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How Does Your Hunting Dog Learn?
One of the key principles for understanding your dog and for being a successful trainer is to educate yourself on how your dog actually learns. The earlier you understand the way your dog learns the better off you will be. Just like a young child learns from curiosity, so does your dog. The more curious, typically, the more they learn. Most young puppies are curious and continue to be puppy-like in their curiosity for at least the first two years. If their curiosity is hindered their capacity to learn can be hindered.
Observation Creates A Better Hunter
Often you can observe this curiosity by watching how a puppy “attacks” things around him. Hunting breeds will particularly have a strong sense of survival type curiosity. It can be useful to let your dog learn from his mistakes, as long as they are not dangerous. For example, he will learn quickly that a rock doesn’t provide a good chewing surface and neither does a power cord, the rock is safe way to learn but, the power cord, not so much. Your dog’s hunting skills can easily be nurtured early and honed to your style and preferred game. Using his God-given curiosity you can offer him a chance to learn things like the scents of different game or familiarize him with a hunting area. Therefore, expanding his learning to include things that will help him to become a better hunter. Conditioning him to your standards is key. If you know your dog and how he learns then this part of training will just be second nature.
Being with your dog during his play time is another important part of understanding how he learns. Things like retrieving can be observed and built upon to gain understanding into the way your dog needs to be trained. Be sure to observe your dog while he plays alone, noticing how he handles toys, how he reacts to his toys or bones when they aren’t where he left them. Does he hunt to find them? Does he come to you for you to find them? These are all important factors for developing a training plan for him.
Develop A Healthy Partnership
Take advantage of these early puppy play stages to develop not only a relationship with your dog but, to help to develop a partnership in hunting. The better you know your partner the better your team will be. You will begin to understand what your dog’s limitations are and how to begin to build on his strengths. During the observation process keep in mind that your dog will begin to develop habits. Keeping bad habits at bay and helping to increase good habits will pay off in the end. It isn’t necessary to know everything about your dog in order to know whether what he is doing is developing good or bad habits but including his learning style into your training will make entire process more successful and much more enjoyable.
It is important to keep in mind that you should never in any way stifle a puppy’s natural curiosity. Train your pup from the beginning to enjoy the partnership between the two of you, but not to create a dog who will eventually be so dependant on you that he can’t even hunt without you. He needs to keep his natural tendency to head into danger and not worry that you aren’t right there with him. Help him to understand that he needs you but, he does his part and you do yours. He will trust that you do your part on the hunt and he will do his. The partnership should go both ways.