All dogs are not created equally, and we can all agree that hunting dogs are a special breed unto themselves. They work harder, are more loyal and – let’s be honest – are better friends than any Chihuahua you’ll ever come across. That’s why it’s important to make certain that you properly train your dog for the outdoors. When first choosing a hunting dog, make sure to take special care in choosing a breed that’s been bred for sport. Certain breeds, like hounds, are better able to sniff out scents that others and they tend to have more stamina for long hunts. Once you’ve chosen your breed, it’s time to train.
The most important trait for any hunting dog to have is sociability. Starting from a very young age (less than 12 weeks) the first step in training any good hunter is to socialize him with not only other dogs, but people, pets and other animals he might encounter out on the wild.
Dogs that aren’t properly socialized will become timid and irritable when they come across other creatures and are likely to run away or act out aggressively. The last thing you need when you’re on the trail of a 10-pointer is an anxious dog barking at the top of his lungs because he doesn’t know what to make of the four-legged thing in front of him. Once properly socialized, begin teaching the basic commands to your dog while it’s alone and then gradually practice them while at a dog park with other animals. Never strike your dog for failing to grasp your commands. A fearful dog is worth nothing on the hunt. Plus, it’ll make you kind of a jerk.
Once the basic commands and hunting commands are mastered, it’s time to begin introducing your dog to situations similar to a hunt. Purchase a reliable training toy, like the Gripple, and find an open field with water to start practicing retrieval skills. Any dog that will be working around guns needs to be trained around them. Firing off shots at targets in the dog’s presence will help them become accustomed to the sound. Hiding a toy in an open field and firing a shot in that direction is a good way to teach your dog to retrieve. The gunshot will eventually become a signal to your pup that it’s time to fetch the game.
You should also invest in training tools that come pre-scented with smells that you’d want your dog to seek out on a hunt, or add the smells yourself. Deer urine is available in most hunting outlets. Introduce your dog to water as soon as possible. It’s likely that you’ll come across lakes and streams on your hunts, and not all dogs are naturally inclined to dive in. You’ll want to progressively allow him to become acclimated to the water, but be sure never to force him in or he could develop an aversion to it for life.
Finally, there are a few things that you should consider taking with you out on the trail. A pair of hemostats will come in handy if your pup comes across a porcupine or any other sharp object that might get stuck in his skin. You should also consider bringing along some hydrogen peroxide in case he swallows something harmful. A small drop of peroxide down his throat will force him to vomit it back up. Check with your vet to make sure he won’t have any allergic reactions beforehand.
Also remember to invest in a good collar. The Reflx Collar by Dublin Dog is a great accessory that is not only waterproof, but also holds up against mud, dirt and bacteria. It also has a high-visibility reflexive strip that allows you to see your dog from long distances.
With all of this in mind, remember that the most important part of having your hunting buddy out on the hunt with you is to make sure you’re both having fun.