Training Your Instinctual Hunting Dog

Many people ask me how I train my dogs for hunting. But the truth is, with this type of hunting (open field coursing) the actual training part is very minimal and is more about your dog’s instinctual abilities and experience.

One of the biggest parts of training our dogs in the field is the recall. It is always important that your dog learn “come,” especially when your dog will be off lead. We start training their recall very early (8-10 weeks old). One of the easiest ways is to carry treats with you in the field, then hide behind a bush and call them. Once the puppy finds you, praise them a lot and give them a treat. It is good for them to learn that while out in the field, they should always be aware of where you are. This recall training should be constantly reinforced at home as well.

Our dogs will chase their hares very far (sometimes a couple miles away), and this is where the instinctual senses kick in for them. It is helpful for young dogs to run with experienced dogs so that they have someone to follow back, but for the most part, a dog’s sense of direction is instinctual. They use the shadows from the sun, sight, sound, and smell to find their way back to you. When training your puppy or young dog, it is important that in the beginning, you use a whistle to signal to them where you are. A whistle travels much farther than your voice, and in case of emergency situations where your dog might get confused or lost; it is helpful to have them whistle trained.

Still, most of your dog’s training comes with experience. They will learn that after a long course, you are the one that has the water; therefore you will always be a source that they will want to return to. If they get turned around, they will learn to stop and listen for your whistle to reorient themselves.

Just remember, your dog’s ability to hunt is instinctual, that instinct is supported by training, which in turn is strengthened by reinforcement, experience, and conditioning.

How has experience helped your puppy’s hunting ability?

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Puppy Proofing Your Yard

Puppies are very small, very curious, very mischievous, and love to get into everything! Because of this, making sure your yard is safe for your new puppy is very important and must be done prior to acquiring your pup. There are many potential dangers for a puppy in a backyard, and it is your responsibility to make it a safe area for them to be in!

  • First thing to do to ensure that your puppy cannot escape from your yard is to walk your yard’s perimeter. Make sure there are no holes in the fence or places where they could squeeze underneath. If you come across any, reinforce with more fencing or block with cinder blocks. You would be surprised at how small of an area your puppy can fit out of, so better to be safe than sorry!
  • You want to make sure that you have at least 6 foot fencing (for medium-large dogs) for when they get older because they will be able to jump over shorter fences!
  • It’s always a good idea to have locks on any gates that enter your yard, that way you always know it is secure (sometimes the gas company will just waltz into your yard if that is where your meter is and they could leave the gate accidentally open).
  • Make sure there is nowhere under the house or under a porch that the puppy can crawl under. Many times this can result in injury, or there might be dangerous things under there such as nails, snakes, or poisonous spiders.
  • Your puppy will most likely try to “taste” everything in your yard, therefore, it is important that you know what plants you have growing in order to make sure nothing is poisonous to dogs.
  • Your puppy might also chew on exposed sprinkler lines (not fun to fix!) or garden hoses so make sure anything that you don’t want being chewed on is up out of the way!
  • If you have a pool, make sure that you have a fence around it to block it off from the puppy, or you have your puppy in a separate area than the pool. If you plan on having them around the pool, make sure you train your puppy on how to swim to the steps in order to climb out of it in case they fall in. Either way, your puppy should never be unsupervised around a pool.

Is there anything else you do to puppy proof your yard?

Product Review – Pet Hub’s Quick Response ID Tag

I just received a Quick Response ID Tag from Pet Hub for my new puppy, Fāza! These are really cool tags that use modern technology to help lost dogs find their way home. What these pet ID tags use is a graphic called “quick response barcode” or “QR code” which smartphones can scan to receive information.

These QR codes have become well known and companies have been utilizing them as advertising tools. You must have a scanner app or QR code reader app installed in your phone in order to utilize these barcodes. I personally like “Scan” for the iPhone, which is a free application.

When someone scans your dog’s tag, it will come up with a profile of your dog. You can edit your dog’s profile on Pet Hub’s website and include a picture of your dog and any other personal information you think necessary. On the profile is also an area to put medical information (such as vaccination details or seizure alerts), dietary needs (such as allergies), and list your veterinarian. This is great because not only do you have identification and contact information, you also have recent vaccination details, all in one tag!

