Just like when we go to the shooting range to remain sharp and improve our skills, so must we set aside some time to ensure our
dog remains sharp and ready for the fall hunting season, that inevitably comes faster than we realize.
In addition to having “work” time with your dog, make sure you schedule “fun” time as well. The following tips will help you maintain a great training ethic and will help in sharpening your skills as well as those of your hunting partner.
First and foremost, keep training positive for both of you. It is important that the dog does not view training sessions as “work”. If you keep a positive attitude and make each session fun, your dog will continue looking forward to more opportunities to train! While conducting your tune-up sessions always remember to keep your composure and use a good, strong voice with your dog. Remember, the goal is to keep the sessions fun! Using a steady command voice will go a long way in reinforcing your dog’s training and behavior.
Most hunting breeds enjoy working hard for short amounts of time. In the interest of keeping training sessions productive and fun, work your dog between ten and twenty minutes per day. Too much more time and you may risk losing their attention.
While conducting your training make sure that you maintain control of the dog and the environment within which you are training. Do not let them run around and sniff while working on land or water retrieves. Focus is a major component in training and while the dog is working, he/she needs to maintain a high level of focus on the task that you are trying to teach.
As your dog makes progress and builds confidence, feel free to add to the difficulty of the retrieve. However, remember that the dog needs to show progress and gain confidence in whatever you are teaching before you begin to allow distractions (this is similar to how we initially train with feathers before introducing a clipped wing and, ultimately, live birds).
I recommend that each training session ends with throwing a set of “happy bumpers” – ‘no strings attached’ bumpers tossed for their sheer retrieving pleasure. This reinforces the message that training is a positive, fun thing to do!
Keep these tips in mind when you’re training your hunting partner and you’ll have a great foundation for next season!
Dave Siple has been breeding and training hunting dogs for over twelve years. His expertise includes voice, hand and e-collar training – the latter using SportDOG brand remote training collars. Dave is the owner of High River Labs (www.highriverlabs.com) which specializes in pointing and flushing Labrador retrievers, as well as High River Hunting Preserve (www.highriverhunting.com) Dave and his crew offer dog training at all levels, breeding, guided hunts, clinics and demonstrations.