Sam was a beagle and probably the easiest dog to ever care for. He liked all people, big and small, he could with all foreign dogs, he went completely unimpressed into the city, was not afraid of any kind of noise, was house-trained quickly, liked visitors, had no territorial claims … the perfect dog … just not quite!
When Sam’s nose said it smells, it was literally over in the field! Nose to the ground, tail up, and off it was the beagle. I then stood there, hearing Sam’s wonderfully loud trail sound farther and farther away, hoping and afraid that he would hopefully return hours later.
And I never got any further back then. Now Sam, my daughter’s “little brother”, left us at a handsome age a few years ago, and one thing was clear, please no longer a hunting dog.
Then came Balou, a “shepherd … you don’t know what” mix, (yes you are right anyway) and everything should change.
Balou is a Sam in size in many areas and he probably has at least as much hunting instinct.
And am I still waiting for hours for the dog to come back?
No, luckily not!
Only our way was and still is not over.
Ergo the bad news!
Hunting is something genetically determined, something that is basically anchored in our dogs, in different degrees, of course, but also something that cannot be easily removed.
Now the good news!
That doesn’t mean oh my dog has hunting instinct since I can’t do anything!
We dog owners can do a lot and achieve that even highly interested dogs can be steered.
And as so often, I should actually be writing here, always, the magic word is, positive training.
Well, without a little excursion into theory, it really doesn’t work here, but I promise I’ll make it short.
Hunting is, objectively speaking, a sequence made up of many different parts, all of which are self-rewarding for the dog!
- Orientation – means dog first weighs whether the object / smell is interesting for hunting.
- observation / fixation – dog has decided, I am interested in that, I take care of it, i.e. but not me storming headless
- Sneak up – first slow steps towards the object of desire
- Rushing – now dog follows the “victim” in the pig gallop
- Grasp / kill / eat – the loot has been made and is now also eaten in case of doubt
And now it is up to us to decide whether we want to allow our dogs to live out parts of this hunting sequence.
How now should I sacrifice a rabbit, a deer?
No!!! Definitely not. But as owners of dogs who are interested in hunting, we would do well to say goodbye to the fact that hunting instinct can simply be removed.
But we can steer it, in ways that make life good for dogs and owners. And then it is good for us that hunting is self-rewarding, because it logically refers to all the sequences listed above.
I have decided for myself that it will be fine for Balou, the animals to be hunted and me if Balou recognizes them as interesting objects and also displays them, i.e. observes them. I don’t want anything else (sneak, rush and kill).
In case of doubt, secure Ergo first with dishes and drag line, as long as I don’t really know for sure that everything will work as it should and then? Markers, and any behavior interested in the hunting sense that we like .. Hold your nose in the wind, while walking in the apple orchards, take a close look in all rows (yes there are rabbits and still …) seeing from rabbits, without going straight away (timing is a must, no question), that’s all behavior I like.
So this is also marked or confirmed, rewarded and even substantiated with a word.
Why, first of all I achieve that the behavior is shown more often or longer.
In plain language – Balou sees a rabbit, and looks, and looks, and looks …… I have all the time in the world! I can confirm it for looking and since that is part of the hunt sequence it is rewarding per se. I can calmly call him to me and offer him an alternative. I have a dog that, despite being motivated by hunting, is responsive and manageable.
Now one or the other is surely asking himself to offer an alternative?
Call the dog and then he gets a treat? Yes and no Good training, and training with hunting-motivated dogs must be good if it is to be successful means choosing amplifiers sensibly, functionally and carefully.
A cookie for a rabbit? I say not a good choice. But a well-filled feed dummy that the dog can run after / that the dog has to look for can be a very suitable alternative.
Creativity is required here and good observation skills, what does our dog actually want to do at the moment, what comes close to this behavior and can it therefore be a good functional amplifier? May he sniff a trail of smell, would he like to rush, dig, …..?
With good observation skills, a whole world of functional amplifiers opens up here, i.e. rewards that go beyond rewarding and ensure that dogs will show their behavior more and more often and reliably.
In this context it will be understandable if I say go hunting with your dog. You can follow tracks in a controlled manner, observe wildlife. Sometimes you will be the one of you who first manages to see the “rabbit” and then tells your partner on four paws.
Then you can observe together and experience the feeling of what it is like to be a good team, where one can rely on the other.
Of course, it also makes sense to offer “replacement jobs”. This includes all forms of nose work such as dummy training, mantrailing, tracking, but also search games at home, target search, digging and if your dog is physically fit and a good sight hunter also a round of disc dogs or driving balls …
All of these activities allow your dog to use his senses and instincts in a targeted manner, they are exhausting, are mentally and physically demanding and make dogs happy. You both learn to control your instincts better and stay responsive when in doubt.
Last but not least, there is nothing like a safe call back. Yes, of course, that’s not only true for hunting-motivated dogs, but the callback is of particular importance. If you show that you can call your dog back to you in an emergency, you simply have one more ace up your sleeve. I recommend the double recall here and refer to the article that deals only with this topic, because otherwise it would simply go beyond the scope of this article.
And then there is your attitude.
You have a hunting-motivated dog and it will stay that way throughout your life. Maybe you will always have to do some management. Perhaps you will not be able to do without the towline in very wild areas in the future. Maybe always, maybe only if you show that because your best friend is telling important news ….. you can’t have at least one eye with your dog.
You will train together and the better your training goes, the better you will be able to see the great achievements of your four-legged friend. You will be able to read your dog better and better and you will see that there are many tiny signs that tell you and the dog: “There is something!”
And if you succeed, then you will surely know what your dog is doing if he does not give in to his instinct immediately, if he stays with you when he patiently “says” – “you look there, there is the rabbit, you can finally see him. “
In summary, for me, good training with hunting-motivated dogs means:
- reinforce the hunting sequences that are desired
- Working with functional alternatives
- Offer meaningful “substitute jobs” (dummy work, search games, digging, etc.)
- work on a safe call back
- Say goodbye to the fact that with a dog with high hunting motivation, you can stroll through wildly rich areas without having at least one eye with the dog!
In this sense, no AJT does not exist, but there are many ways to guide our dog’s hunting instinct in ways that make life together pleasant for the dog and owner.
With this in mind, Balou and I wish
Enjoy the training!