Now is the perfect time to get that puppy you’ve always wanted and train him to be your new hunting buddy for the fall season—and many more to come. Here are three trainer’s tips, but be sure to also check out our full guide on how to train a pup to be your new hunting buddy.
1. Be Loud
Introduce upland dogs to the gun when they’re into birds and excited. Use live pigeons or go to a game farm, and make a loud noise when Pup flushes a bird. Clap hands, or use a blank pistol, and work up to a shotgun. For retrievers, have a helper throw a dead bird or favorite dummy out front while you hold the dog on a check cord. The assistant can start by clapping hands after the throw, then he can shoot a blank pistol, and ultimately a shotgun. Keep the gun in front of the dog, not behind.
2. Plan for Success
It’s not too early to start planning that first hunt with your pup. Just don’t be too ambitious. That initial hunt should be short and successful. A game farm is the best place to start a bird dog. A calm, well-scouted pond in the early season is ideal for retrievers. Limit the exposure to a couple of birds and about 30 minutes. Puppies, just like kids, have short attention spans. Let a friend who can shoot well handle the gun while you handle the dog. You’ll be surprised by what your little student will be able to do in the field.
3. Dish It Out
Feed puppies three times a day, and then go to twice a day as their adult teeth come in. Choose a digestible, high-protein puppy formula until the dog is 12 to 15 months, and don’t overfeed. “We want to get away from the idea of the roly-poly puppy,” says Brian Zanghi of Purina. “Overweight puppies can develop joint problems as they get older.” You should be able to feel the dog’s ribs from above, Zanghi says, and the stomach should be in line with or slightly slimmer than the rib cage. Feed according to the instructions on the bag. Don’t feed dogs table scraps, ever.
Photograph by Ralph Smith