How to Teach Your Dog to Use a Hunting Field Blind
The best way to teach your dog to make a steady retrieve while using a field hide!
How important is it to have a well-trained hunting dog? If you're a hunter, then you know the answer to that already. Having a skilled gundog makes all the difference on the hunting field. Teaching your dog to use a hunting field blind can be a valuable skill that enhances his performance as well as your overall hunting experience!
How to Introduce Your Dog to a Hunting Field Blind
What exactly is the purpose of a hunting blind for dogs? A hunting field blind, or a dog blind, is a certain piece of equipment used to conceal your dog in the hunting field. It camouflages your dog and keeps him hidden and out of sight so that game life isn't scared away by him.
It also aids in keeping your dog safe on the field by giving him an area of protection. This keeps him from wandering around and potentially getting lost or accidentally injured by another hunter’s gunshots. It enables you to focus on your hunt without the worry of wondering where your dog is or what he's doing!
To begin teaching your dog to use a hunting blind, you will need the right training equipment. Your dog should already be working well off-leash in the yard, even with distractions. It’s helpful if your dog is e-collar-conditioned, so you can eventually use the e-collar to reinforce his behavior. We recommend using the DT System's RAPT collar; its controller easily fits around your hand, so you can easily operate it yet still have the use of both of your hands!
You should also use a choke chain with a short lead and a small tab; this is going to help you transition from having to have the lead on to working off the lead and being able to teach your dog to the highest level of efficiency! Choose whichever bumper works best for you and your dog, preferably one that your dog really enjoys retrieving. If you don't already have a field hide, then you can just use your dog's kennel and place either a blanket or a camo cloth over it to create a field hide during training!
Once you have all of your equipment ready and set up, you can begin the training process! Begin by putting your dog into his crate, just like you normally would. Don’t add on the camo covering yet, however. Now, before you work on this training element, your dog should already understand basic steadiness. Once your dog is in the kennel, use your stay command and go ahead and throw your bumper!
If your dog breaks, simply catch him and take the bumper away. If he stays, then you're going to use positive reinforcement by sending him. Your dog wants to retrieve, so allowing him to do so is considered positive reinforcement to him. If your dog keeps trying to get out, then just use a nick from his e-collar in conjunction with the word "sit." You might have to repeat this process several times, but eventually, your dog will stay!
Tempt Your Dog to Break
Once your dog understands staying in the crate, you can move on to the next phase. For this next step, you'll start tempting your dog to break. A good way to do this is by counting. If you start counting, you'll be able to see if your dog knows to release on his name or if he simply releases on any word from you. If he tries to break, go ahead and catch him and shut the crate door.
This helps your dog learn that when he gets into his crate, he's going to receive a steady retrieve. A steady retrieve means that your dog has to wait to be sent. Once he's got this down, then you can take your crate and add on the camo covering to resemble a field hide!
Once you have your crate dressed up as a field hide, continue trying to get your dog to break. Again, either count or use random words while increasing your volume to make it resemble more of a command. If your dog twitches or moves his feet outside of the crate, lightly step on his foot and bring it back in. This helps teach him that he has to stay perfectly steady inside the crate to receive the positive reinforcement!
Add in Distractions
Like any steadiness training, once your dog has the basis down, you're going to start adding in deliberate distracting noises! You can even step behind his crate so you're out of his eyesight and continue trying to distract him. If he still remains perfectly still and steady, then this shows that he understands the rules of this concept. Once he understands this, send him out to get a retrieve!
Next, you're going to transition to an actual dog hide. He should already understand being steady in his crate at this point, meaning he’s ready for the actual dog hide! If you are having trouble guiding him into the hide in the beginning, go ahead and put the dummy somewhere out of sight, then point it inside the hide with your hand to guide your dog in. If he's still fighting in it, then you can either throw some treats inside or you can actually throw the dummy in it. Don't fight him too much about how he gets in; the important thing is that he just gets in there.
As soon as he goes in, take the bumper, and tell him to sit until he recognizes the protocol from what you have already taught him with the crate. Then you can start throwing retrieves to make sure he still understands the steadiness concept while still inside his hide!
Simulate Field Retrieves
To finish out the training, it's a good idea to try and simulate the hunting field as best you can. It works really well if you use a hand-dummy launcher or a remote-dummy launcher. Finish out with a launch from the dummy launcher, and pair it with making a lot of distracting noises! With the extra noise, your dog may decide to get out, and if he does, just stop and make a correction. If he doesn’t stay steady, then he won’t get the positive reinforcement of being able to get that retrieve. If he stays still, then send him out to retrieve it!
Making steady retrieves from a field blind is an incredibly valuable training element to teach your hunting dog. This training process requires repetition and patience, but soon your dog will be on his way to working out of the field for you with a great attitude!