Socialization For A Gundog

In today’s world of technology, I feel we are spending much more time e-mailing and texting with one another. Actually talking to people seems like a rarity. It’s as though humans have lost some one-on-one communication skills. The act of talking to someone in person, even over the phone, is quickly becoming a lost skill. Our socialization skills are on a downfall!

I have personally witnessed this in my business of training dogs when people will e-mail numerous times with questions, and each time I e-mail back, to please call me so we can discuss options. However, I still get one or two e-mails prior to an actual conversation.  

Family events with other dogs make great socializing opportunities for new gundogs.

While the lack of personal communication seems inevitable with people, we still must make an effort to communicate with our dogs, especially puppies, to ensure a better hunting dog and pet. 

Let’s begin with taking a 7- or 8-week-old puppy home. The most important thing you can first do with any young gundog is getting it outdoors a lot. Obviously your pup will get introduced to your house and yard with you and your family; however, I tell owners to make conscious efforts to take their puppy on car rides, walks in parks and to any other event that includes other people and/or dogs.

Go To Obedience Class
One event that will kill two birds with one stone is a puppy obedience class. Now these are normally conducted at a pet store by employees or trainers, but some community programs are available. Many kennels will conduct them as well and they can be a great training tool for any young dog. These classes not only will teach you, the owner, basic fundamentals on training, but just as important, introduces your puppy to a new environment with other people and dogs. Don’t feel bad if your dog may not do well with the obedience part of things, since the socialization aspect is as important as any commands your dog will learn. The optimum age for these classes range between 4- and 8 months of age.

Leaving your dog with a professional is another ideal way to help your dog mature. This too can get you both socialization results, and some sort of training as well. I take dogs into our Bird and Gun Introduction program as early as 20 weeks of age to get them introduced to live birds and also integrate gunfire. I always tell people that the getting away from your backyard is as important as the gun-breaking process that takes place during those two weeks. One nice thing we do is not only work dogs individually, but as a group as well. The “competition factor” that is created by working dogs in a group not only generates desire, but acts as a great atmosphere for getting along with other dogs.

Programs offering training can often benefit young dogs with a competition factor.

Following these types of programs the socializing should continue by getting your dog to a game farm or preserve setting. Again, this should be an area that the dog is not familiar with and you can continue the bird work by flushing and shooting birds. I recommend making this first trip a short, successful one by only going out for about an hour. Putting out a half-dozen birds and possibly “flagging” them will ensure success. Don’t go with any other dogs at this point and maybe only take one buddy with to help shoot the birds. This should make sure not only your dog is successful, but you are too.

All these ideas are something that should be accomplished the first 6- to 8 months you have your puppy. You have just a small window of opportunity to get this done. Make sure you make the best of it by getting your dog in a variety of environments to help it get socialized. This will help make your future hunting partner a more mature gundog and will build confidence needed to be a great one!

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Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and more than 15 years experience as a dog trainer. He has turned many pets into expert hunting dogs at Cannon River Kennels (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) 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. If you have any questions, Jason can be reached at 507-663-6143 or visit (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/). He provides dog training tips twice a month.

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