A good hunting dog is the prize possession of many hunters. You may have one yourself or know someone who does. If you don’t currently have a deer hunting dog and are thinking about getting one, let me offer a few humble suggestions.
From my observation, it appears that there are about three types of potential hunting dogs:
- natural-born hunter dogs;
- trainable dogs; and
- not worth a darn dogs.
The success of a top-notch hunting dog doesn’t fall completely with the dog though. A major part of successful dog training involves a hunter who knows how to train a dog to hunt. As with the potential hunting dog, there are about three types of potential dog trainers:
- natural-born dog trainers;
- trainable dog trainers; and
- not worth a darn dog trainers.
Dog training can begin as soon as possible.
This is a photo of newborn walker hound dogs.
It is helpful to form an early bond between the dog trainer and the puppies. Some ways to do this is if the dog trainer:
- is there when the puppies are born, or as soon after as possible;
- gives the puppies names and calls them by their names frequently;
- uses a hands-on approach to get the puppies familiar with your touch, smell, and voice; and
- spends time with the puppies.
These walker hound puppies are approximately 3 months old.
Around the age of six months, the puppies are ready for their first outing in the woods. At this age, the dogs are too young to hunt because they are not physically able to keep up in a race with older, more experienced dogs. The dog trainer must use common sense and some restraint because the younger dogs want to hunt, but do not know when to quit before causing themselves harm. But at six-months of age they are old enough to be in the woods and run around a little bit.
These walker hound puppies are approximately 5-6 months old.
Deer hunting dogs are “pack” dogs. They seem to like to do things as a group. To begin the outing, take all your puppies (usually 5 or 6 at a time) to your test area in the forest.
Find a two-rut dirt lane , and walk with them into the forest. Since they are puppies, they will probably run around and play with each other. This is expected and natural (after all they are puppies). Some might even run away from the pack. If that happens, call them by their name to come to you. Try and keep the group together as you walk down the dirt lane.
The objective here is to get the puppies familiar with the woods and to come when they are called. You can watch the puppies to see which may become “trail” dogs and which may be “pack” (or “running” dogs). A “trail” dog is able to pick up a scent and follow it. When the trail dog begins barking, the “pack” dogs follow her lead, and they all pursue the deer following his scent.
After completing a couple of outing exercises like the above, it’s time to test the dogs. In order to give the dog a good start, a knowledgeable trainer knows to avoid any “bad” hunting situations. Such as:
The ideal situations to begin training a new hunting dog are:
Recently, Kenny was working with his dad’s 6-month-old puppies. He had a puppy named “Hank” who at first was a “scardy-cat” dog. Hank’s first outing experience was a huge disappointment to Kenny and his dad. When Hank first got out of the dog box, he immediately ran under the truck. Finally, Kenny managed to coax him out. When Hank saw his sisters and brothers running and barking, he followed them into the woods.
As Kenny and the puppies walked farther into the woods and away from the familiar truck, Hank stopped and began howling! He was afraid to go into the woods and was afraid to come back to me and the truck by himself. Poor Hank just panicked and trembled with fear. I even saw the hair stand up on the back of his neck.
This was not a good sign. Hank’s future as a hunting dog was questionable.
Everyone deserves a second chance, and Hank was no exception. At the next puppy outing, Kenny put a leash on Hank. Kenny walked Hank and all the puppies into another 2-rut dirt lane into the woods. Again Hank was fearful and reluctant to go. Kenny pulled him along anyway as Hank whimpered and struggled to get away.
Just like with children though, tough love is sometimes needed. Kenny dragged little ole Hank, kicking and howling, through the muddy, wet ruts! Hank’s sisters and brothers pranced and danced through the high underbrush that began to cover the little-used lane.
The 2-rut lane zig-zagged along until it came to a high ridge. By this time Kenny had become Hank’s best buddy. Hank followed at his heels like a well-trained show dog. Kenny soon removed the leash, which was now no longer needed. Through his ordeal of being forced to face his fears, Hank had developed a trust for Kenny and also had acquired some badly needed self-confidence.
Hank is now not nearly so timid. He is first to the dog-pen gate to be loaded up and first to get out of the dog box in the woods. Maybe there is hope yet for Hank to become a hunting dog!
Time will tell, though, as we watch him grow and mature.
So this little story goes to show that there just might be hope for a dog who at first seems “not worth a darn” to become trainable.
Here are a couple of mature walker hound hunting dogs.
Whenever several hunters have dogs in the woods it can be difficult to tell at a glance whose they are. One way to quickly identify which dog belongs to which hunter is to “paint” the hunter’s initials on the dogs. Permanent black hair dye was used to paint these dogs. In addition to bold identification letters painted on the dogs, many dogs also wear tracking collars, and identification tags.
Hunting with deer dogs is both challenging and exciting. Having a properly trained dog makes for a satisfying hunting experience. With the proper training, it’s possible for you to have a prized deer hunting dog for your next hunting season.