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Training a Dog to Hunt

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by Bobson, Jan 26, 2013.

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  1. Bobson

    Bobson Member

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    This is a long post - I apologize in advance.

    I noticed a few members here hunt with a dog. That's something I always thought was really neat - essentially having a hunting partner who's always up for a hunt. Ever since I read Where the Red Fern Grows as a kid, I knew I'd love to have a hunting dog someday. Well here I am about to turn 28 years old and that interest hasn't faded, but grown. Problem is, I don't know anyone who hunts with a dog, and never have. Heck, for a great majority of my life, I didn't know anyone who hunted, period.

    So my wife and I have been considering getting a dog for a few months now. We've come to the conclusion that when we do get a dog, it will be a labrador retriever. Temperament is most of the reason, as we have a two year old daughter who has been demonstrating her love for dogs since she first began to speak. We also want a dog that will fill the alert us if scum enters our home without an invitation niche, and my wife wants a dog with the energy to accompany her on jogs or bike rides. A lab seems to be a great fit all the way around.

    Bonus: Labs just happen to be excellent gun dogs. Problem is I don't know squat about training a dog to retrieve, point, and whatever else hunting dogs do. Well I realize this isn't exactly a dog forum; but I was hoping someone here can point me in the right direction.

    Please note that this isn't something I'm taking lightly. I want to figure out everything I can before I get a dog - and maybe we won't get a dog yet anyway. Mostly want to learn right now. If I do pursue this, I'd like the dog to accompany me on hunts for rabbits, occasional pheasant or grouse, maybe even coyotes if possible (or beneficial).

    Again, just looking for someone to point me in the right direction, and possibly throw any firsthand knowledge or experience my way. Thanks a lot, sorry for the long post.
     
  2. Liberty1776

    Liberty1776 Member

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    A lab is a great choice and my personal preference there is a female yellow Lab. I'd suggest Gun Dog by Richard Wolters for a good start. Things I personally find useful - establish a personal relationship with your dog.
    Begin with correcting with a grunt, hiss and reduce to a gesture or look - seriously. You can always escalate, but if a low-level correction works, your' way ahead. Don't underestimate your dog's intelligence or capacity to understand. Keep it as fun as possible. Do not underestimate or ignore the qualities and abilities that already are in your dog from centuries of breeding. My Brittany (current hunting dog) knew more about hunting from the time he hit the ground than I could ever train into him - natural hunter, pointer and retriever and all I had to do was go along for the ride and shoot good... very rewarding relationship.
     
  3. Ms_Dragon

    Ms_Dragon Member

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    I've owned and bred a number of larger "hunting breeds" here in Australia.

    Some I have exhibited.

    My thoughts are...well it depends on what and how you are hunting.

    Mainly I use dogs to bail up feral pigs outside of using traps.
    Here in Aus there are people who will swear on certain cross breeds.
    These can be:

    Great dane x wolfhound X bull mastiff. - in any sort of percentages.

    The Australian developed Bull Arab. - Generally a very good hunting dog with the ability to run all day. Will track, find, bay, and lug large boars and will work in a team without ripping the other dogs throats out.
    The down side of the Bull Arab is that they don't or can't came up with a recognized type.
    I have seen so many different supposed pure Bull Arabs and they just don't look the same.
    To be honest they look like bitsa mutts that lean more towards a lean, leggy mastiff type of any sort of coloration.

    I have bred, hunted and exhibited Rhodesian Ridgebacks.
    I owned a whole pack of these all housed together until the bitches were in season.
    They are a hound.........a hounds first question when telling it to do something will always be..WHY?
    You need to be Alpha with a soft hand.
    Socialize the animal or it will become an issue with people and animals who aren't "family".
    The Boars in Africa who developed the breed said that only one in one hundred dogs (males) have the heart and guts to hunt.
    Their packs of Rhodesian Ridgebacks that they used to hunt lions ( which the breed was developed for) were made up of bitches.
    Having intimate experience with the breed I have seen this is true.
    Males are large impressive animals BUT they are big, dumb and happy.
    Bitches, however, are all business.
    Never was my person, family or property better guarded than when I had my pack of RR bitches loose in the yard.
    Sure the RR dog would bark but it'd be from a safe distance on the fringes.
    More cheerleader than participant.

