Model behaviours
Practice with the other dogs in live situations. Your Vizsla will learn to be comfortable tracking and locating deer better with a companion and as part of a team. Your dog will learn to follow trails and freeze to indicate when a deer is located. Be patient with your dog until hunting behaviors are established.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd