Common Hunting Dog Training Mistakes: Not Having the Right Supplies

Common Hunting Dog Training Mistakes: Not Having the Right Supplies

Having the correct equipment makes dog training much easier

Mistake #1:  Not kennel training your dog
When it comes time to take your dog on your first hunting or training trip into the field, your pet should always travel in a safe crate.  One of the most important hunting dog supplies is a durable crate which will keep your pet safe during travel, especially when driving through areas that require four wheel drive.  A kennel will also contain your pet during times when you need him or her to stay put, such as during emergencies.

Mistake #2:  Not properly socializing your dog to gun shots
A gun shy dog is one of the worst fates that can befall a hunter.  However, many owners do not properly condition their dogs to accept the sound of gunfire overhead.  An important hunting dog training item are blanks or poppers which are beneficial as you slowly transition your dog towards accepting louder and louder noises. 

Mistake #3:  Starting with an electronic collar
An e-collar is considered by many to be indispensable among the list of hunting dog training supplies, however, it is not appropriate to put an e-collar on your dog the moment you begin training.  Owners should work through a variety of training methods, starting with a check cord, working up to a pinch collar, and then finishing with an electronic collar. Consult the help of a professional dog trainer if you are unsure of the use of an e-collar.

Mistake #4:  Not giving your dog enough independence
It can be easy to micromanage the training of our dogs, either because we are afraid of losing them in the field or because we want to control every single aspect of the experience.  However, many dogs learn best when they make their own mistakes, such as coming upon a skunk or porcupine on their own. When a hunter is overly concerned with losing a dog, its range in the field is severely limited.  For these pets, a tracking collar is a necessary hunting dog training supply as it provides the owner peace of mind while giving the dog an opportunity to truly learn.

Mistake #5:  Not building a strong obedience foundation
By far one of the most common hunting dog training mistakes is to not build a solid enough foundation in obedience before moving onto hunting drills and exercises.  If your dog cannot master recall in a controlled environment, he or she will greatly struggle when placed in a field with unlimited distractions and the reward of a downed bird.  If you need tips on starting your dog’s training, training-specific books and DVDs can help guide you through this important step.

Dog Training Myths

Dog Training Myths

There are many theories regarding the proper way to train a dog, with certain ideas having more credibility than others.  Here, a number of dog training myths will be discussed, as well as the corresponding facts. 

Myth #1:  A dog that is slow-to-learn has an underlying behavioral problem.   

Fact:  Dog owners who are struggling to teach their pet a command often blame factors such as dominance, stubbornness, or low intelligence on their dog’s deficiencies.  Instead, owners should realize that dogs are individuals, just like humans.  Most commonly, dogs that are slow to learn simply need to be communicated with in a different way.  Other hindrances to training include lack of consistency, poor reward timing, and too high of expectations.  Oftentimes, the problem simply needs to be addressed from the dog’s point of view, or for the command broken up into smaller steps.  Finally, it is also important to consider the dog’s individual needs.  For instance, a senior pet with arthritis might have difficulty sitting on command. 

Myth #2:  Dogs look guilty when they have done something wrong.

Fact:  Even though dog shaming photos make it look like dogs experience guilt similar to humans, the fact is that dog owners have a tendency to attribute human thoughts, feelings, and emotions to their pet.  In reality, dogs are adept at modifying their behaviors in response to a human’s body language and tone of voice.  For instance, your dog has learned that when he or she behaves a certain way in response to your emotions, you are less likely to punish your pet, and more likely to say, “you’re lucky you’re cute.”  

Myth #3:  Puppies can’t be trained until 6 months of age.

Fact:  The answer to this myth depends on the type of training you intend to use.  It is true that aversive techniques such as an electronic collar, choke chain, or prong collar generally should not be used on a dog until it is old enough to understand correction, as well as strong enough to withstand it.  However, positive reinforcement training can begin from as early an age as possible.  In fact, dog owners who do not begin training and socialization their pet early will experience setbacks. 