    There are many breeds of hunting dog out there and within that breed there will be lines that are bred for the ring and then there will be lines bred for work (hunting) who won't look anywhere near as pretty as their ring bred counterparts but will have their working instincts intact.

    It's up to you to choose which you value more.
     
  4. redneck2

    redneck2 Member

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    I had a lab that was THE best dog ever. Got him at 1 1/2 years old. Had a few bad habits that I broke very quickly. After just a few months he would heel, lay down, sit & stay, and retrieve with hand signals. All with zero voice commands.

    I read the book Waterdog This guy had a dog that won the national field trials at 9 months old. I'd strongly suggest a good training book. He did things differently than I would. His way worked. For example, keep training sessions to 10-15 minutes. Dog gets bored and you lose what you gained.
     
  5. LNK

    LNK Member

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    I applaud you wanting a dog to hunt with as well as a family companion/security system. Just remember that hunting with your dog makes up less than 1% of the time you have with a dog.

    Couple of questions you need to ask yourself. What am I going to hunt? Do I really like dog hair all over the house?(because if it is a shedding breed, it will be). How much time can you really spend with your dog? Bonding with the dog, and training obedience are the most critical things. Must be done early and correctly. The hunting part you can do if the dog listens to you.

    Just a quick story, and I'll leave you to it. My wife and kids love dogs, but one child was allegic to something in dog hair(?). So we had to have dogs that were "hypo-allergenic", so in addition to a piece-of-shi-tzu, we have a standard poodle (very smart dog). We vacationed in TN a couple of years ago and rescued a stray (hound) of some sort that hung around the place we rented(we did try to find out where he came from, but he wouldn't tell us). Now we have a male shedding hound type dog also. Funny thing is, the child with allergies was the biggest proponent of the rescue. He is a very good dog that we didn't have to house train.

    So if you are thinking about getting "a" dog. Be prepared to have more than one. Especially if the dog will be left home alone during the day. As a lonely dog can become a destructive dog. Dogs are social creatures, and like to be around people and other dogs.

    Good luck with your quest....If you ask me, dogs are all the proof I need that there is a god.....

    LNK
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2013
  6. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Member

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    Yep. Unfortunately, hunting breeds with the desire and drive to be great hunters have that drive and energy 100% of the time. Labs are no exception. They need to be exercised and challenged continuously, especially for the first two years of their life, or the will become bored. A bored dog becomes destructive or annoying. Your wife's desire to have a jogging partner will go a long way to help with this. Discipline is paramount to not only your happiness, but also the dog's. Good dogs like and respond well to firm discipline. Start early and be consistent. This means one needs to train their family as well as the dog on what is proper and what is not. If your pup comes from good hunting stock, the hunting part will come natural and will be much easier than the obedience.
     
  7. avs11054

    avs11054 Member

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    I got a lab. He is kind of wild, so I haven't tried to train him to hunt. But they are the smartest dogs in the world. It is absolutely amazing how much my dog knows in the way of words and sounds.

    My dog is scared of his own shadow, but somebody breaking down my door wouldn't know that with how loud he barks.

    Good luck on training yours to hunt. That was my goal with mine.
     
  8. Steve H

    Steve H Member

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    Many many many years ago I used to hunt along with my dog. Black lab. Before I started I sat and talked for a long time with a trainer/breeder. Smart move IMHO on my part. The dog wound up going into field trials and stud service. The trainer forgot more than I will ever know. The one thing that I remember more than anything he said was........ training the dog is easy, training the owner is the hard part. Remember, breeding is the key to a good dog.
     
  9. Patocazador

    Patocazador Member

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    Labs are the most popular dog in the country .. with good reason. They are smart, tractable, trainable and not aggressive. BUT, since they are popular, there are tons of puppy mills churning out tons of inferior puppies with all sorts of problems including medical problems (hip dysplasia, EIC, elbow problems, etc.), personality disorders (snapping, shaking, etc.) and others.
    Get a dog from a breeder of hunting dogs not pets not show dogs. These dogs are bred for a purpose not just for sale. You will pay more than a newspaper classified one but you will get a superior product. Do as Liberty 1776 said: "A lab is a great choice and my personal preference there is a female yellow Lab. I'd suggest Gun Dog by Richard Wolters for a good start." Read this book twice prior to contacting a breeder and don't be in a hurry. You've already waited a long time.
    When you pick out the breeder, tell him what sort of person you are, temperament, what you hunt, where you live (apartment, house, estate with 100 acres .. whatever). Let him meet your family and then let him pick out your pup. You or a family member will pick the cutest one or the one that is picked on or whatever. The breeder can match up the right pup for your family.
    Ask the breeder to recommend a trainer and contact him to see if you can ask him questions in person while he is training dogs, That way you can see what is involved and how tough it is. This will let you decide if you should attempt to train your first dog on your own. If you are like I was, you ruin the first dog because of your inability to "read" the dogs actions.

