4 Tips for Training Puppies to Become Hunting Dogs
Hunting dog training advice to teach good behaviors and expert skills
By Scott Bish
Think your new pup has what it takes to hit the field? Hunting with your dog is a two-way street; it calls for consistency and commitment from both of you.
After all, to raise a hunting dog, being steady in your training is crucial, particularly during the first year of your pup’s life. The right foundation will ensure your canine companion safely and effectively does their job. With that in mind, here are four tips for training your pup for the hunt.
1. Master Basic Dog Hunting Commands
Dogs are pack animals that operate within a hierarchy. When training your dog, you’re reinforcing their natural instincts by serving as the leader of the family. If you use positive reinforcement, training will be fun for your dog and will keep them feeling happy and secure. So, before you step into the field, make sure your dog has mastered rudimentary obedience. Practice makes perfect, so it’s important to stay consistent and repeat drills until they’ve mastered the commands.
SOME BASIC COMMANDS INCLUDE:
Using a 25-foot dog check cord, attach one end to your pup’s collar. Hold the other end in your hand and step 10 paces away. Say “come.” If the dog doesn’t move, tug the cord toward you as you repeat the command. When they follow the command, immediately reward the good behavior with a treat and vocal praise (or a click if you choose to clicker-train–more on that below). As your dog gets better at listening and responding, ease them off the leash so they learn to come on command at great distances.
Hold a dog treat in one hand and say “sit” while pushing down on the dog’s backside with your other hand. When your dog listens and sits, treat them.
Walk with your pup on a leash on your left side. This is a good practice to reinforce your position as pack leader. When your dog speeds up and moves ahead of you, say, “heel” as you tug the leash, making them come back toward you, then give them a reward for returning.
2. Create Hunting Simulations for Your Dog
To build confidence in your hunting companion, expose them to the sights, sounds, and scents they’ll experience in the field before you go on your first hunt. Let your dog get used to the grounds by running and exploring wildlife, terrain, and waterways. This is also a good way to build up Fido’s endurance for the long days ahead, and make sure he’s comfortable swimming.
3. Safely Expose Your Dog to Gunfire
For gun dog puppy training, you’ll have to work to make sure the sound of gunfire signifies the reward of retrieving game. To introduce your dog to gunfire in a way that won’t frighten them, in a secured environment, have a friend stand 90 yards away with a starter pistol with blank ammo. Encourage your pup to run after a toy. Signal your friend to fire off a round, and watch your puppy’s behavior. If they’re not scared by the sound and keep playing, have your friend move closer, in 15-yard increments. If your dog appears frightened, have your friend go back and try it again until your dog’s used to the noise.
4. Invest in Hunting Dog Training Supplies
Certain equipment and tools will make training more effective. A few to consider are a clicker, whistles, and dummies. Each one’s purpose is based on the kind of hunting you do and your pup’s specific training needs.
Clickers boost positive behaviors and help you communicate with your pet without yelling. They work by giving your dog a signal that’s different from your voice to teach them positive behaviors. It’s a good idea to introduce clickers during early training stages, when you’re teaching your pup to heel and be still.
Dog whistles are ideal for herding, tracking, hunting, and searching, as they have a piercing sound that carries over long distances. They’re also great for controlling your dog from far away and getting their attention in windy weather.
To use a training whistle, simply blow on it and try out different pitches to see which get a response from your pup. Correlate different cues with different pitches. For example, you might use a long whistle to mean “come,” and use a short whistle command to get your dog to “sit.” Just keep your whistle commands consistent so your pup is clear on what you expect of them.
If you enjoy hunting ducks or geese, consider getting dummies that are weighted like the actual game your dog will retrieve. Since scent is used to teach a dog to hunt for wounded birds, apply a training scent to a plastic or canvas dummy. After you’ve trained your dog to retrieve it on land, do so in the water.
Although training your dog to hunt is hard work, you’ll be rewarded with a strong, fruitful relationship. Your pup’s drive to please is powerful, and every hunt is a chance for you to bond with them.
Visit your local Tractor Supply, where a friendly associate can help you choose the right tools and supplies for your dog training needs.
Scott Bish is a writer who hails from Ohio.