Laying the foundations of our future hunting dog is not an easy task. How to socialize him with the environment, humans and other dogs? What are the imprescidible commands you must learn to obey? How and when to take him hunting? This guide answers the big questions we ask ourselves when a new puppy comes to our pack.
By Víctor Esandi (Canine Trainer)
Studies in canine psychology and analysis of the growth, behavior and development of our puppies have determined novel techniques of education and training, demonstrating that some past approaches could be negative in its development as hunting dogs. These are the new guidelines for canine training.
1-. Socialize it with the medium
Walking them through the countryside and the city will help them balance your emotions and create positive relationships. A puppy that lives in a kennel, an orchard, a residence or our own home and that only grows up in that environment is like a child who spends his childhood in a town of about 100 inhabitants and from which his parents have never taken him to know another environment, other people, other ways of living.
The most normal thing is that when that child, already older, goes out to know the world everything will cause fear, something that can mark his personality, making him shy and withdrawn, and his life when it comes to relating.
We must offer our puppies the greater number of sensory experiences taking into account, as I always say, that their learning and intelligence is only associative: that is, always learn through experience. It is useless to try to explain to him what he should or should not do, since he does not understand our language.
We must, instead, offer them the greatest number of experiences to facilitate their ability to adapt to any terrain and situation. A clear example can be found in the scholarship hunting dogs, where the terrain is usually wooded and full of firewood, which hinders any action as well as visibility over long distances.
2-. Offer the greatest number of experiences
A dog, even adult and with experience in other modalities and other terrains that we suddenly want to put to hunting scholarships, it is very possible that it will take us a long time to adapt to this new terrain and that it hunts at its maximum level, since the new situation generates in the new insecurities that prevents it from taking the necessary search distances and the necessary concentration in the search for it to be effective.
It is not uncommon that many of these dogs have to be discarded for this modality for not having socialized them with this medium being puppies. The conclusion: offer them the greatest number of experiences and in different scenarios. In this way you will have companions with great adaptability and capacity for resolution.
3-. Let him interact with the children
Pet and play with our puppies, as well as let children interact with them, it will help them in their growth and to build a good relationship with us. It is proven that one of the guidelines that govern and direct the life of our dogs, whether hunting or not, is, in the first place, their gregarious character, that is, their herd way of life, being able to adopt almost any species as part of its family.
An example is that of the Mastiffs, to which it is enough to introduce from puppies in the cattle so that it directly becomes its herd and, therefore, defend it to the death against any external aggression. Both we and other dogs that we have and with which we live will go directly to be the pack of our hunting dogs, being able to give without any problem a pack of two, that is, my dog and me.
4-. Establish a good hierarchy
Create with them a close relationship from puppies, feed them, walk them, play, reward and capitalize on those actions that we like, as well as punish or ignore those that do not, will serve to establish a perfect bond and help us in the face of the other guideline that governs their life: the hierarchy. On this concept its social structure is based: a dog is born to occupy a status within the pack in which we must occupy, without a doubt, the rank of leader.
To do this no physical punishment is necessary, although clashes between them are frequent to claim their social position. Feeding them, setting guidelines, educating them and, finally, training them are actions that will grant us the obligatory status that we must occupy if we want it to obey us and, as it is colloquially said, hunt for us.
5-. Prepare the 'tools'
Teach them from puppies to walk from the strap and flexi, using taste rewards as positive reinforcements and handling the whistle as a method of understanding and communication will allow us to establish the first guidelines of hierarchy necessary in their lives.
As for the leash, teaching our puppies to walk from it is one of the best exercises that we have to perform with our companions.
When we talk about flexi we refer to an extendable leash that is ideal for educating hunting dogs. Its use is similar to that of a conventional strap, but it allows us the advantage of being able to work with it at different distances, even up to ten meters, and, in addition, it offers our partner a very positive feeling of semi-freedom for his habituation to this tool and handling. The best for the field are the rope ones, since, unlike the ribbon ones, they hardly get entangled with the vegetation.
6-. Make good use of the strap
This umbilical cord, which unites us to our dog and by which we tell him how, at what speed and where he has to go, will begin to mark in his life the hierarchy necessary for him to end up being an obedient animal and, as colloquially said, hunt for us.
This simple exercise of control in any situation will also be the future basis to solve any problem that may arise, such as a poor sample or a bad charge, and the foundations in the early phases of training.
However, we must not neglect: misuse of this tool it can derail all of the above. Who has not had, has or knows the typical dog that, when put on the leash, pulls it and drags us to where he wants? Then we ask ourselves: who walks whom? Who rules over whom?
