Hunting Dog Training; Hitting a Wall

Now, not every pup is perfect or easy to train. So, what do you do when you have a dog that hits a wall? What I mean by that is, at some point during training you might have a dog who stalls, hesitates, or refuses to complete the drill you’re trying to train. When this occurs, we take a step back. Remember, we always want to end a session on a good note. Some of these young pups can get overloaded sometimes and that is when you start to see them shut down. They express it by walking instead of running, not going when sent on a retrieve, or coming “HERE” when being called.

In this video, you can see the example of a dog not going when being sent and eventually walking back instead of running with excitement. At this point, we did end on a good note because the dog returned to us, so we quit. Now some could say, well that dog just doesn’t have what it takes, and that is true. But before we make that assumption, we have a small trick up our sleeve. We give the dog 4-5 days off just to be a puppy. We will let the dog out of the kennel several times a day one on one and play with them, or simply sit and love on them. This can act as a reset button for some and in a week can be right back into training with no problems. If the dog continues to show the same lack of drive or motivation, it is at that point we either contact the client and discuss, or if it is one of ours, we simply sale the pup as a family pet. I know what you’re thinking, but this is our family pet! That’s fine, keep the dog as a family pet and go get another hunting dog. I am a firm believer that you can make a family pet out of hunting dog, but you can’t make a family dog hunt. It does not make since in having a hunting dog that only wants to hunt when he/she wants too.

Every dog at some stage of training is going to have a hang up, or stumble on a drill for a few days in a row. Knowing when they have hit a wall and seeing the signs is key to helping them get over the hump or understanding they don’t have what it takes.

Bear, the last pup we had for sale this year has sold. He will enjoy the Hill Country life and be able to roam and play with the other family pets. We are currently waiting for one of our females to come into heat. She should be coming in soon, and we will have a repeat breeding. If all goes well, we will be looking to have a February 2023 litter. The pups would be ready to go home in April, and any of the hunting dogs we hold back for training will be trained to a Started Dog in time for the 2023/24 bird season.

Capt. Nathan Beabout

Cell:(210)452-9680

N&M Sportsman’s Adventures

www.nmsportsmansadventures.com

AB Kennels/M2 Breeding

www.abkennels.com

Hunting Dog Training Tip-15-20 Weeks Old

If your pup has no problem with loud noises and .22 gunfire while eating, let’s step it up a notch during our short retrieving sessions. We view the next 5 to 7 weeks as some of the most critical for our pups. This is where we find out just how much drive they have, and if they will be candidates for our advanced Finish Dog Training. Keep in mind our motto has always been, if I wouldn’t take a dog that I have trained hunting with paying clients, I wouldn’t sale the dog to a customer.

In these next several weeks, we will learn a lot about the pup running these drills. Not only do we do a lot of .22 gunfire, but we also shoot a lot of .12 gauge shells over them. We throw bumpers and real birds, change up the retrieve from short grass to tall grass, holding the pup until the bird hits the ground, and throw birds from different angles. Meaning, we start getting away from hand thrown birds which come from our right hip. We start using the Versa Launcher or have somebody stand 40-50 yards out in the field throwing birds across the dog’s line of sight. Holding the pup until the bird hits the ground, teaches them to mark what they see falling from the sky, as well as starting to trust their nose to get them to the downed bird. Holding the dog until the bird falls, we command “BACK” as we release the dog. This will come into play later in training when we are teaching steadiness on gunfire. At this time, they start to associate that the shotgun blast, and the “BACK” command means there is something to be retrieved. During a retrieve where we know the dog is going to have to put it’s head down to hunt the downed bird, we use a command “FIND IT”, to encourage them to hunt.

Now there is a lot to unpack during these weeks, but keep in mind to take your time and go slow. These are short 10-15 minute sessions, and you cannot rush it. Let the pup learn at its own pace, rushing drills here can spell disaster later in training. If the pup has a good drive and is excited about retrieving, they will not quit you. So take the time using however many days each drill takes to show the pup the correct way. Always end on a good note each session and give lots of praise to the pup when it is done correctly. Every few days with the correct pup, you will see the light bulb moments they have where all of a sudden it clicks with them.

