If you’ve never done it before, the hunting dog training process will probably teach you more about yourself that it will about your dog. You’ll learn about the dog’s temperament and attention span just as you will discover your own threshold for patience. Your approach to hunting dog training should begin with realistic goals; What do you expect out of your dog? How much time are you willing to devote? What do you already know about training and what advice should you try to get from someone with more experience?
Hunting Dog Starting Points
Almost every dog trainer agrees that the “come,” “heel” and “whoa” commands commands are among the most important. “Whoa” basically means “Stay here until I tell you to move.” It’s important for a dog to hold tight for a number of reasons, but especially for safety. You don’t want an unleashed dog running out in traffic, nor do you want him breaking just as you raise your gun to fire at a flushed bird.
Puppies of just about any breed can be expected to be pretty frisky and not want to give you their undivided attention for very long, so plan on spending no more than fifteen minutes for early training sessions, but shoot for 2-3 per day, rather than just one to ensure the experiences remain fresh in a pup’s mind.
During training periods, as well as anytime a command is directed toward the dog, the trainer should be deliberate and firm, showing he or she is in control of the situation. Remain positive throughout the session and avoid scolding to ensure the puppy will look forward to obeying you each time.
Remember that you shouldn’t expect much out of a pup during his first year. Even if he has demonstrated obedience with the “come,” “heel” and “whoa” commands, he’ll still need experience afield to get used to real hunting situations. The good news is that dogs bred for pheasant hunting have amazing natural instincts to track down and point at birds — and you won’t have to teach a good dog much beyond obedience, once his instincts come alive. If you hunt 10-20 days each year, it’s possible for your hunting dog to reach maximum potential by the middle of his second season.
Backyard Drills for Pheasant Hunting
One of the easiest and best drills you can do to reinforce the “whoa” command is to simply throw a dummy into tall weeds or brush while the dog is holding tight. While he’s expecting to hear his release command at any moment (usually the dog’s name) try calling out other names to make sure you’re dog doesn’t break. You can even run toward the dummy yourself to makes sure he doesn’t follow you.
Pheasant hunting dogs that perform the best usually cover ground in an efficient, orderly manner. Here’s a great tip for
training your dog to anticipate which way you’ll turn as you walk through a field; First, attach a 25-foot check cord to the dog’s collar using a D-ring so you can walk on the left or right of the dog. In a field or other large space, walk about thirty feet straight ahead with the dog in front of you before making a 45-degree turn to the right and giving a quick tug on the check cord. Do the same thing turning left, alternating back and forth. The dog should figure out when and which way you’re going to turn, and after incorporating this drill into your daily routine for a week or so you’ll be able to take him off leash and start using a shock collar set on low, or a whistle.
The best general tip for hunting dog training can be summed up in one word: exposure. Make sure your dog is exposed to natural wilderness settings and birds as often as possible, even if he has to be taken to a pheasant farm. The more he smells and sees live birds, the more excited he will get to hunt them.