Success starts for your four-legged friend with a regimented summer. To expect a dog to step out on the prairie or marsh without an issue sets them up for failure. The best-trained dog is worked on months before the season opens.
Obedience is key with your hunting partner. A refresher course on when to go, how far to travel, and a crisp return go a long way when worked on in June, July, and August. The excitement of the hunt will cause your floppy-eared companion to forget at times that they are not self-employed in the field. Take your dog out and work with them on the simple, yet important commands of sit, down, and here. Touch them up on their whistle commands so you don’t have to yell while trying to recall your hunting partner.
If your desire is to have a handling hound in the field, work on your hand signals first in the yard. Once your pooch has the reminder of which commands dictate the correct direction, graduate to blind retrieves. Challenge your dog at several different locations. Sure, it’s easy to work in the local park, but make the hunt training realistic. Find locations that have cover, terrain, and differing landscapes to drive over and through in search of their downed quarry.
Get your dogless hunting buddies to help as well! Nothing is more realistic than having a couple of guys out with you. Steadying drills with multiple shots mimic what happens in the field. Use your friends that are so appreciative of your pup in fall to help with summer preparation. An extra set of hands, eyes, and guns in your training blind allow you to watch your dog more closely so you can identify training issues that need more work.
Be realistic by having your hunting partner out with the correct gear and situation. If upland hunting, purchase birds and hunt a small training field. With high grass and flushing birds your dog will think the season is here. In the marsh or pond, take the time to put out decoys and hunt from your boat. Use bumpers, scented dummies, and decoys to help the dog find realism in your mock hunt. This time commitment will make the first time the dog hits the water old hat as he swims through the decoys to that downed teal in open water.
Exercise, exercise, exercise–both you and your pup. Take a walk at night several times a week to get the whole team in shape! As dogs get older, just like their human counterparts, they can no longer hit the field for a whole day without aches and pains. To expect that a hound will run all day with no summer conditioning is not fair. Take a couple of nights a week to exercise with your dog and both of you will enjoy the season more!
Summer is the time to hit the field so your team is ready in the fall. Take a day or two a week from your busy life to work with your dog. You and your pet will be more prepared and healthy when the big opener in the fall arrives!
by Jeff Fuller