    It's a big commitment, prepare for it properly.
     
  10. Bobson

    Bobson Member

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    I appreciate all the advice here, so thank you to all who offered it up. I especially appreciate the suggestion to give a breeder an opportunity to get to know us, and pick the dog for us. That's something that probably wouldn't have ever occurred to me, but it sounds like an excellent way to go about this. When we are ready to move forward and get a dog, I'll give that some very serious consideration.

    For now, I'll start with those books. I'm sorry to say I've ruined a dog before, and paid the price for it in the form of being attacked by a rottweiler I thought of as my pet several years ago. I'm not rushing into this, but its a matter of time until we get a family pet. I just want to make sure we do it right, whether it becomes a hunting dog or not.

    As a side note, I'm primarily interested in hunting rabbits with a dog, and I've read that most labs will do this poorly, at best. I'm going to give a beagle some consideration too. While I've always had an interest in pheasant and duck hunting, I'll most likely just dabble in those areas.
     
  11. wgp

    wgp Member

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    I hunted for years without a dog (upland birds). Then my buddy got a Brittany and I mooched off of him. Finally I decided I needed a dog and bought a female yellow Lab. Wonderful dog, great in the house, great with kids, but as it turned out, not a great hunting dog for what I hunted. I did not train her well, she did not see enough birds to really understand what was going on, and she was a retriever, not a pointing dog.

    When she was gone I had realized to hunt quail and pheasant I really wanted a dog that would hunt birds and point. I like the Brittanys but preferred shorter hair (less maintenance), and I did not like the characteristics of the English Pointers I had seen, so I got a German Shorthair. If the Lab was good, this dog was great. Her disposition is even better and her pointing made a huge difference in my hunting. She has been a wonderful dog.

    My GSP is now too old to hunt and is likely not long for the world but if I ever got another hunting dog it would be another GSP. Any of the Wolters books would help you in your training, and my basic suggestion is to get the dog on birds, wild or pen-raised, as much as possible as soon as possible. Consider getting professional training -- not all of us are good at it or have the necessary time to spend.
     
  12. Deer_Freak

    Deer_Freak Member.

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    Hunting dogs do not stay in the house around your children. True hunting dogs are kept in a pen and not really socialized beyond being able to catch the dog. A socialized dog will stay under your feet. You want the dog to get away from you to find game. The only social training I give a hunting dog is I blow my truck horn when I feed the dogs. That way if the dog is lost it will hear my truck horn and come to the truck. Yes, we use GPS collars and all the technology we can but nothing is perfect. We still lose dogs for a short period of time.
     
  13. sixgunner455

    sixgunner455 Member

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    Horse pucky.

    *you* may do what you do that way, but that is by no means what the definition of a *true hunting dog* is, and I would suggest, Bobson, that you ignore this.

    Dogs are smart, and they learn what you teach them. It is very possible and normal to have a socialized house pet that is also your hunting buddy/partner/helper.
     
  14. Patocazador

    Patocazador Member

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    sixgunner is correct. Hounds aren't always ideal house dogs but bird dogs and retrievers usually are. Special precautions need to be taken with electrical cords, small objects, stuffed toys, etc. but they can be excellent around kids and in the house.
     
  15. MtnCreek

    MtnCreek Member

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    Coon or bear hunter? Leave your jacket laying on the ground. Next morning, he'll be laying on it.
     
  16. Zeke/PA

    Zeke/PA Member

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    What are you going to hunt?
    Birds ( grouse,ringnecks) and/or rabbits?
    A Beagle is very hard to beat and they also make great house pets to boot.
    When you learn your dog, you'll be able to tell when he/she is near game.
    At home we ALWAYS had a Beagle, house pet (spoiled rotten) one day, rabbit machine the next.
    I was into English Pointers for quite some time but that's another story.
     
