7 top tips for training your hunting dog

When it comes to training a quality and efficient hunting dog, there are certain necessary steps needed in order for your new companion to learn how to handle its job. While some dogs are specifically bred as hunting dogs, in general, nearly any dog with the right training from a patient owner can be an excellent hunting sidekick.

Here, passionate hunter Ross Burg shares his top tips for getting your new puppy into peak hunting shape:

Puppy Socialisation

It’s always easier if you can start training while your hunting dog is still young. In much the same way that it’s easier for babies to learn languages and basic motor skills than it is for adults, puppies are much more malleable when it comes to obedience and skill training than older dogs.

So it’s important to make sure you take the time to socialize your puppy, so it can adapt to experiencing new things. The better socialized your puppy is, the better equipped it will be at learning the specific training that hunting dogs require. Spend time taking your puppy out to areas where there are lots of other people and dogs so it is exposed to a variety of new experiences. A local dog park is a great option because it will encounter dogs of all sizes and ages.

This socialization also includes your relationship with your puppy so get some toys and make sure you plan some time for quality play every day.

Training your hunting dog

Crate Training

The day you get your puppy, make sure you also get a good-sized crate as crate training should begin that same night. This can be challenging at first, but patience and discipline on your part will see quick results.

Once your puppy is accustomed to staying in the crate at home, try taking the dog in a crate for a drive in your car or truck. Take short trips at first, and make sure they end somewhere fun in order to create a positive association. Eventually, your pup will be eager to load up when he knows the trip will take him to a fun destination.


Embrace Open Spaces

While out hunting, it is more than likely your puppy will need to be comfortable with open spaces. Therefore, it is a good idea to add open-space running to your puppy’s early training, exercise and play regimes. Take it out to a field and let it run around on its own; let it discover what the field holds and become comfortable moving about in such a large space.

This is also an ideal time to start training it to return to you, so it does not run away. Work with voice commands and positive reinforcement in a way that balances a sense of exploration and returning promptly on command. For early open-space training, consider a locator collar or other means of keeping track of your puppy, just in case it accidentally wanders off.

training hunting dog

Basic Obedience Training

Get your puppy started early with basic obedience training, as this will establish the foundation of its later hunting training. Obedience classes are a great way to get this training underway. At the very least, a few classes can give you some tips on how to complete the training at home. No matter how you choose to start obedience training, make sure you stay consistent and practice positive reinforcement with your puppy.

Purchase some puppy training dummies and a training whistle to get your puppy ready and comfortable with retrieving. It is important you do not overdo training sessions, as your puppy will either start to lose interest in the dummies or will miss the point of the training.

Water Acclimation

Nearly all hunting dogs will have to come in to contact with bodies of water at some point. So, start young and get your puppy used to swimming and being comfortable in and around water. Certain breeds of dog are natural water dogs, but others will take more time and require gentle support to adjust.

Try swimming with your dog or even creating a game while it is still young to encourage interest in the water. If it is reluctant, practice patience and continue positive training techniques.

7 tips to train your hunting dog

Introduce Dead Birds

Most hunting dogs are used in bird hunting capacities, and it is therefore essential to accustom your puppy to birds. Use a dead bird at first so it does not scare it. The key in this initial stage of training is to introduce your puppy to the concept, not to create an instant bird hunter. Let it interact with the dead bird and praise your dog for its good behavior. If bad behavior – such as shaking the bird or biting it too roughly – is exhibited, reprimand him calmly.

The key with this type of training is to help your puppy become comfortable around game and learn how to handle it.


Gun Conditioning

You want your future hunting dog to be comfortable around guns and hunting knives — this is a given. But how best to do this? Start slowly and gradually accustom your puppy to loud noises. You can do this by keeping them in areas with doors that are closed often, playing loud music near them or otherwise ensuring they are exposed to loud noises that are not gunshots.

Next, work on creating a positive association with guns in your puppy’s mind. Take out your gun during feeding times and make it visible while your puppy is enjoying its food. Treats are also a good go-to when you pull your gun out.


Final Thoughts

Training your hunting dog will take time, but the payoff is worth the effort. Be patient yet firm with your puppy’s obedience training, and before long, you will have a lifelong hunting companion.

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