Training

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How to Train a Whippet to Hunt Rabbits

Training

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2 min read

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How to Train a Whippet to Hunt Rabbits
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon6-8 Months
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

Whippets: their name derives from an old English slang word ‘whip it', meaning to move ‘briskly’. With speed and agility on their side, Whippets make a best friend to poachers. However, training your dog to hunt can be challenging, especially when they are as lively and intelligent as a Whippet. But with their gentle and friendly personalities, it seems almost questionable that they are some of the greatest rabbit hunting breeds. Despite their appearance, Whippets can be formidable in the presence of a fast-acting prey animal. 

The Whippet’s winning field of vision allows it to zero in on its prey, making it one of the best hunting dogs. So with some patience from the owner and repetition in training, this is a challenge that can be definitely be met. 

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Defining Tasks

Training your dog to hunt is not only beneficial to you, but your dog as well. Whippets need a lot of mental and physical stimulation and hunting is the best activity to support this. It provides them space to run around, therefore staying active whilst keeping them mentally enthused. 

Training your Whippet to hunt can be hard due to the need for a vast amount of space and time. As well as this, repetition is key, and so training your dog almost daily is important. For Whippets, this could take up to six to eight months. The ideal time to start training is when your dog is around one year old. This is when the puppy is young enough to learn quickly but is old enough to learn without getting distracted. Puppies at this age have high retention but low attention and so, a tip is to keep training little and often.  When your Whippet is eighteen months of age, you can start shooting sessions in the field.

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Getting Started

A pen that is sixty by sixty feet large will enable your dog to get familiarized with rabbits whilst giving them both the distance they need. As the dog progresses, space anywhere from five acres to a hundred acres may be needed. This can be done either in your own garden, or at private running pen facilities which charge you on a per-dog-trained basis. 

The second thing to consider is that training your dog to the sound of gunfire is really important. Areas in which gunfire practice is allowed, such as running pen facilities, are a really handy place to start off training your dog. It would also be useful to source rabbit skin or legs to get your Whippet familiar to the rabbit's scent. But the most important thing? Lots of treats and praise! 

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The Basic Hunting Method

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1

Simple obedience

Train your puppy to follow simple commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘leave’. These commands will form a basis for the rest of the hunting structure and skill set.

2

Puppies and recall

Train your puppy to come when called. This takes a lot of obedience and time. When your dog comes back to you, use a high pitched voice and give him lots of praise. Coming to you should be seen as the ultimate game and he should enjoy coming straight to you when you ask him to.

3

Rabbit scent

Get your puppy used to the scent of a rabbit by letting it in the same pen as a real-life rabbit. Let it sniff and get close up to the rabbit, but remember to consider the safety of any and all prey animals that are being used for this training. If necessary, consult a professional to keep an eye on all animals involved.

4

Rabbit run

Let your Whippet sniff the rabbit and then let it go in a large field while holding your dog. After thirty seconds to a minute, let the dog off the leash and it should chase the rabbit. Remember to keep control of the situation. A Whippet that catches and mangles a rabbit will prove to be useless.

5

Rabbit hunt

The final stage is to take your puppy to a field in which you know there are lots of rabbits and let him find them by recognizing the scent and following. If necessary, keep him on a long leash in order to have control over how far he goes into the field.

The Rabbit Tracking Method

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Early tracking

Scatter some of your Whippet’s favorite treats on the floor of the garden or in your house. Let him use his nose to discover the treats. This will help your dog use scent for tracking later on and will offer plenty of rewards for finding the appropriate things.

2

String tie tracking

Tie a string to a piece of meat or a large treat and drag it around your garden. Every meter or so, cut off a piece of the meat and leave it there for your dog to find. This will help him to discover the extended scent trail. Continuously doing this while extending the length of the trail and the distance between the pieces of meat will enhance your dog’s performance.

3

Late rabbit tracking

Continue to do string tie tracking, but switch the meat to dead or butchered rabbits. Alternatively, you can use commercial rabbit scent and rub it onto something that looks familiar. This will familiarize him with the scent either way.

4

Live rabbit tracking

Move your Whippet to an open pen which can range from five to a hundred acres. The next bit is the fun bit. Let your Whippet run off the leash. This can be done at least two to three times a week for a couple of hours at a time. Tip: If the rabbit hides from your dog, this is good! It encourages your dog to follow the trail of the rabbit’s scent, thus he is nose chasing rather than sight chasing.

5

Gunfire

To get your dog used to the sound of gunfire, start off with the gun far away from him while it is tracking. Slowly decrease the distance between your Whippet and the gun as he becomes accustomed to the sound.

6

The real hunt

Let your dog off the leash in a hunting zone once you are certain of his capabilities. Remember to ensure that he has good recall in order to call him off of the rabbit when necessary, otherwise you risk having the rabbit mangled and torn to shreds which can render it useless.

The Pack Hunting Method

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Rabbit scent familiarization

Get your dog used to the rabbit's scent by giving him rabbit skin or feet to play with. You can get these in speciality or hunting stores in order to have plenty of them. It may take some time to acclimate your Whippet to the scent, so be consistent.

2

The brace

Pair your Whippet with an older, more experienced hunter called a ‘brace’. Your dog will begin to learn how to hunt and track from the older, more experienced dog. This can be done by joining a local gundog field trial club. Here, you can meet owners and train your dog in using the facilities they provide.

3

Introduce the pack

Increase the pack size of the experienced dogs to three or four dogs. Keep in mind that every hunter and dog owner or trainer should have control over their dogs in order to keep the hunt productive and to keep dogs from fighting or interacting dangerously.

4

Field hunting

Take the pack of dogs to an area of land that is around fifty to a hundred acres. This allows them the space to hunt as an experienced pack. Make sure that each dog has a fantastic recall in order to prevent them from running off after prey that is not the intended target.

5

Maintaining standards

Once your dog has learnt to hunt in the pack, you are now able to let him hunt alone. To keep your dog from losing his new found skills, allow him to hunt in a pack again every so often. This will maintain his hunting skills as well as socializing him with other dogs. Constant practice is important for every hunting dog.

By Olivia Draper

Published: 05/25/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

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