Myth #4:  Positive reinforcement training does not work for all dogs.

Fact:  Some dog owners believe that positive reinforcement training is only useful for dogs with submissive, eager-to-please personalities.  However, positive training can be used for all types of pets.  In fact, positive reinforcement training is the most common method for “dangerous” animals, such as lions, tigers, bears, and whales.  Animal behavioral research has even indicated that the use of aversive methods on aggressive, anxious, or fearful dogs can result in the worsening of these behaviors, whereas positive reinforcement training improves a dog’s confidence, as well as strengthens the dog / owner bond.  

Myth #5:  Dogs display bad behaviors to show dominance.  

Fact:  Dog owners are often mistakenly led to believe that behaviors such as leash pulling, jumping on the bed, or any form of bad behavior is due to the animal attempting to assert dominance over its owner.  In reality, dogs display bad behaviors because they have been rewarded, either consciously or subconsciously.  For instance, a dog that jumps on humans has learned that this behavior is okay, either via petting or attention (good or bad).  Dogs that sleep on bed pillows simply do so because it is more comfortable than the floor.  Instead of assuming that your dog is plotting ways to assert power dynamics, consider what reward your dog has received from the bad behavior, and seek to eliminate it.  

Myth #6:  Food rewards create bad habits.  

Fact:  Some dog trainers believe that food can create more problems than they solve.  For instance, the use of high value rewards, such as cheese or hot dogs, is sometimes discouraged because of the mistaken belief that the dog will beg at the dinner table.  Others liken food rewards to bribery for good behavior, while some owners worry that their dogs will only behave when they have a treat in hand.

With proper use of treats, none of these scenarios are true.  An animal will only beg if it is accustomed to receiving something for nothing.  On the other hand, your dog is more likely to sit patiently and quietly if accustomed to being rewarded for good behavior.  Additionally, treats are not a form of “bribery” when training a dog.  Instead, they provide the necessary motivation for a pet to continue a training session, the same as humans are motivated by their salaries to go to work.  Finally, in order for dogs to perform a command without the promise of a treat, food rewards must be properly phased from training. 

Myth #7:  My dog should be eager to please me, and not care about reward.

Fact:  Each dog has its own individual personality.  While some dogs do have an overwhelming desire to please their owners, all dogs ultimately make decisions based on what is in their best interest.  This myth is dangerous because it can lead dog owners to believe that reward or reinforcement is not necessary.  However, training a dog without proper reinforcement can result in an animal that is difficult to train.

Myth #8:  Old dogs can’t learn new tricks.

Fact:  Dogs of all ages can be trained.  In many ways, training older dogs is easier than training puppies, as they tend to have a longer attention span and are more adept at communicating with humans.  However, reversing an older dog’s bad behaviors does require additional patience, but can ultimately be achieved.   

Myth #9:  Dogs retaliate by pottying in the house

Fact:  If you have ever returned home to find that your dog has urinated on your bed, it can be tempting to assume that your pet was mad at you and retaliated for leaving him or her home alone.  While dogs are intelligent animals, they do not plot complex acts, such as revenge.  Instead, you should consider that your dog has an underlying medical condition; is displaying signs of separation anxiety; was left home alone too long without a potty break; or is not completely housetrained.  

Myth #10:  Dog owners should never play tug of war with their pets.  

Fact:  Tug of war, like any game that is played with a pet, is beneficial so long as the proper rules are followed.  Never allow your dog to be mouthy and bite at your hands or arms.  Your dog should also know the “drop it” command, and should always respect when you decide that playtime is over.  Only when these rules are not followed is tug of war (or any other game) detrimental to a dog’s behavioral training.  

Myth #11:  Dogs should be trained using pack theory

Fact:  Since dogs are descended from wolves, some dog owners and dog trainers believe that canines should be trained using wolf pack theories.  However, dogs have evolved to the point that there are significant differences between dog and wolf behavior.  Instead, positive reinforcement training that ignores dominance theory is recommended.  

