I was recently contacted by Gwyn Jones of DJ Decoys based in the United Kingdom about doing a guest post on hunting dogs. I thought this would be great information for all my blogging hunters/friends in our great wild outdoors in our
country. You can check out his website at www.djdecoys.com.
Training A Hunting Pup
Most hunters understand that it doesn't make sense to skimp or pinch pennies when purchasing a hunting dog. The breed of dog as well as the lineage is important. Certain pedigrees may command a higher price. However, a hunter who does not properly train a pup is simply throwing money away. As stated, breeding is important. One cannot train desire, a work ethic, a keen nose, or natural attentiveness. Certain dogs just have a better attention span than others. But there are many things that can, and should, be taught early on that will increase the pup's success as a hunting dog, as well as the hunter's success in the field.
A summary about training a pup
When we think of training a pup, we tend to think of commands that every pup needs to know: no, heel, come, kennel, and words such as those. Without these commands, training fails, but there is more to raising a confident, happy hunting dog than a few simple commands. Socialization is incredibly important. Without socialization a dog can become skittish and scared in new situations. When hunting, a dog is most likely to be exposed to more new situations than a non-hunting dog that spends most of his time in the house as a family pet. Socialization is nothing more than exposing your pup to different people, places, and things. The more often you can do this, the more comfortable your pup will be and the more confident he or she will be as an adult dog.
Is socialization part of hunting training?
Simply because you are focusing on socializing your pup does not mean that you need to forgo more formal training. While you are allowing your pup to experience a new neighborhood, for instance, you may be walking him on a lead and teaching him to heel. At a dog park you may be exposing your pup to a variety of other dogs, but it may also be a good time to work on the "come" command. The biggest thing with socialization is to expose your pup early and often to all of the things he will experience in his lifetime. A waterfowl hunter needs to experience water early in life, and often thereafter. Even before a pup starts to hunt, if you want him to retrieve waterfowl, he must understand water first. His first experiences with water do not have to be productive in a hunting sense. Even pups that will be hunting in an upland environment will typically encounter water at some point. Show your pup early on that water is fun, and being in the water is a positive experience that brings rewards.
How much training should I give my pup?
How much training a pup needs is purely down to the time, interest and breed of dog you own. However, if you want a dog to work for you, ideally, the pup should spend as much time with you as possible. He should get to bond with you. This can increase the rate at which your pup learns commands and techniques. Most breeds of dogs have a natural willingness to please, so the more important you are to your dog, the more important it will be to him to make you happy. This can go a long way in your success with hunting training.
Practice and more practice
When taking your pup out into the field, don't overlook the power of play. Allow your pup to explore the types of areas where he will eventually hunt. Let him chase songbirds, game birds, and anything else he might see. Keep in mind, however, that you should have the ability to call him back at any time. This type of play will not only acclimate him to the area and make him less afraid or curious, but it also adds to his natural hunting instincts and predatory drive. It is also important, though, to teach commands and obedience. At the very least a dog, before heading out into the field for any reason, a pup should know "sit" and "stay". Practice this every day, at every chance. This will allow you to bring your pup into hunting situations even before he is ready to hunt, without being a liability to your current hunt.
Training will lead to a successful hunting dog
In the same vein, future hunting dogs need to be exposed to guns, gunfire, and to fields or marshes that are like the ones they will be expected to hunt later in life. When exposed to these things properly and in a positive light, pups will grow up knowing that guns mean hunting, and the gunfire means the opportunity to retrieve, which is a positive and fulfilling task for the hunting dog. Also, do not forget to introduce hunting dummies and bird scents early on. Do not treat decoys and dummies as normal toys, however. Only bring them out during structured training. It is wise to start training sessions at five minutes or less. Pups do not have the attention span of full-grown dogs, so five minutes of training at time is about all they can handle successfully. Once you notice your pup's attention waning, stop the training. Slowly build the amount of time you are training until your pup can focus on the task at hand for as long as he will need to in the field.
You will learn new techniques and each dog is different
While there is no substitution for spending time with your pup, many see formal, professional training as a great way to ready a hunting dog for the field. Professional training can be a great way to teach the dog and master alike what is needed from both to create a successful hunting team. This is not to say that you cannot be successful without professional training, however. Just keep in mind that every dog is different. While each breed has attributes that are typical to the breed, individual personalities are sometimes stronger than breed tendencies. As you begin your training, take the cues from you pup. He or she will tell you what works well for him or her and what does not. Above all, don't be afraid to talk to other hunters about the specific techniques they have found that work well. Bringing your pup hunting with others and older dogs can also go a long way toward teaching appropriate behaviors. A pup will then be exposed to behaviors of other dogs and will see which behaviors are rewarded. Training a hunting dog is an intensive and lengthy process. But it is definitely a process that will pay more dividends, and will be worth every minute of time in the long run.
About the author:
Gwyn Jones has 25 years in the field sport industry specializing in pigeon shooting which all of his dogs have been by his side throughout his years of staking out with in his camouflage net. His dogs Charlie and Polly and not only been companionship but a hobby in training the dogs to see them grow to be great hunting dogs even for the most challenging breeds.