For this not to happen we must teach him to walk without pulling the leash, in the direction we choose and at the speed we decide. To achieve this it is essential to put a name to the exercise – I use the command 'together' – and keep perfectly balanced the corrections and negative reinforcements with the prizes, both verbal and gustatory, with which we will reward you when you are walking next to us without pulling the leash.
7-. Use the whistle correctly
Teaching the exercises through whistle commands allows us several advantages over verbal ones, such as the distance at which you can hear our order at the same time that we do not alert the pieces or cause their flight.
This tool allows us to give the orders always in the same tones and structures, which will favor a better understanding and execution of the exercise by our student. Depending on the number of touches and their intensity we will be giving you a specific order. I use it as follows: a long touch (piiiiiiiiiiiiii) it means, 'come here'; a short one (pi), 'you have no orders, go hunting'; two short films (pi pi), 'tour'; a strong and vibrant one, (pririririririririririri), 'still'..
8-. Avoid false beliefs: only real experiences
A widespread mistake is to try to teach a puppy to make the sample or to 'get his instincts' by getting his attention with the typical cane or butterfly, moving the feathers and removing it when he pounces on them without being able to catch him.
The sample is not an instinct, but a neurological mechanism that has only been developed in the so-called sample breeds. Many popular beliefs can negatively affect the growth of our puppies and their future behavior during our hunting days.
Besides the cane or butterfly, the early collection of parts without a verified sample, the pieces cut ... they can be the cause of serious problems in the future hunting actions of our four-legged companions. In reality, these are popular beliefs without any basis that require very little effort and that do not take into account the consequences: if they do not bear the expected fruits, the answer is simple, the fault is always our dog.
9-. Encourage a good sample
We must expose him to hunting with real experiences, with escapes from the pieces. That is, the most important thing to capitalize on a good sample is that the dog understands that by himself, and even counting on his attack speed, that he can not catch the piece: this way he will reach the conclusion that through a perfect sample, counting on our help and the shot, is how he can achieve his goal.
If we offer him the best of prizes, that is, to catch the piece, without having done all the previous work well we run the risk of learning to do it wrong, since despite this he has won the great reward.
10-. Name each order
As I describe this pattern in my book From riding to hunting, dogs have their own language, which is usually gesticulatory, guttural and visual. One thing that is clear is that it is nothing like ours. If we stop to reflect, we act with our dogs believing that they are born knowing all languages, that no matter in which language we speak to them that they will understand us; and when they do not obey us we end up shouting the command or repeating it ad nauseam, as if it were deaf or dumb. Put yourselves in their place.
Imagine that someone gives you an order in a language you do not know and, if you do not obey him, he screams at you, does not stop repeating it or, in the worst case, even slaps you twice. The first thing to be able to obey is to understand what we are being commanded to do; and the same thing happens with our four-legged companions.
Teaching them our language is basic for the understanding and realization of any exercise, as well as naming each action or command. A very simple example: at the same time that we give the command 'turn', we turn around; seeing that we move away in another direction will turn around so as not to get lost. Thus, based on repetitions, it will associate the 'turn' sound with turning around. As I explained before, this is what their associative intelligence consists of.
11-. Take him out hunting when he's ready
It is an answer that it will always depend on each dog, but the seven months it is the middle age to start our puppy in hunting. He has already 'cast body' and, most importantly, his brain is already prepared to assimilate and analyze hunting actions.
In this phase of your life they are like sponges, so beware: they will learn both good and bad things. I tell you a couple of practical examples. If we hunt a partridge that has pounced after locating it and a short sample – which is the most common in the first experiences – the most normal thing is that our partner learns to throw himself for the pieces without holding well sample, since this method has given him good results.
If before working and verifying a perfect sample we dedicate ourselves to working the collection with real pieces, either dead or alicortadas, the information we are giving you is that the hunt can be caught without having to show it previously, so, when in hunting action, locate a piece, the most normal thing will be that instead of showing it try to catch it, because that's what we've taught him.
In the world of the dog and its training there are no magic formulas or miraculous tricks. Knowledge, first, work, patience and perseverance are the only tools that can ensure success. From all this, thousands of books could be written, almost as many as dogs and it is one of the guidelines that we have to take into account, never stop learning. I hope these lines help you to 'manufacture' great hunters. See you in the bush.
If you want to know more...
Victor Esandi, author of this article, is also of this manual in which he explains step by step everything necessary about the canine training of hunting dogs, especially sample: how to choose a puppy, the importance of a good socialization for its correct development, basic obedience exercises, the sample, the pattern, the guide, the cross search and the collection, how to use an electric impulse collar... If you want a copy, contact him via email [email protected]
The article 11 Guidelines for Training Your New Hunting Dog Correctly appears first in Jara and Sedal Magazine.