|Spending time training your bird dog in the off season will pay big dividends on opening day.
A well trained bird dog can be a hunter’s most valuable tool. However, unlike your favorite shotgun, your dog cannot be stored away until next season. Your four-legged hunting partner requires exercise, training, and care if it is going to continue bringing birds to hand. Implement these 5 training tips now to ensure continued success and obedience in the field.
1. Dedicate the Time
Next season may seem eons away, but it will roll around again before you know it. Don’t forget your dog and allow it to lose its edge. Training sessions must continue throughout the off season if you expect to have control of your dog on opening day. Spend time with your dog several times a week for 20 or 30 minutes to keep it sharp. Short daily sessions are even better. Use the same commands you utilize during hunting season.
|Dummy training is not only great exercise, it helps your dog maintain a good eye for trajectory and marking.
2. Drill with Dummies
Launching a high-quality training dummy helps your dog maintain a good eye for trajectory and marking. These sessions will be fun for you and your dog, which keeps your connection to one another strong. The exercise will also maintain your dog’s muscle tone and deplete any pent-up energy. Include dummy training in your regimen several times a week.
3. Fire Away
Waiting until opening day of bird season to fire your gun around your dog may bring unpleasant surprises for both of you. The dog may flinch or break, which in turn breaks concentration and enjoyment of the hunt. Fire your shotgun around your dog on a regular basis. Shoot while the dog is playing, and it will soon become accustomed to the loud noise. Incorporating shooting into your dummy drills can also add realism to your training efforts.
4. Practice Peace & Quiet
Play times are great fun for you and your dog. However, interjecting discipline training into the routine is necessary to let your dog know it must respond to commands. In the course of the off season, regularly use whatever term you use for “whoa.” Practice makes perfect.
Having your dog sit by you quietly for short periods of time is another way to reinforce control. Repeating the process of allowing your dog to run and then return to sit will teach it to stay within range. This practice will prevent dogs from flushing birds out of range when the season arrives.
5. Make a Stink
As the next bird season approaches, it is a good idea to begin adding scent to the training sessions. There are a number of commercial scents available that may be used in conjunction with training dummies or feathers. Frozen bird carcasses from a previous season will work, but an easier approach is to simply tape a wing to a bumper. Regardless, the idea is to acclimatize your dog to the aroma of birds in preparation for the upcoming bird season.
To follow a disciplined and strenuous training regimen your dog will need a high-caliber, high-nutrition diet. Find out how to make the right food choice here.