It always recommend that if you are having problems that you feel are getting out of control that you consult the assistance of a professional dog trainer for assistance. Allot of times it is just a simple change in habit that is needed.

American Labs vs. British Labs

American Labs vs. British Labs

Labrador retrievers are the quintessential dog, loved by both families and hunters alike.  Indeed, for more than 24 years the Labrador retriever has been the most popular breed in the United States, per the American Kennel Club.  This trend is seen in the UK as well, as the UK Kennel Club reports the lab has the highest registration numbers of all gun dogs. Incredibly versatile, the Labrador retriever can be used in the field, but also in settings such as Seeing Eye and therapy dogs, as well.   Regardless of the universal love of labs, most of the world (particularly hunters) are divided. Some prefer the British lab, while others decidedly love the American lab. The difference between these two types of retrievers will be described here.

The British (or English) Lab has a stockier build than its lanky, American counterpart.  A British Lab stands 21.5 – 22.5’’ tall, while the American Lab stands taller at 21.5 – 24.5’’ at the shoulder.  The British Lab has a wider build with a fuller chest, thicker neck, shorter legs, and a more clearly defined forehead stop.  The American version, on the other hand, has a narrower head, longer legs, longer muzzle, and a more agile build. Whereas the British Lab is built like a rugby player, the American Lab looks more like a track athlete.

An easily distinguished feature of the American Lab is the tail, which is frequently thinner and tends to curve upwards.  The British Lab, on the other hand, has a tail that is thick and straight. British Labs have denser coats, but commonly weigh less than American Labs.  Male British Labs range 70 – 74 lbs (females top out around 55 lbs) while American Labs often weigh 10 – 20 lbs more.

Of course, there are plenty of similarities between the two types of Labs.  For instance, both have water-resistant double coats. There are three recognized colors of Labs:  black, yellow, and chocolate. For both the British and American Lab, the black coat is most common.  Interestingly, there are fewer chocolate British Labs than American ones.

From a temperament perspective, there are a number of differences between the two types of dogs.  British Labs have a tendency to be calmer, quieter, and less active than their American counterparts.  However, American Labs tend to have more energy and a greater hunting drive.

Despite these differences, both types of Labs have the same origin, which is the Newfoundland St. John’s water dog.  This breed was used originally used for helping pull fishing nets back to shore in the 1800’s. While the UK and US recognized the breed at different times (1903 and 1917, respectively), neither governing body recognizes a difference between the two Lab types or lineages.  

How did the differences between the two types of Labs arise?  The difference stems from geographical differences in training and hunting.  For instance, British field hunting history involved large events involving hundreds of birds over the course of many days.  For these large scale shoots dogs were expected to be quiet, controlled, and excel at finding game.

In America, the Lab’s job description is slightly different.  Here, more versatility is required due to differences in region, climate, and game species.  The European-style shoots led to hunt tests and field trials in America, which required a decidedly more athletic dog with a stronger drive.  As a result, the physical characteristics of the Labs bred in America changed in order to fit these needs.

At the end of the day, there are few differences between what the two types of dogs can accomplish when well trained.  During late season hunts, the enhanced drive of the American Lab can be advantageous, but overall the two dogs are more similar than most people realize.  Some people believe that British Labs are easier to train due to their calmer demeanor, but that point is often hotly debated because a softer dog might not take discipline as well.  Overall, both types of Labrador retriever makes a great family dog.

When purchasing a Lab, British or American, health should be the most important focus.  Breeders should stress eye, hip, and elbow health. Hunters should also do their research and find the breeder whose dogs most closely suit their needs.  Some breeders produce dogs for the show ring, while others for the field. This difference can be monumental when a hunter is trying to develop a show ring dog – one that tends to be bulkier and less athletic – for hunting waterfowl.