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Teaching a young dog to hunt close

Mark L

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Hi all I have a young springer bitch 14 months old she is my first gun dog and is coming on very well. one of my biggest problems is that she wants to work and hunt to far out for my likening.

She will stop to the whistle straight away and also recall straight away if asked but I feel I'm constantly stoping her and bringing her back in closer.

Any tips on teaching her to stay closer and hunt closer would be very much appreciated .

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I'm no dog trainer but my labs are shown by sprinkling a FEW small dog biscuits in the lawn very few and saying hi-loss, same as dummies they must achieve success, they soon relate the words to hunting the area they are in. Maybe not correct but works for me.

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That works for me when she is looking for a dummy or ball etc in a area I will say loss and she will hunt harder in that area to find it .


But I had her out yesterday for the first time hunting through woods looking for game and she was constantly pulling away out in front , maybe she just needs more experience and more game in front of her??? To find a few flushes to get idea ?

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I tend to work with 2 'hunt' commands, 1 is ur normal 1 if a bird down in a definte area, the other is a more general hunt command just to gee them up if sweeping picking up or beating heavy cover.

Never really heard of any one else doing it that way thou, my reason for it was if i give the 'hi-los' command it knows there is definetly a very good changce of finding something, i think if ur consatantly using it and dog not finding u could weaken? it..


If ur dog is used to turning on whistle like big bird says also turn ur body that way, some spaniels get good at watchig there handlers shoulder movement, with my pointer if he pulled to far on i would blow turn whisltle but also turn my back to him, tends to bring him closer then shout some praise and cast him off again



As ur dog gets older and more experienced often tend to pull more and more, often ur close season is spent trying to get it back in tight, for the same to happen next season once u start working it.

Far better to keep it in tight now if u can, far easier to let it range later in life than rien it in later

Edited by scotslad
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Hi Mark some good points already made above. When training I am always switching direction to encourage the dog to be moving with me. I am close to Glasgow if you want to meet up and discuss and do a bit of training to see if I can help?? I also train with other guys with spaniels who have been into to it for a lot longer than me. I'll PM contact details.

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Find a suitable strip of cover to hunt your dog in, i tend to use a strip of knee high wild grass about three feet wide for this excerise. Hunt your dog on and she will hunt on at her usual distance (which is too far fro your liking). Try to keep her with some kind of pattern encouraging her left and right with hand signals and your desired whilstle command.


When she is hunting out in front of you drop a tennis ball in the grass right at your feet and stop. Stand still and recall her and encourage her to hunt the ground close to you. She will scent the tennis ball and hunt it out in the grass, ideally then picking the ball and presenting it to you. Calmly take the ball from her and give her lots of praise.


Now hunt her on and repeat this process half a dozen more time. Then try to do this as often as you can, every day will give you the fastest results and you should notice a huge difference with a few days. If you'd hadn't guessed already what you are doing is very simple, you are showing the dog that by hunting close to you she will find the prize. You should notice fairly quickly that rather than pulling forward looking for something she will hunt close to you as this is where she has been getting her reward.


It is important that she does not see you dropping the ball in the grass/cover as she will start to anticipate your action and will look for you do do it rather tha hunting. Once she is back hunting close in it's all about maintaining this training but not dropping the ball in as often, only now and again.


Note: Spit on the tennis balls or rub it n some rabbit fur to give it some scent. You'll get a better reaction form the dog for it.


Good luck!

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I'm far from being an expert but In my my view, Colc08 is spot on with his advice about hunting for tennis balls.


Getting a spaniel to work at close quarters, especially when there's scent around, is very often the most difficult thing to achieve. I was always told to teach a dog to work his ground at no more than 5 paces away because invariably they will pull ahead when there's game around.


Some basic rules I was always taught:

1. Teach the dog to turn on the whistle (2 short 'peep peeps' is usual)

2. Once the dog understands the 'turn' command, ensure it obeys IMMEDIATELY. Do not keep whistling in the hope that it will eventually listen - you will simply be training it to ignore you (if it does ignore you, get out straight away and administer appropriate correction);

3. Don't work your dog in straight lines. Keep changing direction regularly. It should ALWAYS be watching you out the corner of its eye

4. Keep the exercise short. 5 mins (or less) can be ample for a young dog before it loses interest/concentration

5. Don't take your dog for long walks off the lead. It will only learn that pulling ahead and taking a line is actually great fun!


If you haven't already, I would strongly advise having some lessons. Preferably with a trainer that works spaniels. You can read all the books, watch all the videos but there really is no replacement for having someone show you the ropes first hand. They will probably also point out lots of things you're doing wrong that you weren't even aware of!


14 months is still young and a good trainer will help take you and your dog to the next level.


Best of luck!

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I know of someone who uses the dog biscuit trick on grass when they are very young and boy do his dogs hunt a tight close pattern when they get older.

I presume he knows what he was doing as he has won the odd trial or 2 and possibly more.

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