Hunting enthusiasts have recruited canine companions as their trusty hunting partners for centuries, and good reason. Not only are dogs reliable in the face of game big and small, but these hunting companions can detect the faintest of scents, point you in the right direction, and quickly move through rugged landscapes to retrieve your game.
While a well-trained dog tagging along can make your hunting excursion more efficient and enjoyable, an improperly-trained dog may spell disaster for those hunters hoping to streamline kills. Following proper hunting dog training recommendations and avoiding common training mistakes is crucial to developing the skills your four-legged friend needs to be a great hunting companion.
Select the right dog breed
Various dog breeds excel as hunting companions, but it is vital to select the right dog breed based on the type of hunting you’ll be doing. Duck and waterfowl hunters require energetic breeds willing and able to retrieve birds from cold water. On the other hand, Labrador retrievers, like these, have long been considered the premier pick for duck hunting due to their love of water, retrieving nature, and loyal disposition.
Irish and English setters, Springer Spaniels, and Pointers are well known for their unrivaled abilities to locate and flush out birds, making them an excellent choice for landfowl hunting. Take note that small-game hunters can usually benefit from a smaller dog with a powerful nose, such as a Beagle. For those large-game hunters, look no further than the name. Breeds like Coonhounds and Foxhounds can sniff out and chase agile prey such as foxes, big cats, and coyotes.
Practice basic commands
Understanding and respecting basic training commands is a foundation skill a well-trained dog must possess before venturing into the wilderness. In the field, your dog needs to exercise control to maintain the integrity of the hunt. The three central tenets of your dog’s hunting responsibilities are sitting patiently instead of running around and making noise, staying by your side instead of excitedly running toward the game, and bringing the game back to you. As such, it’s essential to teach your dog the commands to sit, stay, and come, until they master them.
Avoid repeating commands if your dog does not comply the first time to avoid reinforcing the idea that they can respond on the second or third command. This practice helps hunting enthusiasts ensure their canine companions respond from the get-go.
Simulate the hunting environment
You wouldn’t be able to run a marathon without training, and your dog wouldn’t either. Before embarking on your hunting trip, make sure your dog engages in regular physical activity to prepare them for the long days spent outdoors.
By taking your hunting companion for long walks or runs outside, scheduling extended trips to the dog park, and planning command-training sessions on rugged terrain, you can brace your pup for the hunting ground’s brutal conditions.
If the forecast predicts sweltering heat or blistering cold during your hunting excursion, make sure your dog practices exercising in these extreme conditions. That way, they can quickly acclimate to the difference in temperature. Doing so will help prevent early fatigue, dehydration, and next-day muscle stiffness that can hinder your dog’s performance in the hunt.
Get used to gunfire
All of the training in the world can fly out the window if your dog is scared of gunfire. When first testing your dog’s reaction to the noise of gunfire, make sure that you’re in a secure environment with someone holding onto your pup’s collar.
To practice the necessary safety precautions, fire a blank round while your dog is a far distance away, and slowly bring them closer to test your dog’s reaction and desensitize them to the noise. Similar to a clicker, associate the sound of a gunshot with the prize of retrieving the game by tossing dummies for your dog to bring back.
Create a positive bond
A positive relationship with your dog will pay off in more ways than one. Having a strong bond builds confidence and trust, allowing your dog to navigate unfamiliar territory with ease. Not only will your dog be much more inclined to listen and obey if they have a positive relationship with you, but they’ll also be a better companion. Giving positive attention to your dog while going for walks, playing, practicing commands, and relaxing in a calm environment at home are all methods to establish a stronger bond.