There are three different levels you can choose from through Pet Hub. The Bronze level which is free; this level offers an online pet profile, and a 24/7 Found Pet Hotline. The Silver level is only about $40/year and offers all that is in the Bronze, plus an “Amber Alert” system that sends out an alert of your pet’s information to local shelters, and email alerts with GPS mapping which is really awesome! If anyone scans your pet’s tag, an email notification is sent to you along with a GPS map of where your pet’s tag was scanned! The Gold level (about $50/year) offers all of the Bronze and Silver programs, plus added insurance ($3000 of emergency coverage if your pet is injured while lost).

I will most likely stick with the Bronze membership (possible Silver if I buy more of these tags for my other pets as well) because I plan on micochipping my new puppy and registering her through HomeAgain which also offers insurance if she is injured while she is lost.

I suggest you always have ID tags on your pets if you take them anywhere (QR coded or not!) and I also highly suggest microchipping your dog (see your veterinarian for details!).

Thank you to Dog Splendor Blog for hosting this awesome giveaway, and thank you to Pet Hub for providing this wonderful tag for my new pup!

Potty Training Your New Puppy (With a Bell!)

I am bringing home my new puppy tomorrow and will start housebreaking her right away. The last puppy I raised, I used a bell to help with potty training and it worked out great! Before I go into more detail, let’s go through some main tips in housebreaking your pup:

  • Be aware! Puppies have to go to the bathroom, A LOT. When they wake up, they will need to go to the bathroom; after they eat, they will need to go to the bathroom; after they play, they will need to go to the bathroom. So be aware, especially the first couple of weeks of what they are doing and when you should probably take them outside to go potty.
  • Act quickly! If you think your puppy has to go to the bathroom, get them outside as quick as possible because, especially at first, they will not be able to hold it very well at all. If your puppy all of a sudden stops what they’re doing and starts sniffing around, that probably means they have to go potty so make sure to get them outside. Better safe than sorry!
  • Be consistent. Your puppy should start getting into a routine that they can stick to and trust. If you take them out right away when you get home (which you should!) make sure that you do it every time so that they will be able to depend on that and learn to trust that you will let them out. It is also helpful to have a phrase you use every time such as, “ let’s go outside,” and “go potty.” By being consistent with your wording, you’re puppy will learn faster because they will see it as a command.
  • Lots of praise! It is very important to be encouraging to them while they are training. When they start to go to the bathroom, wait until they are finished (if you start praising right away they might get distracted and stop), and then praise away! Make a big deal about it and make sure they know that going to the bathroom outside is a good thing and will give them attention and praise from you.
  • Discipline at the right time! When the puppy has an accident (yes, it will happen) make sure you discipline them right away. If you find an accident 10 minutes after it happens, and then discipline, your puppy will most likely not know exactly why they are being disciplined. When you catch them having an accident, discipline (by sternly saying “No!” or “Stop!”) and then immediately put them outside and use your word phrases, “go potty,” to show them that they need to do it in the appropriate place. Once outside, praise and say in a “happy” voice, “go potty” “good boy/girl!.”

Now that we have some basics laid out, here is how to train your puppy with a bell:

Go to the local craft store and get some ribbon and some bells. Any type of bell works, just as long as it makes sound that you can hear! Now, tie or loop the ribbon around the door handle to the door that goes outside. Make sure the bell(s) are at a level that the puppy will have to raise it’s nose to, to ring it. You don’t want it too low where it’s like a toy or a foot could get caught in the ribbon. If you have a sliding glass door, you can also hang it next to the door on a tack or nail.

Every time you take your puppy outside, take their nose or paw and hit the bell so that it makes noise. They will start associating touching the bell to make the noise as the door opening and they can then go outside to go potty.

It’s as simple as that! Dogs are very smart and learn very quickly and before you know it, your puppy will be ringing the bell to alert you that they need to go outside. Make sure to praise when they ring the bell as well so they know that that is what you want them to do.

What other housebreaking tactics have you used?

Choosing a Healthy Puppy Food

I have finally chosen which puppy I want from Zoey’s litter! After taking into account personality and conformation, I’ll be taking the tri-feathered girl with the white socks! I will be taking her home this weekend and therefore need to decide which puppy food I would like to start her on.

Our adult dogs (not our senior dogs) are currently being fed Taste of the Wild (High Prairie). This dog food is very high in protein (32%) and fat (18%) which is very important for them considering they are performance dogs and are exercising on a daily basis; therefore, they will burn the protein and fat from their diet very fast. One reason I like Taste of the Wild is the fact that they are a grain-free diet. Many dog food companies will use grains as cheap fillers and can use them to increase their protein percentage.

