Life Out Here Magazine
01 / Featured Article
How to Train A Hunting Dog:
The Basics
Derek Walter
John Prince
Award-winning breeder of German Shorthaired Pointers & owner of 7 hunting dogs

Pittsburg, KS

Let’s face it, having a loyal companion who gets up early and is ready and eager for the hunt is one of the best parts of hunting season.
Pointers, Retrievers, Foxhounds, Bloodhounds – are just a few of the best hunting breeds, born with a natural instinct to track down prey. Regardless of which one you own, having a well-trained hunting dog or several makes every hunt even better.
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Dog Sniffing
First Time? Conditioning is Key
Pointers, Retrievers, Foxhounds, Bloodhounds – are just a few of the best hunting breeds, born with a natural instinct to track down prey. Regardless of which one you own, having a well-trained hunting dog or several makes every hunt even better.
Eat Up! It’s Go Time!
When it comes to feeding your dog for the hunt, it’s all about giving him the right stuff to keep him active and alert. Any missteps or extreme fatigue can get you both into a bad situation out in the field.
Carry your shotgun or crossbow on walks in the field and during feeding time.
The best performance comes from dog food where meat is the number one ingredient. Plenty of hunting dog formulas offer a balance of protein and fatty acids – two things your dog’s body needs to keep energy levels up. A diet packed with lots of grains does the opposite. It can drag your hunting dog down and contribute to “tying up.” This leads to muscle pain, cramping, watery stool, and even dehydration – nothing you want to deal with when you’re miles from home.

Remember, your hunting dog will be doing a lot of field work, so getting him into a good feeding routine will help convert his food into lean muscle. The right nutrition will affect your hardworking dog’s performance. When a dog is carrying around extra weight, he’s not able to move like he needs to. Lugging around extra pounds can make him sluggish. By keeping his weight balanced, your dog can be a lean, mean hunting machine, ready to give you all he’s got. And that’s what you want!

Another watch out: right before a hunt, avoid overfeeding your dog. You know how you feel full and less active after you’ve had a big meal? The same goes for your dog. After a hefty meal he’ll be more likely to run slower, be less agile and have less stamina. You’re looking for exactly the opposite. When the hunt is on, your hunting hound has got be all in.

Dog Sniffing
Get in Gear — It Starts Here
As you know, hunting is all about precision, preparedness and patience. That means long hours outdoors, on your feet and only having what you bring along. Don’t just pack for yourself, pack for your dog, too. Now you’ll both be at the top of your game and have what you need from woods to field.
Location, location, location.
If you plan on your dog wearing a GPS dog collar, get him used to it before the big day. The collar means you can follow and track your prey over a greater distance and with better accuracy. GPS tracking takes a lot of the guess work out of retrieving your prey. It also means you’ll spend less time searching and more time hunting. Another advantage of using a GPS dog collar is monitoring your dog’s safety. You want to be sure you’ve got a sense of their movement and location, especially as they get further from you and closer to the kill.
Take meals to go.
Your hunting dog needs to recharge. You can pack a portable, collapsible bowl for food and water. Carry the bowl in your pack (you can pre-pack it with food) along with a supply of water. You can also keep it handy in your truck. This way, you’ll always be ready to take care of your dog’s hunger and thirst wherever your hunting trip takes you.
Coverage counts.
It’s likely that you or your sidekick will find yourselves pushing through a thick tangle of branches and brush. Just like you choose clothing that protects you from stickers and burrs, give your hunting dog the same coverage. Train your dog to wear a protective hunting dog vest. They’re typically made from reinforced nylon to save your dog’s underbelly and chest from nature’s cuts and scratches. Most have adjustable straps and elastic panels so it will fit like a glove no matter what your dog’s size. Reflective stripes are smart, so your dog can be easily seen through the brush and trees. Especially, if there are others hunting nearby.
Sound off.
Getting your dog in gear also means making sure he’ll respond when you need him. Dog whistles are a great solution. They work in the same way that other types of training do. When you work consistently with your dog on whistle commands, you can condition them to identify each type of whistle and what it means they should do. A dog whistle is a great thing to bring on a hunt because you’ll need to control your dog at a distance, and you’ll need to get your dog’s attention in windy weather when it’s harder for your hound to hear. The ultrasonic frequency of a trusty dog whistle will do the trick.
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Now What?
Once you have everything planned out for your time in the woods and staking out the wetlands, it’s time to make sure each hunting day goes off without a hitch. Here are a few things to think about to be totally ready for whatever comes next.
Weather or not.
You may feel fine if it’s not a perfect day and you see some hints of bad weather. But make sure your dog is prepared, so that heading into the field is also a good experience for them. In the best care scenario, you have already gotten your hunting dog used to the different kinds of weather that they might encounter. If not, start now. You want to lessen the amount of challenges that your dog might experience. This includes being “thrown off” by cold rain, thunder or a bit of snow if you live in a colder region. The less challenges your hound has to face, the more focus they’ll have, and the better they’ll perform. It’s just that simple.
Take cover.
It’s always a bit cooler this time of year. So, if you’re considering leaving your dog in their crate or kennel all night, you have to figure they’re going to get cold. You can cover your dog with a warm jacket or blanket. Simply drape it over the outside of the crate or kennel and it will keep the body heat of your dog inside. This will help them stay warm even through colder nights. You might be tempted to put the blankets directly onto your dog, however they may chew them up.
Dog Sleeping
All work no play.
You might not be hunting year-round. That’s why your dog needs to understand the clear difference between play time and hunt time. For example, if you drop your tailgate and suddenly your dog takes off like lightening toward the horizon, he’s proving that he needs more training. He’s asserting that he’s the boss when you’re really the one in charge. So you’ll want to go through a few drills before giving him your command to “go get ‘em.” Drills are good reinforcement, and while you’re doing them, remind your hunting hound that they’re to remain inside their crate until you release them, then let them go with a command. Might be worth it to pass up a few water fowl shots just to take the proper time out to do this. In the long run, training “refreshers” will be rewarding for them and you.
Patience is everything.
Depending on how much hunting experience your dog has, the fact is that it takes time for any dog to track down their prey. You want them to wait for a quality kill versus getting anxious and going after just anything. You can set your dog up for success by picking a location that you know to have an abundance of prey. This way, you will boost your dog’s chances of tracking down birds, rabbit, deer or whatever you’ve set your sights on. Patience is a huge part of this process.
Finally, few dogs are meant for several days of straight hunting. It feels good to get out there for a weekend of hunting. After that, it’s just natural that your dog will need to rest up. Just as hunting is demanding on you, it can be the same for your companion. So go ahead, hunt hard and then return home, sit back and celebrate your big score – plus enjoy all of the bonding time you’ve had with your best friend.
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