Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Early Training for Gun Dogs
By Steve Hickoff
I’ve hunted with and owned all manner of gun dogs: pointing breeds, flushing lines, retrievers and hounds. If I know one thing, the bond you build early when that canine is a pup will last a lifetime. And this isn’t to say older dogs can’t learn plenty, too. Many can. Five tips follow:
1. It’s a myth an indoor dog can’t hunt well outdoors in the field. Build the bond by spending as much time as possible with that hunting pup from the time you bring it home. This includes the off-season, and definitely when the season is open.
2. Early on, say at eight weeks of age, train by association and enthusiasm, taking that dog everywhere you go if possible. This helps with socialization. Introduce it to other dogs early as well. This will help you in hunting camp – though true enough, any time unfamiliar dogs get together, adjustments might need made.
3. For road trips and local flash hunts, crate train your pup from the start by encouraging it to view his or her dog box as a place of comfort and refuge. Never use the crate for punishment, and only as a safe place to kennel the dog on your trips from home and back.
4. What you teach them early will likely stick with your dog their entire lives. This includes mistakes you make. Early obedience training in a calm, comfortable setting will obviously help when hunting and at home. Offer concise commands during ongoing instruction. Sit, stay, kennel up, come, and so on work better than a string of incoherent words and sentences. You’ll only confuse the dog that way.
5. Four or five months of age is a good time to step up obedience training, though again it starts the moment the dog comes home with you. For retrievers, use dummy exercises to unleash and stylize abilities you’ll later use when hunting. For pointing dogs, get them on released or wild birds, laws permitting. Same goes for other hunting breeds.
A dose of patience and steady, thoughtful effort will create a great potential bond.