Gun Dog Obedience Training Tips
Obedience training is important for all dogs but especially for a gun dog. A gun dog that can’t be relied on to do what he is supposed to do is useless for hunting. There are a lot of distractions for the dog while he is hunting and this can make it difficult to train him properly. There is no magic formula to gun dog obedience training it is basically like training any other dog, it is just more rigorous.
The first thing that you want to do in order to get a good gun dog is to make sure that you choose the right breed to start with. Some dogs will just never become good hunters no matter how much gun dog obedience training they receive. It is important that you find a dog that comes from a reputable breeder who has experience with hunting dogs. You may think you can save some money by getting a dog from a less reliable source but it isn’t really saving you any money if your dog never becomes a good hunter.
Gundog obedience training starts as soon as you get your new puppy home. You want to make sure that your dog knows who is in charge while at the same time making sure that your dog is a comfortable dog in his new environment. For all practical purposes when you take your new gun dog home as a puppy you are becoming his mother, he will rely on for both discipline and affection. You want to let your dog explore his new home while at the same time making sure that he is properly supervised. It is important that you show your dog lots of affection and that you play with him but you will want to avoid roughhousing. This will let your dog think that you are equals, this is not something that you want, you want your dog to know that you are in charge.
It is usually best to train your dog by reinforcing positive behavior with rewards rather than punishing bad behavior. A firm no should be sufficient to let your dog know that he has done something wrong. You never want to hit a dog as this will just make them scared of you and does little to help with training. It is also important when training a hunting dog that you don’t use any loud, sharp noises like clapping to discipline your dog, this will make him uncomfortable around loud noises, not something that you want when hunting. A gun dog that is afraid of gunfire is not going to be much use to you. Gundog obedience training will be much easier if your dog trusts you and that won’t happen if he is afraid of you.
It is a good idea to let your dog run around the yard on his own and get comfortable with being outside. Again this should be supervised but done from a distance. Since one of the most important aspects of gun dog obedience training is getting your dog used to responding to commands this is a good place to start. Allow your dog to run around the yard and occasionally call him over to you. When he comes to reward him with praise and a treat and then send on him on his way to explore some more.
Since there are probably other people besides you living in your house you are going to want to get them involved in your gun dog obedience training. It does no good to set the ground rules to train your dog if the rest of the family isn’t following them. Everybody in the house has to know what the ground rules are and to follow them. If one member of the family decides to allow your dog to do things that he isn’t supposed to you can almost guarantee that your training efforts will fail. Effective gun dog obedience requires consistency.
Most gun dog obedience training experts are advocates of crate training. This basically involves giving your dog a crate that will essentially become his home. This has a number of advantages, the biggest being that it will make it easier to house train your dog. Since most hunting dogs are transported in a crate it having your dog comfortable being in a crate will make that easier as well. Perhaps most importantly having a specific area for your dog to live will help him to become more comfortable with his new home, this will make obedience training much easier. It is much easier to train a dog when he is comfortable.
At an age of eight to twelve weeks, it is time to start to introduce your dog to voice commands. Again this involves positive reinforcement when your dog does what he is supposed to. Commands like sit, stay, whoa, and come are essential to gun dog obedience training and will need to be learned. They are taught by making it clear what the dog is supposed to do when he hears each command and then rewarding him when he does it correctly. It will be far easier to teach him to obey the commands if you only introduce one at a time. Trying to teach him several things at once will just confuse him.
Of all the commands taught during gun dog obedience training, a heel is the most important and the one that should be taught first. Learning the heel command will make the dog more comfortable since he will know what is expected of him. It also allows you to let your dog off of his leash in appropriate areas since you can rely on him to heel when he is told to. Teaching a dog to heel is one of the few times when it may be necessary to punish a dog to get him to do what he is supposed to. Most heel training involves the use of a choke chain. Usually, the way it is done is to have the dog beside you and start walking, when you stop walking you say “heel”. Your dog should stop when you do, if not you will need to use the choke chain.
It is important that your gun dog obedience training is done in short sessions, dogs have short attention spans, especially when they are puppies. A short session every day will be far more effective than a few marathon training sessions. It will also be a lot easier to teach your dog if you make the training fun for the dog.
At some point, you are going to have to get your hunting dog comfortable with being a fair distance away from you, after all, he won’t be right beside you when you are hunting. When you have reached the point that you can let your dog off of his leash he is ready for distance training. Start by taking him to an off-leash park and allowing him to explore on his own. Occasionally call your dog over to you and reward him when he comes. Next, you will want to start using voice commands with your dog a short distance away from you. Gradually extend this distance until you are giving him commands at a considerable distance. If you are going to be working at really long distances from your dog you may need to use other means to communicate like a whistle. This will, of course, need to be incorporated into your gun dog obedience training.
There will be a lot of distractions when you are hunting so any gun dog obedience training program is going to need to address this. The biggest thing is going to be getting your dog comfortable with being around other hunters. This can be done simply by introducing your dog to as many people as you can, the more the better. If your dog seems shy around people it is alright to allow them to feed your dog as long as he sees you give them the food. You don’t want your dog to be comfortable taking food from anybody but you. If he associates you with food it will be easier to train him.
Gundog obedience training is primarily about getting your dog comfortable with what you expect of him. It is important that you pay close attention to your dog’s reaction at every step of the training if he seems uncomfortable with something you will need to back up and try again. The worst thing you can do is scare your dog if he is frightened he will never be a good hunting dog. Usually, dogs are comfortable with new experiences providing they are introduced slowly.
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