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 9 Tips for Training Hunting Dogs

  • 5/27/2015 10:49:00 AM
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9 tips for training hunting dogs | Iowa DNR

If you’ve brought home a new puppy this year or want to teach some new skills to your hunting companion, check out these tips on training dogs for hunting.

While there will always be variables based on the breed of dog, type of hunting and personal preference, these basics should help you prepare for a fun hunting season with your canine partner.

Also be sure to brush up on dog restrictions, found on page 35 of the Iowa Hunting Regulations, which includes information on vaccinations, restricted training areas from March 15 to July 15, required licenses and more.


Start with the basics.
Once your puppy is acclimated to its new home, start training by keeping it simple before moving on to more advanced hunting training – think sit, come, stay, heel. Don’t overdo it – at first, keep training sessions under 10 minutes and just a few times a day. Be consistent, use repetition, and give lots of praise to keep training fun and interesting for the puppy.

Be social.
Spend lots of time with your puppy, and be sure to introduce your pup to other people and dogs. Socializing your puppy is especially important if you plan to hunt with other people and dogs.

Think about timing.
Consider what seasons you’ll want to hunt with your dog and what age you’d like the dog to be at its first hunt. For example, puppies born in the spring are about six to eight months old when pheasant season opens. It also gives plenty of time for basic training before the season starts.

Dogs and puppies new to hunting

Do your homework.
Have a training plan and outline the goals you’d like to reach with your dog, so you can research the best ways to get there. By the time the season opens, your dog should know all the basic commands – like sit, stay, come, heel, etc. – and have had some work with retrieving and have been exposed to the sound of gunfire. Introduce the dog to decoys and calls long before the season starts. You may also want to have the dog work with live pen birds (see page 35 of the Iowa Hunting Regulations for more information).

Go solo.
Try not to take a dog new to hunting out with other hunters and dogs at first – let the attention be on your dog so that you can give him or her lots of praise and time to work out the kinks.

Get in the field – a lot.
The best learning for a hunting dog is by doing. Get your new dog on as many birds as possible their first season. Expose new dogs – in a comfortable setting – to as many sights, sounds, and smells as possible for the first few months, so they won’t be scared of those situations in the future.

Be consistent but not harsh.
When you give your dog a command, give praise when they follow through. If not, make them follow the command – too much leeway will only make training harder – but don’t be too harsh. Be patient but persistent.

Keep it real (and interesting).
Make training scenarios as close to hunting in the field as you can. Don’t wait for opening day to take your pup on the duck boat for the first time, for example. But make sure it’s not just the same thing every time. Keep your dog guessing with different types of hunting training sessions so they don’t get bored.

Know your dog.
Be sure to keep things fun, as dogs can easily key in on your emotions. If you’re tired, frustrated and had a rough day, it’s not a good time to train your dog. Be ready to be patient and enthusiastic for an effective training session. Just as your dog can read your emotions, be able to know how your pup is feeling. If you see signs that your dog is scared, frustrated or bored, it’s time to wrap up training and try again another time.

Be sure to brush up on regulations for hunting with dogs in Iowa, and check out our Iowa Hunting board on Pinterest.

9 tips for training hunting dogs | Iowa DNR