This article was written by dog trainer Lorraine Leibbrandt for askaprepper.com.
I. How to Train Your Dog For Hunting In The Field
I have always believed that any dog can be trained how to hunt if you have the patience and skill to train it. However, some dogs are natural hunters, so it is much easier to work with them.
The best breed groups for hunting are gun dogs, terriers, and hounds, and they all have an inherent need to hunt.
- Gun dogs: The gun dog group consists of spaniels, retrievers, pointers, and setters, and these dogs were mainly bred to hunt bigger animals.
- Terriers:This group consists of any terrier breeds, and these dogs were bred to hunt vermin and smaller animals like rats, rabbits, birds, and even insects.
- Hounds: This group consists of sight hounds and scent hounds, and these were bred to find animals in the field (by scent). Sight hounds can spot an animal from very far away and have incredible speed.
Your dog is already getting a great reward from the hunting activity itself; however, you can intensify this using reward-based training that consists of either food, a toy, or praise. Food is the most effective.
Related: 14 Dog Breeds for Preppers
In order to teach your dog how to hunt, it first needs to have a thorough grasp on the following basic exercises: Retrieve, Stay, Recall, and Search.
Retrieve – To fetch things for you
- Teach your dog how to retrieve by starting with a ball or a toy first.
- Keep the distance you throw the toy short in the beginning, and then you can extend the distance as your dog gets better at retrieving.
- As soon as your dog returns the object, ensure that you swap it for a treat, and give it lots of praise!
- You can then start using a decoy with animal urine on it (of the specific animal you want your dog to target) and have it retrieve the decoy to get used to bringing that scent back to you for a big reward.
Stay – To wait until it is given a release word
- Ask your puppy to stay by showing it the palm of your hand and saying, “Stay.” Take one step back, and let it wait for no more than a second. Give it a treat immediately by coming toward it.
- Keep increasing the time and the distance you go back when you see that your puppy is confident with the exercise.
- Combine the retrieving and staying exercise by throwing the decoy and asking your puppy to stay.
- Encourage your dog to fetch the decoy when you give it a release word like “fetch it” or “go.”
Recall – To come when called
- Get a word for your recall that you would use in the field; it can also be a whistle.
- Ensure that you have lots of treats, and call your puppy using the recall word. Give it lots of praise and a treat for coming to you. Your puppy needs to learn that coming to you is rewarding.
- Now combine all three of the exercises. Throw the object, ask your puppy to wait, and then release it to fetch. As soon as your puppy has the object it should retrieve, use your recall word and call it toward you!
Search – To find things using their sense of smell
- Start this exercise with your puppy at a young age. Hide treats all over your home and garden, and have your puppy search for them.
- You will need to encourage your puppy in the beginning by pointing out the area in which to search as it might not know what search means.
- Make a big fuss when your puppy has sniffed out the treat! Take it to each area where you have hidden a treat, and ask it to search. Soon your puppy will be confident with the word “search,” and then you can move on to the next step.
- This time use the animal urine on objects for your puppy to sniff out. For scent hounds, make a trail with the urine on a cloth or by dripping some urine drops, and at the end of the trail, have your decoy ready.
- Use your recall command to ask your puppy to retrieve this item, and give it a huge reward when it has successfully done so.
These concepts are best taught before taking your dog into the field for its first hunt as it will have to know how to wait for you to shoot the animal, how to go and retrieve it, and how to bring it back to you. If you want your dog to search for the prey as well, it needs to know how to sniff them out. If your puppy is familiar with all the above-mentioned exercises, it should be easier to teach it to retrieve and hunt prey in the field as it will understand what you need from it when asking to search, stay, or retrieve the prey.
If you are going to be hunting with a gun, it is important to get a dog that won’t get a fright and run at the first shot being fired. You will need to make sure your dog is not bothered by the loud noise. You can do this by introducing your puppy to loud sounds and the sound of gunshots early in its life, before the age of four months. This is because anything they encounter in this early stage of their development becomes normal to them.
Take your dog to the field early, and although you should not put too much pressure on it to retrieve prey on the first few sessions in the field, you can use this time to get them used to the sound of gunfire and the environment. Do this by having someone else shoot a gun while you sit with your puppy, and give a big reward each time a gun is fired so that it associates the loud noises positively.
II. How To Train Your Dog for Personal and Home Protection
Most dog owners think that their dogs would naturally protect them and their homes in an emergency situation, but this is seldom the case. Only about 2% of the dog population will protect you without being trained to do so. Although our dogs have an instinct to protect us, they usually avoid conflict when put to the test. Most dogs will naturally bark at strangers in your yard, but not all of them will take action when they need to. To illustrate my point, view this video.
