Hunting tips

Training puppies


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In my last blog I wrote about socialising your puppy and the areas you should focus on during your puppy’s first few days in your home. It is important to be clear with your puppy from day 1. If your dog knows the rules from the outset, this will make training much easier in future.

The good start your dog has been given at home must be utilised, and the transition to dedicated training can continue before your dog gets too old. That is why it is a good idea to start off with some puppy training from the age of about 11 or 12 weeks of age.

Be a clear master for your puppy

When you get a puppy, you enter into agreements beforehand on what your dog may and may not do. The next thing is to put this into practice!

Your puppy must know that he can trust his owner unconditionally, and he must know what he is allowed and not allowed to do right from the outset. Your puppy must have faith in you, and the good partnership between puppy and owner develops gradually. This is a source of enormous pleasure when dedicated hunt training begins.

It is important to meet the puppy’s need for the physical presence of his owner, and so you need to have lots of contact with him. Likewise, it is important to give your puppy some mental tasks to do, so give him a few little jobs to do around the home or in the garden.

Training puppies
Training puppies

Train your puppy with commands and your tone of voice

You must work out for yourself which commands you want your dog to learn. Short commands are best – keep it simple. “SIT”, “DOWN”, “STAY” and “NO” are good examples – and I always give my dogs short names that are easy to pronounce. When you are hunting or during trials, and things may be a little heated, your dog’s name must not contain too many syllables!

Your tone of voice is important – it must be firm and backed up with your body language. You should praise your dog when he does something right and tell him off when he does something you do not want him to do.

This will teach your dog the difference between good and bad behaviour. Most dogs try to please their owners, so they will do everything they can to follow your instructions.

How and when should I start training my puppy?

Define a few targets with training – hold lots of short training sessions – be consistent – always finish off on a high note.

The above can be used as objectives for all dog training. When you train your dog, it is important for you to be focused. Initially, train your dog one thing at a time and hold lots of short sessions, rather than going for a smaller number of longer sessions. It is important for your dog not to end up being worn out mentally.

You should try to avoid allowing your dog to “fail”. If they “win” once, they will carry on trying to win. That is why all training should start with something the dog is expected to be able to do, and then you calmly and quietly build on that.

If you try to do too much too soon, your dog will typically end up “getting stuck” and you will have to take one step back in your training. There are times when we train our dogs so much that they actually lose motivation and spirit.
The earlier dogs learn a few basic commands, the easier it will be to train them, and your dog will behave nicely with other people and other dogs.

Training puppies
Training puppies

What should my puppy learn?

  • His name
    The first thing you should train your dog is, of course, his name. When he comes towards you, say his name, praise him and give him a treat. He will follow you, and you have to make the most of this. Sit down frequently and call him to you. When he comes to you, praise him and give him a treat.

  • The “NO” command
    This is probably a word that you will say many, many times. It is simple and used when the dog does something you do not want him to do. Use a firm voice and be clear in your body language – your dog is doing something you do not want him to do!

  • The “STAY” command
    “Stay” is a command worth its weight in gold, and it can help keep your dog calm – both at home and elsewhere. Start by practising this when your dog is tired and wants to head for his bed. Place your dog in his bed, then if he tries to get back out, put him back in it and say “STAY”. If you like, you can combine this command with showing your dog a flat hand facing towards the ground.

    You can also practice this in combination with “SIT”, so when your dog sits, say “STAY” and then move slowly away from him. Start by moving 1-2 metres away, then go back and praise your dog. You might go 3-4 metres away next time, and so forth, so gradually increase the distance. If your dog gets up in order to come after you, “move” him back to where he came from.

  • The “SIT” command
    A command that I think is important, as I later set great store by always being able to stop dogs with a whistle. The first step when training dogs to “SIT” is to use treats. When your dog comes to you, hold a treat in your hand. Raise your hand, and when the dog sits, say “SIT” and give him the treat. Remember to praise your dog!

  • The “DOWN” command
    When your dog is familiar with the “SIT” command, the next step is “DOWN”. When your dog is sitting, hold a treat just in front of his nose. Move your hand slowly down towards the ground – the dog will follow your hand with his nose. When he follows your hand, he will automatically end up in the down position. Then say “DOWN” and give the dog his reward. When your dog knows how to do this, start off with the whistle – a long tone replaces the word “DOWN”.

    Be consistent when practising this. When your dog knows what the signal means, he MUST lie down. If he does not, you have to grab hold of the dog, put his lead on and take him to the place where he was when you gave the “DOWN” whistle. Therefore, train this in the garden or indoors, where the dog is unable to “cheat” you.

    One handy tip is to remember that the more tired your dog is, the more willing he will be to lie down.

  • Learn to walk on the lead
    We have all encountered dogs that pull on the lead, where the dog – not the owner – decides on the pace and where to go. Therefore, dogs should learn to follow their owner on a loose lead right from the outset. If you are to succeed in this, you need to be consistent again – and as the master you have to be patient in this regard.

    It may be a good idea to use a puppy harness instead of a collar when your dog is a puppy. When you go for a walk, STOP when your dog pulls. You have to do this every time!

    Do not continue walking until your dog is close to you again and the lead is loose. It may be a good idea to have treats with you so that your dog stays focused on you. It is a good idea to change direction so that the dog has to focus on the owner.

Best of luck with the initial training exercises – these are your first steps towards an obedient hunting dog.

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