Hunting Dog Training: Join an Arkansas Tradition
If you’re considering getting a hunting dog or training your new puppy to hunt, Arkansas is a grreat place to do it. The Natural State is a hunter’s paradise – and a hunting dog’s pawadise! The team at Hounds Lounge has tracked down the following hunting dog training tips to help you get started.
Hunting in Arkansas
Arkansas is a prime hunting destination. Our state offers diverse hunting opportunities, from quail to turkey to deer to rabbit and even alligator. However, what Arkansas is best-known for is our waterfowl hunting. Stuttgart, AR is known as the Duck Capital of the World.
Human and canine hunters have been flocking to Arkansas for decades to enjoy our world-class duck season. For our Hounds Lounge fur fams in Riverdale, West Little Rock, North Little Rock, Bryant and Fayetteville the Duck Capital of the World is only a short drive away.
If you’re thinking of embarking on hunting dog training, consider what type of hunting you’ll be doing with your pooch. This will impact which breed you choose, as well as their hunting dog training regimen.
What Makes a Dog a Hunting Dog?
Any dog can technically be a hunting dog, but there are some breeds that are genetically driven to hunt. Common hunting dog breeds in Arkansas are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, and their specialty is – you guessed it, retrieving fallen game. Labradors are extremely pawpular for duck hunting.
German Shorthaired Pointers are commonly used to hunt rabbits, game birds and even deer. English Pointers and English Setters make excellent quail hunting buddies. Beagles are skilled at hunting small game.
Read our blog on the Top 10 Most Popular Dog Breeds.
Lots of dogs are bred to hunt, but their skills ultimately come down to their hunting dog training. Let’s dig into the basics of how to train a hunting dog.
Training Hunting Dogs
When it comes to training hunting dogs, you have two options.
- You can train your dog yourself
- You can send your dog to a hunting dog trainer
If you send your dog to a trainer, they will essentially live at the training facility for ruffly four months. This is a lot of time for your pooch to spend away from family, but, if you send them to a reputable trainer, they will come back home well-trained for hunting.
Impawtant Note: Your dog shouldn’t go to a professional trainer until they have adult teeth, when they’re around seven months old.
If you’re training your dog at home, it’s never too early to get started. Hunting dog training begins with basic puppy training, including:
- Socialization. Your dog should learn how to respond to new people, animals, sights, sounds and smells. Socialization leads to a more well-rounded woof, helps build confidence and prepares your pooch for new experiences, such as hunting. Read our blog on puppy socialization.
- Obedience training. Before your dog can learn how to track or retrieve game, they need to know how to sit, stay and come. Basic obedience training is the foundation for hunting dog training.
Bonding. Your dog needs to know that, even though you’re the boss, you’re also their best friend. Developing a strong bond is key to hunting dog training. Just as you would with any other pet, make your hunting dog a major part of your life. The more time you spend together, the more your dog will love, respect and understand you, as well as want to please you.
Once you have the basics down, you can move on to hunting training sessions.
If you want to hunt ducks in Arkansas, your hunting dog training must focus on retrieving. Once you have basic fetch down, use a catapult to launch duck decoys so that they land far away, and make sure your dog learns to watch where the decoy falls, then run after it. Perform this exercise on dry land and in water, as you could be dealing with either terrain when hunting. Work to achieve consistent results with your dog.
Additionally, experts say you should train your dog to voice commands and a whistle, which come in handy when your dog does not know where a duck has fallen.
At some point in your training process, you will also need to expose your dog to a harvested duck and let them handle it. Make sure they learn how to be gentle and release the duck to you.
Ducks Unlimited provides plenty of retriever training guides.
If you plan to use your dog for tracking deer and other fallen game, you’ll need to implement tracking into your hunting dog training. You can practice by creating a trail of deer blood that leads to the body part of a harvested deer. Make the trail more challenging as your dog gets faster. Learn more from Mossy Oak.
Before you can take them hunting, you have to get your dog used to the sound of gunshots. Take this portion of hunting dog training slow – some pooches are more gun shy than others, and you don’t want to traumatize your dog. If they have a bad early experience, they may never be comfortable with gunshots and, therefore, will not be able to hunt.
Start by taking a friend and your dog to a place you one day hope to hunt with them. This will help your pooch get familiar with the area, and it also gives you a safe, isolated place to shoot a gun. Make sure you have permission to be on this land and are following safety protocols.
You or your friend should start running a retriever drill with your dog. Whichever person is not interacting with your dog should move far away and fire a gun in the opposite direction. The shot should be fired as your dog begins to make a retrieve.
As your dog gets used to the gunshots and completes their retrieving drills despite the noise, reward them with treats. Slowly move the gunshots closer to your dog. In the real hunting world, your pooch will be right next to you when you take aim.
Patience and Positive Reinforcement
As it is in basic obedience training, patience is key in hunting dog training too. Your dog is new at this – they aren’t going to be an expert right away. Take your time with hunting dog training and always reward your dog with pawsitive reinforcement.
Hunting Dog Training Gear
Along with a plethora of treats, there are other items you’ll need for dog hunting training.
Retrieving Duck Decoys and Catapult
As we mentioned above, duck decoys are an essential part of retrieving training. You can start with a bumper and eventually use duck dummies.
Use blanks/poppers when training to avoid wasting actual bullets. However, blanks/poppers are still very dangerous, so treat them as if they are real bullets.
Get your dog a GPS collar so that you can track them while they are tracking.
Dog Clothing and Safety Gear
To keep your pooch safe while training and while hunting, you should invest in the right gear. If you’re hunting in cold conditions, consider getting your pooch a warm camo vest and dog booties. You can even get your pooch goggles to protect their eyes. If you are deer hunting, make sure your dog wears hunter orange for visibility.
Impawtant Note: Let your dog practice wearing all their gear while training so that they’ll be comfortable in it come hunting season.
Safety Tips for Hunting Dog Training
You must put safety furrst when training hunting dogs.
If you are handling a gun, you should know firearm safety. This is covered in Hunter Education, which is a requirement for all hunters in Arkansas born after 1968.
Consider Potential Wildlife Hazards
In nature, there is a lot that’s out of your control. Be aware of potential hazards like snakes and other wildlife encounters. Read our blog on Dog First Aid, which includes everything you should keep in a dog furrst aid kit. Bring that kit with you while training and hunting.
Be Prepared for the Elements
Whether it’s very hot or very cold outside, be prepared for challenging conditions. Be ready to layer up on clothing (and lose layers later in the day) and always bring plenty of water for both you and your dog.
Hunt Down a Spaw Day at Hounds Lounge
When all of your hunting dog training has paid off, hunt responsibly and ethically. You must have a hunting license as well as necessary permits or permissions. Respect bag limits. Be a good steward of Mother Nature by cleaning up after yourself and your dog.
After a successful day of hunting dog training or actual hunting, reward your dog with a warm bath at Hounds Lounge. Walk-ins are welcome to our self-serve dog wash stations, and we also offur professional dog grooming services. Your pooch works hard to be the best hunting buddy pawsible, and they deserve the spaw treatment in return!