Last-Minute Dog Training? Don’t Expect A Miracle

Being in the dog training business for more than 17 years, it still amazes me when people wait until fall to decide to make a move and attempt to get their dog trained.

I get phone calls with people asking questions such as, “What can you do with my 4-year-old hunting dog in one month?” It doesn’t matter if these dog owners are friends, family or total strangers, I would really like to be honest and ask them if they are joking.

Early season hunting is not the time to train your dog, this should be done prior to the season in a yard setting.

Now that the hunting season is here for some of us, or is soon approaching for others, if you happen to be one of the procrastinators with your hunting dog, keep one thing in perspective, you are probably too late to get the bests results for your dog. I don’t care who is working with your dog, trainers needtime to get good results!

A comparison I often use and mention to people is this one. If you were sending your teenager to Mexico for an extended stay, you could get the best Spanish teacher around to tutor the teenager, and they could do the best job possible, but how prolific will your kid’s communication skills be? Even if you have the most gifted child in school, and the teacher is the most renown in the state, kids still need old-fashioned time and repetition to learn! This theory especially holds true when it comes to dog training.

Trainers Need Time For Repetition
Since dogs learn through both positive and negative reinforcement, repetition is the key to their success. To get any real results, dog trainers needtime to make any gundog be effective in any hunting scenario. Starting with basic retrieving skills is always a good start. Then turning this retrieving desire, into “bird desire,” is a great transition. At this stage we can slowly integrate gunfire so that the dog makes a positive connection between the two, which usually takes a couple weeks. This however, is only the beginning phase to a quality hunting dog.

If this is accomplished, you now have to address the control issues with your dog. What I mean by this is you can have all the desire in the world, but if your dog has no structure to this desire, the dog’s drive could work against you. How many times has a pheasant hunter seen someone’s “great dog” flushing pheasants 200 yards ahead? Or had a dog in the duck boat break on ducks coming into the decoys only to flare them out of gun range? These are only two of many examples of how a dog’s desire can ruin a hunt.

Getting control of a dog’s enthusiasm is again based on spendingtime with the dogprior to the hunting season. Starting with a choke chain and leash and working on commands such as “come,” “sit,” “stay,” “kennel,” “fetch,” “hold,” and “drop” is usually the best way to establish control. Doing this in a controlled setting, not a hunting setting, will ensure that when your dog challenges you, have the means of using both negative reinforcement (corrections with choke chain) and positive reinforcement (praise) so your dog can learn.

Your dog trainer may know certain tricks that helps get these things accomplished, but he or she too needs repetition to get good results. Remembering that dogs learn through both positive and negative reinforcement, the moretime anyone can work with a dog, the better chance that dog will meet its potential.

Again, if you have waited until the season is about to open to begin this process, don’t expect a miracle, just because you have the greatest dog or best dog trainer!

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Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and more than 17 years experience as a dog trainer. He has turned many pets into expert hunting dogs at Cannon River Kennels ( In addition to training hundreds of hunting companions, he has trained dogs for premier pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota along with duck hunting lodges in Mississippi and Mexico. His experience also includes both hunting and guiding for upland and waterfowl game from Canada to South America. For more information on training your dog with Cannon River Kennels, call 507-663-6143 or visit ( He provides dog training/handling tips.

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