14 Classic Dog-Training Tips From Field & Stream

About the Author: Jerome B. Robinson started writing for F&S in 1989 and was a regular contributor for many years, including his monthly tip column. Although he is a generalist, Robinson is best known for his writing on dog training and on hunting and fishing in the Far North.

dog training
Teach Your Dog to Fetch in All Directions Don't stand in one place as you're throwing dummies for your dog to retrieve. He'll learn more if you throw from a new location each time. After every retrieve, leave the dog sitting and move a short distance away. Alternate throws to the left, right, and back, sending the dog with appropriate hand signals. He will comprehend that there is always an object to retrieve in whatever direction your hand indicates, no matter where you are.John Rice
dog training
Teach Your Dog To Retrieve On Command You can steady a retriever without yanking on his choke collar by not sending him after every bird. In training sessions, hitch him to a stake so that he can't take off when you throw a dummy. Toss it three times, making the retrieves yourself. The fourth time, unhitch the dog and command him to retrieve. This teaches the animal to wait for a command before fetching.John Rice
Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Choose Your Pup at the Right Time of Year When looking for a gun-dog pup, it's advantageous to select one that was born in February, March, or April. Pups born in these months will be old enough to begin introductory field training by summer, and they'll be large and mature enough to begin working wild birds in their first autumn. Bottom line: You'll have an extra season of hunting with the dog.John Rice
Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Flush Birds Yourself A gun dog on point may break too soon if you block the dog's view while you're trying to flush the bird. Instead, you should circle out well beyond where you think the bird is, then walk slowly toward the dog. the bird is more likely to hold when you approach from the far side, and the dog will also be encouraged to stay on point and let you do the flushing.John Rice
Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Train Your Dog to "Come" By using food treats rather than force, you can teach your dog to come every time you call. Start with short distances. Command the dog to come, and give it a snack when it obeys. Gradually lengthen the range. The dog will form a habit of coming when called, expecting a reward, instead of fearing punishment if it refuses. Gradually replace the food with a friendly pat.John Rice
Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Point Your Dog Into the Wind Always hunt bird dogs into the wind. When forced to hunt with the breeze at their tails, dogs have to get past birds in order to smell them. This frustrates handlers, who think that the dogs are ranging too far. Most good bird dogs automatically limit their forward range and naturally sweep back and forth across their handler's course when the hunt is conducted into the wind.John Rice
Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Keep an Unsteady Retriever Steady Retrieving dogs bring back more ducks and get the job done faster when they can see the action. Place the dog in a camouflage-covered box outside the dog handler's end of the blind where its view of the skies will be clear. If the dog is not reliably steady, attach a very short strap from its collar to a ring bolted to the floor of the box.John Rice
Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Help Your Dog Find Cripples When you send a bird dog to retrieve a distant cripple, make the job as uncomplicated as possible. Walk the dog to a spot downwind of where you last saw the bird, then send him straight into the wind. Bird dogs naturally quarter back and forth when running into the wind and are much more likely to find downed birds if they are given this advantage.John Rice
Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Tone Down Your Retriever's Leap Don't encourage your retriever to hit the water with the high-speed leaps you see at field trials. The leaps are impressive to watch, but in real hunting conditions, dogs that hit the water hard can get hurt by submerged rocks or logs. Instead, work your dog frequently where harmless but annoying underwater obstacles slow his entry. He will quickly learn to jump with caution.John Rice
Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Dog Training Tips from Jerome B. Robinson

Staunch Up Your Pointer Practice staunching a young bird dog on point by pushing his shoulders and hind end toward the bird. He will resist the pressure and push back against your hand, stiffening his point. Over time, he will think it was his idea to remain steady. As your dog absorbs the lesson, gradually delay flushing so that he learns to enjoy the anticipation of keeping the bird in place.John Rice
dog hunting
Train Your Dog to Shake Off Water There's an easy way to keep a dog from showering you with cold water in the tight confines of a duck blind-"or anywhere. When the dog is wet, raise his ear flap, command "shake" then blow into his ear. This will make him shake his head, and the rest of his body will follow suit. With practice, the dog will discover he can avoid the annoyance by shaking as soon as he hears the command.John Rice
dog training
Teach a Dog Hand Signals The secret to training dogs to follow hand signals is to start short. Begin by tossing a dummy just a few feet to one side, then directing the dog to it with a hand signal. Now, pitch it short to the other side. Soon you will be able to mix short throws and steer the dog with appropriate hand signals to the right, left, and back. Gradually increase the distance each time the dog succeeds.John Rice
dog training
Break a Breaking Pointer Don't shout "Whoa!" when a pointing dog breaks and flushes the bird. The dog will learn that you can't enforce the command. Instead, attach a 15-foot check cord to the dog's collar. When it breaks point, remain silent but jerk the dog to a stop. Then go to its side and hold it in place while stroking it. The dog will gradually attribute the yank on its neck to the premature flush.Field & Stream Online Editors
dog training
Train Your Dog to Hold Point Erect a 6-foot pole in a field of shin-deep grass and attach 100 feet of strong fishing line to the top. Connect the loose end to a harnessed pigeon. With your dog on a check cord, approach from downwind until he goes on point. Use the cord to prevent him from chasing when you flush the bird. The pigeon will fly to the end of the line and fall to the ground. Repeat the lesson.Field & Stream Online Editors