Spring is the season of growth and renewal. It’s also the ideal time to start refreshing your hunting dog’s basic training drills, giving you both time to be at the top of your game come fall. Here’s what to work on.
Start by reviewing the basic commands: no, sit, heal, come and stay. The latter two are the hardest to reinforce in an excited dog, but the others shouldn’t take too much work since they should be used every day anyway. Next, work on those additional commands—such as kennel, down and place—for guiding your dog in the field. Consistency is the key for both young and old dogs.
Whistle training is essential for hunters who want to communicate with their dogs from a distance. A single whistle blast signals “stop and wait,” while multiple blasts mean “come here now.” To teach this, give your dog the verbal command followed by the corresponding whistle. If needed, a tug on a leash (or a longer check cord) will remind it what to do. It shouldn’t take long for the dog to obey the whistle commands without the reinforcement.
Since you can’t hurl a training bumper very far, a dog can inadvertently become conditioned to thinking all retrieves are unrealistically close. Avoid this by having a helper positioned further away to throw the bumper, or use a dummy launcher.
Encourage your dog to work in heavy cover by hiding a scented bumper among cattails or in heavy brush. Start just in from the edge of the cover, then move the bumper deeper as the dog gets the hang of it. Once the dog has mastered a single retrieve, advance to doubles and triples.