When Buck was a puppy, he learned his basic commands like sit, stay, and come in the hunting fields with owner Jim Mollgaard.
There is a very special bond between a hunter and his or her dog, and it all starts with three basic commands that every bird dog needs to master before having fun in the fields and ponds.
Jim Mollgaard is a Murdoch’s team member with a special interest in hunting dog training. It’s his job to stock our shelves with sporting goods products, and as an avid hunter, he can often be found with his sidekick, Buck (a yellow lab). He offered this advice to folks training new hunting dogs this fall:
Until these three commands are mastered, don’t worry about anything else: Sit. Stay. Come.
How to train your dog to sit:
Jim says he has had head-strong dogs and sensitive-tempered dogs, but that positive reinforcement is always the best place to start. Keep treats in your pocket – always. As a puppy, simply reward your dog when he sits naturally.
When you see him sit, teach him the name of the action by saying, “Sit,” and treat him at the same time. Adding a hand signal to this is very beneficial as well, Jim says, “because there’s nothing more annoying than being in the field with someone who is constantly yelling at their dog so he can hear the command.”
How to train your dog to stay:
The visual hand command is of the utmost importance for this command, says Jim, because a dog needs to be able to respond at a distance. He recommends leashing your dog to start. Take a few steps together, then pause. When your dog also pauses, teach him the name of that action by saying, “Stay.” Give him a treat at the same time. Once you and your dog are pausing as a team, you can drop the leash.
The second part to this is to create distance. Without the leash, face your dog and hold up your hand, like a stop sign. Take a step backwards and say, “Stay.” Celebrate the small distance together. Gradually increase the amount of space between you and the dog. This could take months, but always use the hand signal, and always use great treats.
How to train your dog to come to your side:
There’s nothing more intriguing to your dog than the sound of treats rattling in a can. Fill a coffee can or other metal container with his favorite treat. At random times throughout the day, shake the can. As soon as your dog starts to approach you, give a hand signal while simultaneously teaching him the name of that action by saying, “Come.” Then, reward him with a treat.
Tricks of the trade:
Refrain from repeating the command word while you’re training. If you say the word multiple times, you’re only training your dog to expect to hear the command multiple times.
Refrain from using command words as commands while you’re training. It doesn’t become a command until your dog knows the action associated with the word, and that takes a long time. Words are definitions to a dog in training.
Reward highly valued actions with highly valued treats. In other words, don’t skimp on the reward. Deli meats, hot dogs and beef jerky will do wonders, but so will treats that are specially formulated and safe for all dogs. Take a tip from Jim and Buck: chicken liver treats are Buck’s favorite.
Lastly, let your dog’s breed work for you. Hunting dogs were bred to retrieve; you don’t have to train this trait. Encourage retrieval behavior by enjoying the activity together. It’s a win-win for you and your dog.
Now, go hunt ‘em up!