  17. sixgunner455

    sixgunner455 Member

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    You don't have to train a dog how to hunt. They do that instinctively. What you have to do is learn how your dog hunts, how to hunt with your dog, and encourage your dog to cooperate with what you want to accomplish.

    You have to train both of you.
     
  18. Deer_Freak

    Deer_Freak Member.

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    And my truck will be next to the coat. I don't leave my dogs, ever. Those of you that think you can have a good working pointer as a house pet are seriously deluded. Retrievers? Yes! They can be kept in the house with the family. Any dog that you want to find game should not be kept in the house. Anyone who says they can I want to see the champion markings on the dog papers, not just I say so. Prove it!
     
  19. 03Shadowbob

    03Shadowbob Member

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    Start at a very young age. Take them with you everywhere. In the woods, we tie bells to the collar. After you shoot something, regardless of how far it went, get him or her to smell the area and blood where you shot it. Gives lots of encouragement and correction when you are tracking the game especially when the game is found regardless of who found it. Have the dog smell the animal, the ground, let it chew on the ears a bit and kick the blood and wound. When cleaning the game make sure you give some of the innards ( not stomach, insets tines, etc) to the dog and encourage him more.
    This past season it took 3 outings to get her to track successfully.
     
  20. Pilot

    Pilot Member

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    I will echo this statement. I had a German Shorthaired Pointer for almost 16 years, and I bird hunted him but he was also a great house dog and pet. However, as others have said you do need to exercise them DAILY. They are going to get it one way or another, and if they don't get it running around outside, they will do so inside, and can get into stuff. They will also get bored if left alone for long periods of time so either have access to an outdoor run or don't leave them alone for entire days at a time.
     
  21. buck460XVR

    buck460XVR Member

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    There's some delusion going on in this thread, but it ain't in the heads of those of us with bird dogs. I've had GSPs and GWPs for over 40 years....sometimes more than one at a time. All of them have been great house pets as well as exceptional bird dogs. Some of the GWPs were also trained to blood trail wounded deer while on a leash. They excelled at that also. My two boys grew up with a great emotional attachment to the dog we had at the time, had them sleeping at the foot of their bed for protection and shot many birds from behind them. No delusion there. Sorry, but to many of us, that beats the 'ell outta just honkin' the horn at em' when they got lost. But then, none of my bird dogs ever got lost.
     
  22. Pilot

    Pilot Member

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    Really sir? Please read my previous post. My German Shorthaired Pointer was an exceptional house pet. I like that fact that this breed aren't "barkers", meaning they don't bark at ever little thing in our outside the property, and only bark when it means something. To ME that is essential in a dog as a house pet and family member.

    Pointers just need exercise, and since I have some land, I could run him on the property every day, so he'd get his exercise. After that they are just like any other dog.
     
  23. T.R.

    T.R. Member

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    These books were very helpful to me when we trained our springer spaniel. If you're interested, I'll sell both for one price of $15. which includes shipping.

    TR

    book-TrainGunDog.gif

    book-GunDog-1.gif
     
  24. 41magsnub

    41magsnub Member

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    +1 on the comments regarding a hunting dog can also be a house dog. I have an 8mo GWP who is turning out to be a phenomenal hunting dog so far. She points like a champ and is a natural retriever. She has plenty of drive out in the field.

    She is my buddy who sometimes goes and finds birds for me... she lives in my house and is perfectly manageable as a house dog as long as she gets some exercise most everyday. That can be a run out in a field or if I work late the chuck-it thrower and glow in the dark ball in the little park by my house gets it done just fine. I can get away with skipping an exercise day if I have to and she is fine, I skip two days and she complains about it.
     
  25. mnhntr

    mnhntr Member

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    I have always had and trained labs. I currently have a Lab and a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. I have always used my dogs for waterfowl and grouse/pheasant hunting. Having lived in AZ my opinion would be different if I still lived there. I would actually take a German Shorthair over a lab for the awesome quail and dove and upland bird hunting there. Can the lab do it? Yes is it his primary purpose in life? No A good short haired pointing dog can take the heat better and do a better job upland hunting. If you were going to waterfowl hunt and hunt the cold north I would say get a Lab. But in your situation I would definately be looking for a German Shorthair.
     
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