This time of the year is when every hunter is looking into buying new equipment in preparation for the upcoming hunting seasons. Magazines and catalogs appear in mailboxes full of all the wants and needs for every outdoor enthusiast.
Gear such as guns, ammo, clothing, and other accessories are things that most guys concentrate on as they think about the fall that lies ahead. If any of your hunting also includes a gundog, you may want to consider some items that will get your hunting companion prepared for the season.
Gear such as a leash, choke chain, check cord, whistle, throwing dummies, dog vests, and a remote collar should be items on that list and should be used prior to hunting. Making sure you have them now will allow you time to get your dog used to them, which will make it easier for your gundog when it comes time to hunt.
Leash, Choke Chain
The leash and choke chain are the first things to consider. Spending time with your dog doing obedience drills will get him to understand that you are giving him commands, not requests. “Heel,” “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “kennel up” are essential teachings with these tools. If your dog does not know these commands in a drill setting, you can not expect your dog to understand them while hunting.
Simply put, a check cord is just a long leash. They range anywhere between 20- and 100 feet long. They will help get your dog to understand that you still have control of them even at long distances. The recall command of “come” should be worked on with this, and a check cord is probably a piece of training equipment that often gets overlooked. This long leash does not have to be expensive; I always use a 50-foot piece of boat tow rope with a snap swivel on one end since this type of material floats.
Screaming your lungs out when hunting can often make both you and your hunting buddies miserable. Whistles are often nice to have so you can avoid this! Again, introduction before hunting is a must and make sure you use both your leash, choke chain and check cord when training with a whistle. Common commands trained with a whistle are repeated whistle blasts for come, two whistle blasts for check back and a one whistle sit.
If you are expecting your dog to find and retrieve birds, and you do not have access to real or dead birds, dummies are a must. These can be thrown, planted or even shot out of releasers or training guns. If your dog does not do well with bringing them back to you, always go back to the check cord so he feels you have control. If you expect your dog to find or retrieve birds, make sure he has repetition with ths drill prior to opening day.
Here are some essential dog training tools that should be practiced with prior to the hunting season.
Keeping your dog both comfortable and safe should always be a priority. Dog vests have come a long way in the past 10 years. These vests are made out of materials such as neoprene for warmth and buoyancy for your duck dog. Orange vests made from Cordura may help your upland dog be more visible, and reduce wear and tear on his stomach. Either type should be introduced during drills or fun retrieving settings. It often takes time for a dog to get used to wearing one.
The most technical, and probably most expensive, pre-season investment would be a remote training collar. This, more than any other item mentioned, should be introduced at least four- to six weeks prior to the dog’s first hunting outing. Use it first as a dummy collar by not turning it on while the dog wears it. After a good week of wearing it during fun dummy retrieves, you can start light stimulus with your leash and choke chain work. Make sure to take things slowly and start on a low intensity level. Consulting a professional probably would be the best scenario with this process.
Good luck in the field this fall!
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Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and 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. For more information on training your dog with Cannon River Kennels, call 507-663-6143 or visit (http://www.cannonriverkennels.com/) He provides dog training/handling tips.