Training a Hunting Dog for Steadiness
The Importance of Steadiness| Hunting Dog Training Tips
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably sat in the duck blind your fair share and have watched different duck dogs perform in the field. With birds working, plenty of calling, and the quick snap of shotguns to shoulders, a young dog (and even an old veteran) can get quite excited. Steadiness, or being quiet and under absolute control, is essential to ensure a quality hunting experience and most importantly – safety. Nobody wants to hear a dog whining, rustling, or breaking for birds as soon as the guns start going off – not only does it affect the hunt, but a breaking dog is unsafe and the consequences can be tragic. Steadiness in the blind is paramount, and a fundamental part of training.
A Steady Retriever is a Dog Under Control
Steadiness is really just an extension of obedience. A good retriever must not only exhibit strong drive, but a high level of obedience. Fortunately, for us retriever owners, biddability seems to be bred into these dogs – and that certainly makes our lives easier. Steadiness begins as soon as we bring our pups home. There’s the old saying that ‘steadiness starts at the food bowl,’ and there’s a lot of truth in that.
Professional trainers and DIY gundog owners all have different ways to teach steadiness, although there are plenty of similarities across the board. It all starts with basic obedience – sit, kennel, place, heel, etc. – and graduates to advanced obedience as our retrievers mature and become more experienced. Distractions and other enticing environments are introduced to help proof our dogs, and make sure they’re ready for the excitement and thrill of the duck blind. For a retriever, there isn’t a more exciting place than sitting next to their owner, waiting for the next duck to retrieve.
10 Minutes a Day, and a Few Tools
To teach steadiness, we can routinely reinforce basic obedience commands and require steadiness in the house. Feeding your dog some dinner? They can sit and wait while you do a chore or two around the house and eat when you release them. Waiting to come inside after doing their business? Your retriever can sit and come in when you allow them to. To step it up a notch, set up a place board in the yard, grab some bumpers, a check cord, and the e-collar to practice your retrieves in the yard. Denials, distractions, and retrieves can all be made into a fun steadiness game for you and your retriever – plus, you’ll keep your retriever engaged and obedient during the season and in the off-season.
That’s all it takes to reinforce steadiness on a daily basis. Whether we’re sending our dogs off for professional training or embarking on the DIY training journey, our job as handlers is to consistently reinforce training to make sure our dogs stay sharp – whether it’s conditioning, obedience, or fieldwork. Fortunately, steadiness is something that doesn’t need big, wide-open fields or a trip to the local pond – it can be reinforced right in the house or backyard, every day.