Training a hunting dog is no simple matter, however it is fun and quite rewarding. There are so many different factors to consider when you decide to train a dog to hunt, such as what breed, sex, temperament and hunting style are you looking for? Also will your dog be hunting with other dogs or alone? It may seem quite overwhelming at first, but once you fully understand what you want in a hunting dog and the type of hunting you want to do the whole process becomes a whole lot easier. Be sure to take the time to research different hunting styles and what dogs work best for each style before purchasing a dog.
How To Choose A Dog for Hunting
Start by researching the types of hunting dogs. These dogs are usually categorized by the title ‘sporting dogs.’ There are several types of really great hunting dogs including:
- American Foxhound
- Labrador Retriever
- Irish Setter
- Golden Retriever
Once you decided on a the breed of dog and the type of hunting you will be doing then it’s time to go look at puppies. Yes, I said puppies. It is best to train your hunting dog from a puppy before he or she gets set in her ways.You can get an older dog, but it may take a bit longer to break bad habits.
Before you start looking for a puppy be sure to find a reputable breeder that has good credentials. You don’t want to buy a puppy from a mill. You will also have to decide if you want a female or male. A good puppy will have an alert and active temperament and be a bit on the curious side. However, you don’t want a hyperactive puppy that doesn’t want to learn commands. A hunting dog has to be very obedient and listen well, these dogs will be in more dangerous situations than normal house dogs. So be sure to find a hunting dog you can put your trust in.
Basic Commands and Terminology
When it comes to training your dog to hunt there are several terms that you need to know and basics commands to teach your hunting dog. Be patient when training and don’t forget to reward for good behavior. The basic commands that a puppy must be taught should include:
- Sit: A command to sit down and wait for further instructions.
- Stay: A basic command to stay where you are.
- Come: You are telling the dog to come to you.
- Down: Basically teaching them to get down or not to jump.\
- Whoa: This command tells your dog to stop, stand stationary with head pointed high and tail up.
- Walking Whoa: This is the same as the command whoa, however you continue to walk forward and the dog stays in place.
- Leave it: Leave the item or thing a lone.
- Over: This command tells your hunting dog to jump over an object, such as a large tree branch.
- Retrieve: This command is to go retrieve the item, it is also meant to retrieve the dummy bird or the actually bird that was just shot.
- Give/Dead: This command means to drop or give me the dummy bird or animal.
- Get in: Get in is a typical command for a gundog to get in a body of water.
- Back: A verbal command that tells that dog to get back in line until he finds the dummy bird.
- Over: A directional signal given to the dog while you point left or right, indicating where the dog should go.
- Hold: A command for the hunting dog not to release an object.
- Down Hard: A command for a dog to pointed at the hunted, such as a bird and hard indicates the intensity.
- Hup: A verbal command used to tell your dog to sit and stay.
- Point: This is the same command as down hard.
- Hi Lost/There: You can say either hi lost or there as a verbal command meaning to hunt there.
- Hand Signals: Hand signal commands can also be taught so that you are not calling out commands when you are hunting quietly.
Here are some other basic terminologies you should know:
- Pointing: When a hunting dog points at it’s prey or the hunt. This can either be done by sight or smell.
- Flagging: This is when a dog is either pointing or getting a scent of a bird or game and is happily swishing its tail.
- Steadying: Where the dog is commanded to stay by your side, especially until after the gunshot.
- Trailing: This is when a dog hunts with it’s nose to the ground tracking game.
- Marking: This is when your hunting dog is watching shot bird fall or a bird that got away.
- Flushing: When a dog goes to find birds or game that are hiding or under cover and flushes them out for you to hunt.
- Quartering: This is a controlled hunting pattern that teachers your dog to go side to side to effectively cover more ground while hunting.
Here is a good video that describes terms and basic commands in more detail.
Early training usually starts in your yard. You may have hunting training items already set in place for this. If not that’s okay. You are started at the basics so no need to get too elaborate yet. As your training progresses you many need to purchase training equipment for your hunting dog. There are several steps to the early training process.
Step 1: Teach your hunting dog basic training commands such as sit, stay and come. Repetition is key when training commands.
Step 2: Reward your dog for following commands.
Step 3: Begin introducing your dog to decoys and dummy birds and game. Be sure to use scent on the dummy birds. Begin teaching the dog to find this bird and to leave the decoys a lone. Be sure to teach him to retrieve and give it to you. The decoys train your dog to leave certain animals alone and go after the game you are hunting.
Step 4: Be sure to practice everyday and teach your hunting dog new tricks or add on to the training each day. Don’t forget positive reinforcement and rewards will keep your dog on the right track.
Step 5: When training each day, keep the training period short and focus on one type of training at a time.
Check out this Youtube video of a hunting puppy learning basic commands.
Once you have trained your dog the basics and he is getting good at follow commands it is time to take him out in the field to for more training and to prepare him to hunt. It’s important to get him to stay steady during gunshot and not to be gun-shy. Teach him to hold during fire so that everyone with you can take a shot before he goes to retrieve. Once everyone has fired their shot give the command to retrieve. If this is your dog’s first time in the field, it may take a little patience before he gets it right. Once he retrieves be sure to praise and reward him. Then do it again. Repetition and reward is the best way to get your dog to learn and understand his role as your hunting dog.
To better understand dogs at different training levels, here is a video that shows you different hunting dogs in different stages and ages of training.
Ready To Hunt
Once you have had your dog out in the field with you several times and he is really starting to get the hang of things it’s time to take him on longer hunts. Take him hunting regularly with you. Your dog will learn the most when he is actually out there hunting with you. As he gets better you can also put him into hunting dog competitions to see how well he is doing. During off seasons, be sure to continue to give him refresher training in order to keep him ready for the next season. Always keep your dog active and learning. Don’t forget to have fun! Hunting is suppose to be fun and rewarding and it’s best spent with your favorite dog!
I truly hope you enjoyed this article and learned some valuable things from it. Most importantly be consistent with praise and repetition when training your dog. Make sure he learns basic commands before you ever let him on that hunting field with hunting rifle. Thanks for taking the time to read this article.Please feel free to leave comments or questions. Also, I encourage you to share this article with others. Thanks again for reading! Happy hunting to you and your new hunting dog!