Most hunters these days want a dog that doubles as a pet at home and a hunting dog for the field during the season. However, Just like people, dogs have motivations and insecurities that can dictate their behavior both at home and in the field. Those tendencies can create problems for both hunter and dog at times.
When a dog is at home he is usually not subjected to strict rules because everyone wants to enjoy him as a member of the family. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, the hunter in the family shouldn’t be as lenient as other family members. It’s unfair to the dog because it may lead to more discipline needed to regain the respectful relationship that is needed in the field.
When he is working in the field he must muster up enough self-control to obey the rules and commands that he was taught when he was originally schooled to become a hunting dog.
So, if you haven’t maintained a realistic measure of control on a daily basis, troubles can develop. Correcting behavioral problems, or I should say attempting to correct these problems can be a very difficult task for trainers of all levels of expertise. Ideally, you want to begin working on these created problems before they become an ingrained habit, because once ingrained, they can be extremely difficult to fix at that time. Maintaining a dog’s level of training means that training sessions should be ongoing during the off season. Many hunters try to fix problems in the field while hunting.
Knowing the character of the dog you are dealing with is crucial when outlining the proper training program which will best benefit the dog’s temperament so control and/or advancement can be easily achieved or maintained.
I’m not talking about a dog that is going through basic training and learning his hunting skills. I’m discussing a dog that knows the rules of the hunt and chooses to disobey, such as breaking, (going before sent) or a bird dog that breaks point before the gun has a chance to get into position to make the shot.
This behavior can be created by a loose home atmosphere during the off season or a succession of hunting trips where your dog is allowed to get out of control. When this situation arises, your goal is to get your dog back under control and hunting to his training level again as quickly as possible — and with as little discipline as he will allow.
It’s a gift to any trainer when a single issue arises, because it’s not complicated and there’s no confusion on the part of the dog as to why he is being disciplined. Commands such as, breaking or not coming when called are easy. Your dog knows what they mean and should comply when a bit of discipline is added.
Usually, it only takes the correction of one command to get your dog in the right frame of mind to begin hunting to his training level again. And, the discipline on that one command or issue heals disobedience on all his other commands as well.
Re-building a proper relationship through even a little work should only be a reminder to the dog of his prior respectful attitude. Through observation, they learn what action on their part will provoke a reaction from you that they are seeking. That’s why discipline is needed; you have to counteract that behavior. Dogs are smarter than you think fellow trainers, so, sometimes you have to get a little creative in your approach to correction.
Have fun training!
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Grady’s column appears every other week in WON and he can be reached at reibar.com