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Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Dogs can easily become conditioned to avoid things because we have not incorporated some aspect of the hunt into their training. Many times a retrieve will be necessary right in the middle of the decoy spread, so you want the dog to be comfortable swimming right through them.

Too often we don’t think ahead and expose our dogs to these normal hunting conditions and it costs us. You don’t want to be training during a hunt. You want your dog at peak performance at all times during the hunt.

If we’re going to change something - let’s say we’ve been hunting out of a blind and now we’re going to use a boat - then we should expose the dog to the boat and make him comfortable in it before we hunt.

I never get too critical of my dogs in a new situation until they know what is expected of them. Once they understand the rules, then often just a low level of stimulation from the collar is all that’s necessary to keep them on track.

Bad habits are reinforced every time we let a dog do something more than once. If you let your dog leave the boat or leave the blind before you have commanded it to, then you are allowing a situation to develop that will be hard to break later. That’s why you want to have all the kinks worked out before you actually enter the hunting situation.

Although your dog may be well trained, you may discover that all the excitement of the hunting action can cause your dog to have some temporary memory loss. Even if that happens and the dog gets a bit out of line, he will understand why he’s being corrected and what needs to be done so he won’t have to feel the stimulation of the training collar. A few simple reminders with some low-level stimulation will be all it takes to get the dog on the right path and get him thinking properly again.

One big problem we all see in blinds is that the dog likes to break for the bird before we give the command. The best way to train a dog from breaking too quickly when a bird drops is with a breaking box. I have also used an eye bolt in the boat or blind to put the dog on a check cord while hunting.

We put the dog in the box and attach him to a check cord attached to the box. Where the cord is attached to the dog we use a slipknot, and when we are ready to release the dog we just reach over and pull the knot loose on the cord and give him the command. Without the box the dog is spinning around and moving. This box is just big enough for the dog to get into and he can’t buck around in it.

Many people think their dog is ready for hunting because it’s doing a good job of retrieving. But unless your dog is brilliant, and some are, you need to train with hunting situations. It will keep your hunt from turning into a training session and you will be proud of the way your dog performs.
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