3 expert tips for training a hunting dog during the off season


Hunting season is often too busy to address bad habits your dog might have picked up during the rest of the year. That makes the off-season the perfect time to fix problems and instill new skills. Follow these training tips and your dog will be ready to hunt when next season rolls along.



When it’s too cold to go outside, indoor games can exercise a dog’s brain and help him burn energy. And since dogs are always eager to work for rewards, turn play into mini-training sessions. Hide treats for your dog to find, for example, but make him wait before letting him eat what he finds, which teaches steadiness. Teaching your pooch parlour tricks, such as how shake a paw, is also a good idea. While it doesn’t directly enhance hunting skills, it at least stimulates new learning and it may prove handy if administering foot first-aid.



Heeling is an essential obedience skill every dog must learn, both on and off the leash. As for which side the dog heels on, does it matter? Definitely. Heeling on the non-dominant side—left for right-handed shooters and vice versa for southpaws—makes sense for both practical and safety reasons. In a blind, for example, the dog will be subject to ejected shells and more muzzle blast if it heels on the ejecting side. Teaching it to heel on the opposite side, your non-dominant, fixes that. Enforce heeling on winter walks, using treats to make it both fun and rewarding for the dog.


On-leash training during the winter is great for instilling obedience. In the interests of comfort and practicality, use a hands-free Jaeger lead, which tethers you to your dog via a shoulder strap. Useful for many training and handling applications, the Jaeger lead (pictured) can also be used as a temporary tie-out to secure your dog, thanks to the fasteners on both ends and the floating O-ring.