Allow me to explain these next few videos.

Video one is, Blue with simple .22 gunfire over his head, a real bird and the FIND IT drill. There is so much happening during this simple drill, and it took about 2-3 days for him to put it all together. It was the first time he had been introduced to real birds.

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Hunting Dog Training Tip-Intro to Gunfire

Now that we have our pups crazy about retrieves both on land and in the water, at 12-15 weeks old, we introduce them to gunfire. By now, they are completely settled into our training routine, familiar with their surroundings and the other dogs. We start off in this phase shooting .22 blanks while they are eating. We do not stand right at their door, we usually start 20-30 yards away from them. We shoot while their head is in the food bowl, watching to make sure they do not flinch or coward down. This is always a very critical stage, we never rush this part.

If a dog cowards we stop immediately. We allow them to finish their food with no other shots, or loud noise. The next day we simply clap or slap two boards together and watch their reaction. If they are good with the boards at a distance, we continue this until we can move directly in front of their door. We’ve seen this last a couple days to about a week or so. But you’re on the puppies time now, do not push them. Once you are slapping two boards together directly in front of them, graduate the next day to .22 gunfire at a distance of 50+ yards. Repeat daily until you can move directly in front of their door. Remember the pup will tell you what the comfortable distance is.

On the other hand, the pup who doesn’t even pick their head out of the bowl with the first day of gunfire, we move to about 10 yards on day two and fire multiple shots.

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Hunting Dog Training Tip-Intro to Retrieves with Water

Once our 8-10 week old pups are retrieving in the yard with bumpers or feathers without running off or quitting, we introduce them to water. What I mean by that is, we are looking for pups that will not stop no matter how many times you throw a bumper. We are constantly looking for pups with a high drive. Pups that stop after 4-6 retrieves and just lay there or wonder off smelling around are usually sold as simply a family pet.

When a pup is nonstop and shows great interest in the retrieve, we up the excitement by taking them down to the pond. Because water is brand new to them, we are very calm, and will stand still for 5-10 minutes simply watching them sniff or run the bank. They usually begin to venture out into the water on their own and this is when we step in. We will stand in the water tossing the bumper within inches of the bank, letting them come out just far enough to get their stomach’s wet. Once they show no shyness to the bumper we will turn, still standing in the water and toss the bumper 5-10 feet off the bank, encouraging the pup to fetch it up.

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Hunting Dog Training Tip – Intro to Retrieves

When we take in a young puppy at 8-10 weeks old, or after we wean one of our own pups, we give the pup a few days to get settled into the new surroundings. Usually we sit with the pup, walk around letting it smell and roam in this new area and away from it’s mother. We do not put them together with any of our older dogs, but they naturally sniff on each other through the 2×4″ paneling. Once the pup is settled and becomes playful and is excited once you are around, we take the pup out by itself and introduce it to retrieval training.

We hear it time and time again from folks, “my pup is so smart he/she is 8 weeks old and I’ve already taught it to sit.” That’s good, but will it retrieve? You can teach any dog to sit within a day, so let’s focus on more important foundational drills that will help your dog become a hunting dog.

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AB Kennels/M2 Breeding; Port Lavaca, TX.

Hi folks, my name is Nathan Beabout. My wife Margaret and I own and operate AB Kennels/M2 Breeding.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago, 2007, that I became a fishing/hunting guide here on the Middle Texas Coast based out of Seadrift, Texas, and live just north of Port Lavaca. I quickly learned the ins and outs for a successful day on the water. I am still obsessed with the saltwater, and for the first few years you couldn’t hardly pull me off it.

Once duck season rolled around, I knew I needed a trusted dog. With help from an older guide who had been in the game for many years, I learned to train my first hunting partner. From then on and each dog I have hunted over, I have more fun watching them work then the actually shooting part. When my wife became pregnant with our first child, we decided our family would benefit from her being a stay at home mom.

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