As a professional duck dog trainer for over 25 years, I have been asked many questions about training. Many times clients want to know our training methods and the order of progression that we will be taking their dogs through. I always emphasize that the first and most important step to training any dog, whether it is a family pet, hunting companion, or both, is obedience. From a dog trainer’s perspective, there is no such thing as a good dog with bad obedience.
In order to determine if your dog has good obedience, it is necessary to have an understanding of what an obedient dog should be able to do.
There are three basic commands that are necessary. These commands are “heel,” “sit” and “here.”
When the “heel” command is given, your dog should position himself next to you with his head near your heels. When you walk, he should walk. When you stop, he should stop. He should not become distracted or wander off. Upon mastering this command, your dog will be able to take trips to the park with or without a leash (depending on local regulations) and will be able to walk alongside you to the hunting blind without you having to worry about him getting too far away where alligators or other dangers may lurk. This command will also give you the ability to position him next to you in the duck blind.
The next command is the “sit” command. This command is more important than many may think. If your dog is known to jump on people or on the furniture, the solution is teaching him to perfectly obey the “sit” command. “Sit” means sit, but it should also mean “stay.” When properly trained, a dog will sit until told to release or given another command. This command is crucial in duck hunting. When guns start blazing and ducks start falling, you need a dog who remains seated and steady until sent. This will help the dog to watch and mark the birds better and will help keep the dog and hunters safe while guns are being fired.
The final command is the “here” command. No one wants a dog that doesn’t come when called. When properly taught, a well trained dog will stop whatever it is doing and return immediately to the handler when called. Perfect obedience to the “here” command can stop a dog fight, a dog from getting run over and help to avoid potential problems with neighbors.
Obviously, retrieving desire is super important for a hunting dog, but all of the desire in the world is useless if your dog won’t follow simple obedience commands. If you want a great hunting dog or family pet, make sure they have great obedience. The time to start is now! If we can help, give us a call.
Brian Johnson, originally of Port Neches, is pastor of First Baptist Church of Winnie, owner of DuckDogTrainer.com and outdoors writer for The News.