How to Introduce Important Skills to Your Hunting Dog and Prevent Problems from Developing
By: Jean Smith
Once you have decided on the breed you are ready to take the next step which is to become acquainted with the techniques of training. One theory of training your hunting dog is to expose your pup to birds before obedience training. Pups as young as 9 or 10 weeks can learn to flush birds. Introduce retrieving by doing fun marks using puppy size canvas dummies. Get on the ground, holding your pup up so he can easily see the mark. Let him go while the mark is still in the air. Marks should be short and few because a young dog's attention span is short.
Before serious obedience training, it is important to allow your puppy time to adjust to the house rules, boundaries, and be introduced to the leash. Even though the brain of a pup is completely developed, the focus is scattered, and he will bounce from one activity to another. Your puppy will often drop off to sleep since physical growth takes so much of the energy. To get him use to the collar and leash bring him into the house and keep him by you on leash. The lesson is to keep him quiet in the house leaving playtime to the outdoor area
At about 5 ½ months, or when the adult teething process is complete. introduce the dumbbell, or canvas dummy, to teach your dog the words FETCH/HOLD /GIVE . Learning to hold is the big thing so here is another training tip - place the dumbbell in the mouth as you say the word fetch, tap under the chin to get him to hold. Be sure the dumbbell is placed far enough in his mouth so that he is holding the dummy by his back teeth. As he releases the dumbbell say the word give or drop. Do this several times a day for a week or until you are sure your dog understands the words.
Before your dog can retrieve properly, he must be able to successfully heel, sit, stay and, come. These commands provide you with control in the field. The heel command can be taught in an area the size of a basketball court. Proceed in stages so the dog becomes accustomed to the 6-foot leash when doing turns. While you are doing this, the sit command can be taught as well. This is the point where you teach your dog to sit on the sound of the whistle.
If your dog is aggressive by nature, he may pull and try to get away when you begin heeling lessons. In this case, make him sit often. When he tries to take off, head in the opposite direction and apply a firm jerk to the choke chain while giving the command heel. If your dog is timid and lags, run fast enough to make him keep up with you while happily telling him to heel.
Hunters will be very happy to have taken the time to teach their hunting dog basic obedience before going hunting. Not only do the lessons bond the dog and handler but gets this special partnership off in the right direction. You will need a plan of action, a list of essential equipment to do the job, how to use that equipment, and the strategy to develop your dog into a willing worker. In order to control your dog you need to be able to anticipate your dog's next move. You can only do this if you have been working with him.
When your dog is out of control you can bet his nose has taken over. This is the reason you need to conduct the lessons in parks and fields where there is lots of diversion. Your dog needs to listen and obey no matter if there are people and other dogs nearby. Temperament also needs to taken into account when training a hunting dog. Firm commands along with positive reinforcement can be used for most people to train.
To prevent your dog from becoming gun shy or if your dog has shown some fear toward the gun here are some suggestions. Put your shotgun somewhere where it is visible to your dog, such as having it lean against a wall. Let your dog inspect it while you ignore this and keep a ho-hum demeanor. Carry the gun to the field with you as you begin your training exercises but do not use it. In this way your dog will become accustomed to the gun.
Start marking lessons with using voice only. After your dog has learned what is expected introduce the starter pistol. The gunner should alternate between voice and the pistol. After that try using a shotgun doing the same single marks. This procedure should take several weeks.
Heeling, recall and other basic obedience lessons need to be done on leash. This is a 5- to-10 minute workout you can do daily and before any other training session. Include the fetch, hold, and give exercises reminding the dog of the proper way to hold the bird. Retrieving breeds need to practice line Drills, sight blinds, hand signals, and water channel blinds in order to be the perfect hunting partner.
Use every opportunity to work your dog. Take him with you on every outing, business or otherwise. In that way, he'll get used to the crate and you will eventually have favorite places to work your sight blinds, etc. Chesapeakes in particular need to be with their handlers and will work better under those circumstances.
Training your hunting dog can become a highlight of the day.The above tips prevent problems from developing and at the same time gives your dog all the exercise he needs.
Jean Smith is a dog trainer specializing in training retrievers. She has condensed years of dog training experience into two DVDs. Lessons include basics through advanced. Jean has helped hundreds of people train their own dogs with her home study course. To learn more go to http://www.retrievertrainingcourse.com
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