Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Learning from the opening hunt
|Observing and learning from your dog’s responses on the opening day of hunting season can help point-out existing and potential problems you could encounter when the long hunting season gets underway.
Experienced hunters know that the dogs get looser and looser as the season progresses, so, starting the season with problems from the get-go is not where any hunter wants to be. Using your dog’s actions on opening day as a gauge to measure your dog’s obedience is a great tool. The past few days of dove hunting have been valuable for just such an assessment.
Dove and duck hunting are known as static hunts because your dog is simply retrieving birds that you shoot — not questing or flushing birds. Therefore, your hunting dog should be heeled up by your side, be steady to shot, come when called, and deliver all retrieved birds to hand. Since I don’t recommend taking an untrained dog to the field, I will assume your dog has been taught these four necessary skills.
They are key disciplined steps in any good basic training program. If you saw any problems in any of these four areas on opening day, that’s where you will want to focus your training before the next hunting season begins. If your dog has been properly trained and knows all four of the basic training commands but decides to challenge you on more than one of his learned commands, you can usually correct both problems by fixing only one.
For instance, if your dog breaks, (goes for the retrieve before being released) and also plays around with the bird a bit, ignoring your repeated command to come in and deliver the bird, simply regain control of the steadiness and watch the not coming in with the bird problem disappear automatically. Both of these problems are discipline related; therefore, regaining control on one will usually fix the other. It’s simply a matter of respect.
Both young and seasoned dogs can get overly excited when you start shooting birds and the steadiness is more than likely the first command that will fail. That is one of the reasons why I normally choose this command to regain control of a dog while in a hunting situation. The last thing you want to go wrong in the field is to confuse your dog as to why he is being disciplined. The steadiness issue is one that is clear cut in the dog’s mind; he totally understands why he is being corrected, so the confusion factor is eliminated.
Not many hunters enjoy having to train their dogs while on a hunt, but if all it takes to regain control of your dog and enjoy the remainder of that day — and hopefully the remainder of the season is a quick nick with the collar, I think it’s well worth the effort. Your goal is to teach your dog the rules of the hunt so that both of you can enjoy the day afield.
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Grady Istre’s column appears every other week and he can be reached at reibar.com