5 Crucial Training Tips For Your New Hunting Dog
When you decided to purchase your first bird-hunting dog, you did it with the understanding that it was a long-term commitment to a very close relationship. You likely spent many hours on the internet and phone researching and talking to breeders before finally making the decision as to which puppy would be yours. The puppy’s breath was intoxicating as you held it in your arms on the drive home. Visions of puppy snuggles and years in the field as hunting companions danced in your head. A few days into your new relationship, you start to consider a training plan. You know the first few months are important but wonder where to begin. You are not alone wondering how to start training your furry hunting companion. Listed below are some of the top tips professional trainers recommend for starting your new bird-hunting puppy.
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Use these 5 tips for starting your dog like a pro:
1 • Be Patient, Slow and Simple Wins
One of the biggest mistakes people make with their hunting pups are they feel rushed to start getting into some of the advanced training techniques. Do not get ahead of yourself and the pup – keep it slow. One of the best pieces of advice is to let a puppy be a puppy. Within letting a puppy be a puppy introduce simple skills to start building a foundation for more advanced training later. But remember, keep everything fun and positive along the way.
2 • Socialize, Socialize, and Socialize
Dogs are naturally social animals. Depriving them of ample socialization will cause challenges in future trainability. Good socialization will help the pup become more receptive to the trainer and receptive to future training. Expose them to different people and other dogs in a variety of situations. If the pup becomes fearful, avoid treating it like a baby human by getting down to their level and consoling them while talking baby talk. Instead, stay calm and positive. Be the leader. Dogs will feed off your tone and inflections in your voice. If the pup knows you are okay as the leader, the pup will feel okay. The socialization process is where you teach the dog to look to you for leadership. If you are the pup’s leader and have a positive relationship with your dog, it will pay huge dividends in the future.
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3 • Exploring to Build Courage and Confidence
This principle is closely related to socializing but is so important we gave it its own discussion. One of the most important things you can do for your puppy’s confidence and courage is introducing it to as many places and situations as possible. Firstly, you bought this dog as a hunting companion. Take the puppy in the field as often as possible to different locations and habitat types. Let the puppy explore while learning the sights, sounds, and smells. Over time, you will see the eagerness and excitement grow as confidence and courage grows.
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4 • Shut-Up
A very common mistake made when working with a pup is talking too much. Often we try to reason and explain every little thing to our pup as we would our little children. Do NOT do this for several reasons. Firstly, your pup cannot understand and trying to reason with them is useless and confusing. If you do need to speak, be concise with as few words as possible. One or two words are adequate most of the time. Also, be consistent with the words you do speak so they eventually become understood. Lastly, keeping your mouth shut will help build the pups confidence. If you are yapping at every little thing the pup does, soon the pup will not want to do anything without first looking to you. Let the pup learn, explore, and experience the world without you in its ear all the time.
5 • Build Prey Drive
Your pup is bred for, and its passion should be, BIRDS. A well-bred bird-hunting pup will have an innate desire for feathered game. Although this desire will be natural, you should nurture it. The old saying is, “birds make a bird dog”. For a pup just a few months old, make sure birds are associated with praise and fun at all times. Using pigeons or farm-raised quail is a good way to introduce your pup and encourage prey drive. Tie the bird’s wings behind its back and let the pup play with the bird, pick it up, play hide-and-seek, and walk around the yard proudly with it. As the pup gets a little older hide the bird and let the pup find the bird and you flush it while praising the pup. Also, take your pup to areas where you may encounter wild game birds or waterfowl. Again, making sure these games and first encounters with birds is fun and full of praise for your young pup is critical in the first few months.
In the End
Owning a hunting dog is largely about growth. Growth for the puppy, but also growth for you as the leader and hunting companion. Owning a hunting dog can be one of the greatest relationships a person can have. It sounds somewhat corny but it is true. When done right, the hunter and the hunting dog understand one another like no other human-k9 companions. The endless hours training, hunting, and time spent in the truck and at home will bond the hunter and the hunting dog like none other. The first few months of this relationship is the foundation for setting the future. Use it wisely while making it positive and fun.
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