As the old song said there is a time for every purpose and the same is true
for training your dog. Just as different jobs require different skills and
different tools, dogs used in specialized areas require specialized training.
For this discussion, we will look at the hunting dog and what specialized
training is required for them to be useful members of the team.
Since prehistoric time, man has kept pets and dogs are no exception. What is interesting is that this animal has maintained so much of its history over the years and, yet, has also diversified into other areas of our lives. There is no doubt that the original dogs were kept for hunting purposes rather than companionship but over the years that relationship has evolved to include not only hunting, but also protection from enemies, companionship, guide services and tracking. Also interesting is the fact that while our hunting techniques and tools have evolved our uses for the hunting dog have retained much of their historical ambience.
Dogs are still used for the purposes of flushing game from hiding spots and
tracking wounded prey, much as they were used thousands of years ago. One major
change has been made though; we rarely expect our pets to actually kill the
quarry anymore. The dog now occupies more of a retrieval status and it is quite
possible to hunt a whole lifetime and never avail you of the services of a
hunting dog. But what fun would that be? In a world that has changed so quickly
and moves so fast, it is important to retain part of our history and thus we
keep the dog as our ever-faithful hunting companion. Even in hunting, however,
dogs still require specific training.
The first step in training a hunting dog is made before the animal is ever acquired. You must decide what kind of dog, your sport requires. Many breeds have been refined for certain hunting activities and this must be taken into consideration. Just as you would not take a dachshund on a lion hunt, you shouldn't expect your wolfhound to crawl down a badger den.
Decide upon a hunting style and then pick the animal best suited to it. Are
you a rabbit or squirrel-hunting fan? Then perhaps the beagle or basset hound
would be to your liking. Do you prefer the challenge of hunting quail, dove or
pheasant? Maybe you should consider one of the breeds of pointers. Do you like
the peaceful calm of long hours spent in a duck blind on a cool morning? A
retriever is probably the perfect choice for you. Take the time and do the
research. There is a dog bred for nearly every type of hunting and even a few
breeds that cross boundaries into different platforms.
The second difference in a hunting dogs training is the training goal itself. While it is desirable to almost completely remove aggressive behavior in a companion animal, it is advisable to leave some of this instinct intact for hunting animals. The reason behind this is simple. These animals spend long hours and sometimes days in the field and may encounter danger from wildlife or even wounded prey. Also the first time your untrained dog hands you a squirrel that is stunned and not completely dead, you will understand the reason for leaving the aggressive instinct in the animal. (Authors note: Promptly seek medical attention to have the finger the squirrel bit off reattached. Duct Tape won't fix everything no matter what the label tells you. ) All humor aside, a mildly aggressive hunting animal is more of a benefit than a detriment as long as the animal still gives up the prey without a fight.
Another aspect of training a hunting animal is to teach them to behave independently. Many types of hunting require that the hunting dogs will usually lead ahead of the hunter by great distances. They must be able to act upon their own without fear of them running away or getting into trouble. Another point that might seem a trifle silly; A hunting dog must not be gun shy. Owning a $1500 bird dog that just ran yelping over the hill, never to be seen again, when you fired a shot is not good training or a good investment.
So remember when picking your hunting companion to choose the breed appropriately, train them correctly, and know your dog. With these basics, hunting with dogs can be a great hobby.