I still get a chuckle of memories I have as a young boy hunting ducks
with one of my lifetime hunting partners Stan. We would gather what little
hunting gear we had at the time and head out by foot to hunt ducks near
a old logging pond down the road from our houses where we grew up. Stan,
always the intellectual one, would bring along his hunting dog, a mixed
terrier to fetch the birds we shot. Stan knew that if his terrier "Hado"
would fetch up the birds we shot that fell into the raging slough, it would
save us from stripping down to our "tighty whities" and swimming for our
birds. Of course, since I did not own a hunting dog at the time, I was
all for this as I knew I would become the retriever if needed. As I said
earlier, I still chuckle when I think back at those days because the words
"Hado no!" or "gosh darn you Hado" or "come Hado" still sounds clear in
my head as the day Stan would yell those words across the entire hunting
area to his beloved Hado.
We have all been there, whether in a duck blind hunting waterfowl, upland
game hunting on the prairies or working your deer dog up a ridge, you come
across a hunter hunting their dog instead of their dog hunting for the
hunter. Nothing can be more frustrating than hunting your dog when you
should be hunting with your dog. In this article "Starting your pup, the
early months", I will discuss training techniques that I have used that
will ensure your dog has the training to be an obedient and controlled
hunting dog. I have used these training methods on all types of dogs from
waterfowl dogs to deer dogs. They have proven to work and will give your
pup the training that is essential to becoming a productive hunting dog.
So, now that you have done your research and picked your pup for the
qualities you require, it is time to start your pup with "basic training".
Basic training is just that, teaching the pup the basics of who is boss,
to sit, back, come and ensuring your pup gets the proper exposure to the
outside world. No other training in a dog's life is more essential to the
success of a good hunting dog than basic training. Basic training should
start the minute you get your pup home. Depending on how you house your
pup, you should set boundaries on what is acceptable and unacceptable.
You will teach your pup where he is to sleep, where his water and food
bowls are and if raised inside, where not to go to the bathroom and what
furniture to stay off of. All these rules will set boundaries in the dogs
behavior and if done correctly and consistently, the pup will fully understand
who the boss is.
To better understand your pups behavior, you must first understand that
if this pup was raised in the wild, it would fall into a "pecking order"
within his pack. As a pup, he would be dependent on the pack to feed
him, protect him and provide for him. If the pup misbehaved, the leader
of the pack would most likely teach the pup a harsh and important lesson.
In a domesticated scenario, you are the leader of the pack and you must
establish this role from the beginning. From the first day the pup enters
his new home, he depends on you to feed him, protect him and provide for
him. And as his wild pack leader would do, correct him if he misbehaves.
Using this philosophy, you are certain to establish your role as the pack
leader and it also establishes the pups role in the pecking order of the
When training a new pup, I always asked myself two questions before
I correct the pups behavior. The answer to the question will determine
the reprimand for the behavior, if any. I ask myself, does the pup understand
what it is he has done or has not done? And, does the pup completely understand
what he has done or been asked to do but just does not want to do it? By
asking these two questions before I correct a pup, it acts as a double
check to ensure I do not confuse the pup and makes certain I do not over
react if the pup does not follow my instructions.
Basic training starts with sit, back and come. These very critical commands
that if established early, will make certain you have an obedient hunting
dog. I start my new pup off with a type of lead called a British-style
Slip. These British-style Slip leads are excellent as they work as a collar
and a lead all in one. I start by slipping it over the pups head and then
letting him run around dragging the lead. Once he is comfortable with the
lead, I then take the lead and control the pup. Because I am right handed
and usually carry my gun with my right hand, I always train my dogs to
walk on my left side. Holding the lead with my left hand, I attempt to
walk with the pup on my left side even with my walk pace. You will find
the first few times you do this the pup will pull, buck and try everything
within his power to pull away from you. Do not let go and just let him
get it out of his system. Once he calms down, I continue walking with him
all along saying in a calm but stern voice "back"! Back is the command
I use to keep my dogs to my side and not out ahead of me. It does not take
long before he feels secure with the lead and allows you the control. I
walk him around the streets in town getting him used to all kinds of noises,
cars, other dogs and allow him to smell everything he chooses to smell.
