Trainer's Tips

First 6 months for a young hunting dog.

Filed under: traininghunting dogs

I find many owners of new hunting dog puppies are uncertain how much and what type of training to expose the dog to in the first 6 months or so. In a lot of cases the owner gets in too much of  a hurry and creates problems that need to be addressed later. Here is my suggestions on what to work on in the first 6 months of a young hunting dog.


Starting your hunting dog the right way-The first 6 months

The most important thing is what I call the Grateful Dead tour. Expose them to as many different sights, sounds and smells as possible. The more places you can take them to, the less chance of them being timid around new things.

  • Teach them to walk with you on a leash. After 12 weeks if the puppy pulls back just keep walking, they will figure it out. The idea is to get them used to going with pressure. With active, bold pups I will tie them to a fence post with a 6’ leash and let them figure out they cannot pull the post out of the ground. Be sure to stay with them so they do not hurt themselves when you do this.
  • Dogs are real receptive to your tone of voice, loud and critical tones make the pup think he has done something wrong. Remember we want instill confidence and cooperation and not fear in the relationship.
  • DO NOT ATTEMPT TO GUN BREAK A DOG YOUNGER THAN 9 MONTHS. Avoid creating loud noises and shooting guns around young dogs. This is the biggest mistake I find people make with young dogs. Realistically you will not be hunting the dog until it is over 12 months of age so why get in a hurry to expose it to loud noises. Especially with birds involved as they could start blinking birds and avoiding contact with them as they feel the birds are causing the loud noise.
  • Expose them to water. Do not force them into a pond or a stream, if they like retrieving throw a paint roller or other light object that floats just far enough where they cannot reach it and let them decide to swim out and attempt to get it. That way they decide about water.

Basic Commands I work on

  • “Here”-Be careful not to say “here” unless you have a way to reinforce it. Too often the puppy gets used to not having to come when called and develops a negative habit.
  • “Wait” – Use this when going in and out of doors, doorways etc. The intent is to teach the puppy to stand still until you release them.  This starts them on cooperating with you and can be a great building block for later training.  Keep the sessions short, 5 minutes probably is best.
  • “Kennel” – Use this command when telling your pup to get into their crate of kennel if you have one.  I will often put the pup’s food in the kennel so there is a positive incentive for them to go in. When you first start training this be careful to not leave them in the kennel or crate for an more than an hour or 2 and then let them out.
  • “Fetch” – This is a great time to bring out their natural retrieving instincts. I use beanie babies as they are soft, make a little racket and cheap to buy if one gets torn open.