How To Build A Lasting, Working Relationship With Your Hunting Dog
By Katie Faulkner / Photography by Emily Long
All dog owners want obedient, well-behaved companions when they choose their pet. Hunters in particular are seeking canines who can carry out orders.
Roddy Reynolds, one of the area’s experts in dog training, has trained thousands of impressively obedient dogs in the past 35 years of his career. He is confident that any dog can be a well-trained hunting companion, so long as the owner is consistent in their involvement and message. And it all starts with the environment you establish as the owner.
Picking a Pup
According to Reynolds, nothing about breed or gender will determine whether your dog will be a good hunter or not. “Many people think certain breeds are better hunters than others, but honestly, breeds are less specific than we’re being told. Ultimately, the determining factor in whether or not your dog will be a good hunter is the type of training it receives,” Reynolds says.
When it’s time to select your dog, whether choosing from a litter or selecting a rescue, there are a few ways to pinpoint the most tenacious puppy in the bunch.
Toss bird feathers and see which puppy comes to them the fastest
Have them chase a toy or treat
Use a decoy or bird wing on a fishing rod to see which dog chases it with the most gusto
As far as physical fitness, Reynolds says the main areas you want to check are their eyes, elbows, and hips. However, at this young stage of life, you really can’t tell too much about those features. “The best thing you can do is visit them, see how they’re living and being raised, and find out anything you can about their family history. Even rescues will sometimes have information about their parents. But their parents’ health will be the best indicator of their health,” Reynolds explains.
Meeting and Bonding with Your Dog
Reynolds says the puppies they raise at Blowing Springs are usually ready to go home between 7 and 8 weeks of age. However, he strongly recommends meeting them earlier and spending time with them. “The sooner they learn who you are and the sooner you can learn how to communicate with them, the better that training bond will be,” he explains.
Body language is Reynolds’ preferred method of communication with pups. “Animals communicate through body language, so your dog will most easily understand that. When he or she is doing what you want them to and you’re happy with their behavior, the best way to communicate that is to leave them alone and let them continue. When their behavior needs modification, that is when you approach them and make them stop.”
Once you take your new partner home, it’s very important to spend as much time with them as possible.
Getting Off to a Good Start
Often when you come home with a small, adorable puppy, people’s instinct is to love on the puppy and buy it toys and treats. Reynolds suggests that these are not the priority, and that ideally, you would already have a plan established for training. That plan should involve you, the owner, at the very least, for preferred at-home behaviors.
Training should start immediately. “We start training on day two of a pup’s life. And what we’re teaching them that early is that there are behaviors we do and don’t like. We’re introducing them to the idea of humans and the idea that they have a job to do and a purpose. When dogs grow up to do that job well, they’re happy dogs,” Reynolds explains.
He also suggests keeping your new partner on a leash in the house because that teaches them to stay with you, and it allows you to easily correct unwanted behaviors, like chewing or jumping.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t love on your new friend! The way you build a bond with your dog is personal and priceless. But for a clear understanding of commands and your preferences, the earlier you work with them, the better.
Essentially, the hunting partner you end up with is determined by how much effort you put into their training. If you work with them constantly, not only are you building trust and bonding, you’re teaching them the ins and outs of working with you, which will translate to the field. SG