If he gets out ahead of me and starts pulling on the lead, I snap the lead
back and say "back! I repeat this several more times praising him along
the way and then the training session is over. I continue this drill over
the next week or so until the pup is completely comfortable with both the
lead and the command back.
Once he is relaxed walking on my left side, I start working on the
command sit. While walking with the lead, I stop and immediately say "sit"!
I then pull up on the lead with my left hand while pushing on his butt
with the right hand. Then I immediately praise him. I have found that sit
is the easiest command to teach a young pup so this should not take long
to teach. Once the pup fully understands sit while on a lead, I reinforce
the command sit without the lead. When the pup is running around the property
or in the house playing, I will spring the word sit on him in a stern voice.
If the pup sits I praise him. If he does not sit, I correct him and immediately
move back to the lead for a additional training session. With consistent
work, it will not be long until the pup will sit on command no matter what
the situation is.
I have found one of the toughest commands to teach a young pup is come.
This is because the pup normally starts relating the command come as a
control command in which naturally he resists. When a pup is young, I start
with a playful come by kneeling down and clapping my hands all along saying
the word come over and over again. As a young pup, this will almost always
work and they come running at full bore towards you and get all kinds of
praise for doing it. But, once the pup gets around five or six months old,
the pup starts acting defiant and seems to take on a mind of its own and
pays little attention to your commands. They take on a attitude similar
to a teenager and at times will need to be forced to follow your commands.
When a rebellious pup starts choosing to do what they want to when they
want to, teaching the command come can become very frustrating for you
and the pup. During this time, it is critical you take control of the pup
and never, never let the pup take control of you. I use two types of training
tools to reinforce the command come to a defiant pup. I either use a check
cord or a e-collar. A check cord is a thin type of rope or cord that is
about 25 feet in length, flexible and not easily tangled. I will use either
a piece of parachute cord or a piece of thick weed eater line. Either method
will work but I have found weed eater line does a better job not tangling.
I attach the check cord to the pups collar and allow the pup to wonder
off all along holding the other end of the check cord. Once the pup is
out 15 feet or so, I say the command come. I do not kneel down and clap
my hands as I have already established this in our earlier fun informal
training sessions. If the pup does not come towards me, I gently pull him
along prompting him to come to me. If he fails to come with prompting,
I yank on the check cord dragging the pup as necessary towards me as requested
while saying in a stern voice "come" over and over again. A few sessions
like this will re-enforce the command come and make sure the pup understands
who is at the top of the pack. The other way to teach come to a defiant
pup, and one in which I prefer, is the use of a e-collar. I have found
with using a e-collar properly, you can accomplish the command come even
with the most disobedient dogs in one or two sessions. I simply use it
the same way I would a check cord but it seems to reinforce what I want
the pup to do more rapidly. Now a word of caution here, I do not recommend
the use of a e-collar by the novice trainer as if used improperly, you
could ruin a dog. So unless you have experience with a e-collar, use the
check cord procedure.
I will talk briefly about the command "stay". If you really think about
it, the command stay is unnecessary. Recently I have discovered that the
word "sit" means both sit and stay. Another words, if you give the command
sit, never allow your dog to leave this position until you release him.
Using this method, you have just reduced the number of commands your dog
needs to learn and makes it simpler for you when training.
I have trained many types of dogs throughout my life. I have trained
Chesapeake's, Labs, Queensland Blue Heelers, Spaniels and of course Terriers.
What I know to be true, is that not all dogs and breeds handle pressure
the same. Be very cautious with the amount of pressure you put on your
dog unless you know what pressure that dog can handle. I try and treat
my dogs with respect and in turn they respect me. Although I spend most
of my training time praising my pups, sometimes tough love is what it takes
to properly train a pup to be a compliant citizen. A well-trained obedient
hunting dog will give you years of pleasure and reduce the chances of you
being the one who is yelling at their "Hado" in the field.
Look for Part 3-"Starting Your Pup on Deer" in the next DHTR's newsletter.
George A Palmer IV
Buckhorn Hunting Terriers