Don’t be fooled. Picking the best hunting dog is not an easy task. Before you start actual training of the dog you have chosen, there are two key things you should do first: you have to ask yourself what do you want or need from your dog, and you have to do proper research on different breeds that can satisfy your wants or needs.
This one is quite simple, actually. First, you need to ask yourself what you need your dog for. Do you intend to hunt waterfowl, upland birds or both? And will your needs be better served by a pointing breed, a flushing breed or a retrieving breed? Will it be a house dog or will you keep him outside? Finally, will it be a big dog, small dog or something in between?
Based on those questions, research a breed that best fits your needs or wants. Keep in mind of your location, or at least a location of your favorite hunting ground. You don’t want to, let’s say, have a Husky for a bird hunt in swamplands. Be mindful of the differences, in terms of care, intelligence, learning potential, natural surrounding etc. that each breed has. Ask your fellow hunters and check popular hunting forums for their experience. Do everything you can to be certain of your choice before you finally decide on your puppy.
Picking Out The Puppy
First of all, why a puppy and not a trained hunting dog? Consider your chosen puppy to be like a blank canvas, the one you can paint on with love and care, the way you want to for the purpose you require. Having a puppy to train gives you the possibility to create a loyal dog bonded and conditioned to you, used to your hunting style and authority. Just remember, loyalty goes both ways, so treat your dog with the respect and love it deserves from day one.
When it comes to actually picking, spend some time with the litter (if possible) and check pups’ interaction and character. See which one is keen on making a connection with you and listen to the breeder’s advice. Keep in mind, the ideal time to bring a puppy home is between 7 and 9 weeks of age.
General Tips For Dog Training
It goes without saying that each and every dog requires a different approach. It depends on the breed (as already mentioned) and the hunting purpose. But some general tips on raising the best hunting dogs can be applied to each one.
- Training your dog can be an easy and pleasurable task for you and your dog if you control his environment and channel his behavior in the directions you want. Example: if you are training a waterfowl hunting/retrieving dog, be sure to get him familiarized with water early on. The idea is to teach him that water is fun and playing in it is a great way to earn rewards.
- Introduce your puppy to the world slowly, step by step, i.e. from his living crate to the whole house, then the backyard, training grounds, and finally hunting grounds.
- Teach your dog the basic commands, like sit and stay, first. This one is crucial, as these the are building blocks for future complex hunting requests. But keep in mind not to fall into the repeated command loop. If your dog does not respond to your first command it’s because he doesn’t feel like responding. It’s on you to trigger the response and reinforce your dominance, encouraging him to react.
- Expose your dog with other dogs and people socially, and while at it, practice commands. Practice daily if possible in similar conditions to your hunting grounds.
- Introduce your dog to decoys and to the scent of different animals you are preparing your dog for. Example: You use waterfowl scent and dummies to help your dog understand the difference between a real duck and a decoy.
- Train your dog in similar hunting situations before taking it out into the field. Example: If you expect from a dog to work around guns you need to train it in the presence of guns.
- One of the key elements in dog training is to reinforce positive behavior with positive rewards. But keep in mind not to over do it. It’s not about only rewards, it’s about evolving your dog’s natural instincts.
As you can see, raising the best hunting dog is a process that starts before you even get yourself one. Then it’s on you to form a bond with your dog based on mutual trust, respect of your authority, and lifelong care.
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