I suggest when looking at dog food labels, to look (at the very least) at the first seven ingredients. These ingredients should be meat and vegetables, not by-products or fillers such as corn, animal fat, or flour. Many dog food labels will list meat first, but then is followed by many fillers. Overall, there should be a larger ratio of meat and vitamins to fillers or by-products (by-products can also be detected when something is listed as “animal,” “meat,” or “poultry” instead of the specific type such as “bison” or “chicken meal”). Cheapest dog foods are usually not the best quality; remember, the poorer the quality, the MORE you will have to feed of it. Therefore, if you feed the higher quality (and probably more expensive) dog food, you will end up having to feed less of it, so in the end, it is worth it to buy the higher quality dog food.

I also suggest doing your research prior to taking a trip to the pet store. Sometimes labels and packaging can be deceiving and overwhelming when all lined up in front of you. Do your homework beforehand. Search the internet, visit the company’s website and look more in detail to the ingredients, read product reviews, ask around to people who have knowledge on what they feed their dogs.

This website has GREAT information about what to look for and what to avoid in protein, fats and oils, carbohydrates, fiber, fruits and vegetables, flavorings, etc. And shows many examples of some unhealthy dog food labels (all the way down at the bottom of the page).

In a puppy formula (much like a performance formula) it is important to have a high protein and high fat diet because they are growing. Taste of the Wild just came out with a puppy formula line! This includes High Prairie and Pacific Stream formulas. Because my adult dogs are already on the High Prairie Formula, I will start my puppy out on the High Prairie Puppy Formula so that there will be an easier transition to her adult food.

What are your thoughts about dog food? What do you feed and why?

WHCC Mixed Hunt

Yesterday had its good parts and bad parts! There were 12 dogs entered. That consisted of 7 Salukis, 4 Borzoi, and 1 Ibizan Hound. Mystic won the hunt, Zorro (Mystic and Hunter’s brother) took 2nd, and Hunter tied for 3rd! We had beautiful courses with beautiful weather. All of the courses were probably about 1-2 miles long, and pretty consistent, one of them did have a take. The bad part of the day was that we weren’t able to finish on finals. This means that the placements are then based on preliminary scores. The area we were hunting at was very vast which is wonderful in terms of the dogs’ safety considering they can easily have 1-2 mile runs. But in areas this vast, it is hard to predict where the game will be, which is one of the reasons we were unable to finish the hunt on Finals.In Open Field Coursing, each course consists of two or three dogs. When a hare is flushed, the huntmaster will call “Tally-ho!” which is the signal to release your dogs (we use slip leads for a quick release). There is a judge who judges the dogs on the following:

  • Speed: How fast the dog is compared to the other dogs in the course, and how fast they compare to the hare (if they are able to catch up with the hare fairly quick or if it just a long “tail-chase”).
  • Agility: How well the dog is able to force turns or wrenches on the hare and how well the dog can make those turns (i.e. tightness and speed coming out of the turn).
  • Endurance: How well the dog can keep up with the hare and other dogs during long courses (your dog can gain more endurance from more conditioning).
  • Take: If the dog attempts or succeeds at taking the hare.

Overall it was a wonderful day and most importantly there were no injuries! However, today I am definitely hurting! The first hunt of the season is always the hardest and shows you how out of shape you are! We probably hiked about 10-15 miles (early morning to almost sunset). 

How is everyone else’s hunting season starting out?

Night Before The Hunt

It is the eve of the first hunt (also known as, in other breeds, a field trial) of the season! Mystic and Hunter are both entered and we are all very excited and anxious for another coursing season to begin. We try to get to the hotel at a decent time to let the dogs relax and get some sleep. This will be Mystic and Hunter’s third coursing season, so they have become pretty used to it! During their first couple of seasons, they would have trouble eating and sleeping.

Hunter would even start falling asleep in the field from being so tired! But tonight, they both finished their dinners and are sleeping soundly! Alarms are set very early. In the morning we will mix up our K9 Superfuel, bundle up, make sure our backpacks are ready to go, jacket up the dogs, then head to the restaurant for roll call and the draw. Tomorrow’s hunt consists of 12 dogs. This will break up into four preliminary courses, and most likely two final courses.

Check back for an update on how the hunt went!