Training a dog to protect your home is not only difficult but it is a time-consuming exercise that needs to be repeated often to cement the behavior. The ideal protection dog would be a dog that is social with your guests and other dogs but will not hesitate to protect you in an emergency situation. Remember that there is a difference between having an attack dog and a protection dog. An attack dog is for police training and will attack and bite on command, whereas a protection dog is in the defense position and will only bite when it senses trouble or it needs to defend you.
Let’s look at what it takes to train your dog for home protection:
#1. Make sure you have a dog suitable to be a guard dog; for instance, most Labradors are too friendly and would want to play with intruders. Smaller dogs can be good alarm systems inside of the home, but they will not be able to stop an intruder easily.
Rottweiler, German Shepherd, or Doberman breeds would be a better option as these dogs are bred for guarding and it comes naturally to them.
#2. Take your dog to a reputable obedience training school as young as possible, before your dog has the chance to pick up bad habits. Obedience training teaches your dog to understand and obey commands like sit, stay, bark, heel, etc., and helps your dog become in tune with you so they are more attentive to our needs.
This is also important because you want to be able to ask your dog to sit or lie down when it should not be paying attention to a certain guest or if it barks unnecessarily at the mailman.
#3. If our dogs are more attentive to us, they can pick up on when we are suspicious, scared, or careful of certain people by using social referencing. Social referencing means that the dogs look to their owners for social clues when meeting a new person or encountering a new object. They copy our reaction (positive or negative) to the object or person almost all of the time. Our dogs are more likely to guard us if they pick up on negative feelings toward a stranger.
You can make sure that your dog understands when you are suspicious of a stranger by pulling the leash tighter, not greeting the person in a friendly tone (or at all), or moving away from the person. This should usually be enough to make your dog understand that you are not comfortable with a person’s presence, and your dog will most likely copy your behavior.
#4. Ensure that your dog knows where your home’s perimeters are. Make a habit of doing a perimeter check with your dog daily by walking around your home and the area you want it to protect. This will become a familiar path for your dog to walk, so it can do this on its own as well. By doing a daily perimeter check, you are more likely to see if wires have been cut or if someone has jumped over the wall so you can take precautions. Intruders are also less likely to come into your yard when you have a dog patrolling the area.
#5. Loyal dogs are more likely to protect their owners, so it is important to build a good relationship with your dog. You can do this through using positive reinforcement training methods and not punishment or dominance techniques as this causes damage to your relationship with your dog.
Your dog will be more loyal if it receives a balance of love and discipline and not only one or the other.
#1. Praise your dog for the things it does right, and don’t focus on the things it does wrong. This way, you can redirect your dog from any unwanted behaviors, or you can simply use the word “no” and show your dog what you want it to do instead. This method is more effective than punishment and creates a positive relationship between you and your dog.
#2. Create a mock scenario of intruders in your home, and have someone make a noise outside or knock on your window. I found that my dog simply reacted with me looking startled at the door and walking around the room, saying, “What was that? Search,” and she would get nervous and bark at the door. This is because of social referencing once again, and I manipulated her by pretending to get nervous about a sound outside or a knock on the window.
So, in your own scenario, look startled, and say, “What is that?” to your dog. Encourage it to bark or patrol the area, and if it barks or growls, praise it and give it a treat for being a good guard dog. Then show it that there is no harm outside afterwards so it can relax again. Keep practicing this on a daily or weekly basis until your dog is alert and reacts by barking every time.
#3. Ask someone who is unfamiliar (to your dog) to approach you. Pretend to be a little nervous. If your dog growls, have the person immediately turn around and walk away. This gives your dog confidence that it can chase strangers away by warning them. Usually when a growl is ignored, a dog will resort to biting. However, this should be done with extreme caution as your dog should also be taught to stop growling when you ask for it. So ask it to stop, and reward the behavior when it does.
The key here would be to have an obedient dog that will back off when you command it. Ask your dog to stop growling, and lie down or sit quietly when you don’t want it to bark. (This is where obedience training would help a lot.)
In conclusion, we don’t want our dogs to be aggressive toward every person and dog it meets, but we want a dog that can alert us to danger and take action when needed. The best we can do is to give them confidence that their growls are being taken seriously as warnings by setting up scenarios for them to practice this. The idea is that if a warning growl is ignored, your dog will follow it up with a bite.
In order for our dogs to take action in an emergency situation, we can only hope that they pick up on our social cues, but there are no guarantees that they will definitely bite an intruder. If this is what you are aiming for, you need to train an attack dog with the police so that it can serve that purpose. This takes commitment and a full-time training schedule with your dog.
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