Guest Post: Using Positive Techniques with Hunting Dogs

Mallory Robinson is a good friend of mine who has experience and success in hunting dog training. Naturally, when someone came to me asking what positive techniques can work to train hunting dogs, I said I would as her! Here is the question and Mallory’s answer:

Question: Someone contacted me about having no choice but to use an electronic collar to train her Chesapeake Bay Retriever for hunting trial purposes. She was wondering how you could rely on a dog to work correctly from a distance of over 400yards at times. E-collars give the handler much more control over the dogs action from yards away which makes the training smoother. This really got me thinking so I asked my friend Mallory to help clear this up for me. How could we train in a positive way to teach a dog properly from a distance.

Answer from Mallory: First of all, let me preface by saying that I am not, nor have I ever dabbled in formal retriever training. My experience in the vast realm of the hunting dog lies solely in the versatile world – Weims, Vizslas, Kurzhaars, Drahthaars, Langhaars, etc. – specifically with German Shorthaired Pointers and working towards NAVHDA titles (North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association). That being said, it has been my experience listening to others in that realm (AKC judges, NAVHDA judges, trial champs, etc.) that Chesapeake Bay Retrievers are one of the most challenging breeds to train in the sporting world. Hands down, that’s always been the general census. So with that, I cannot attest to having ever seen a Master Hunter level Chessie trained without the use of electronic stimulus. In the time that I immersed myself, it just couldn’t be done according to those you asked. Now that wasn’t my opinion, just that of the world in which I was drawing some perspective. Suffice it to say it only pushed me harder to find a better way than what was presented to me, and so I did, with the help of good reading and making the most of my resources – specifically creative thinking and a keen awareness to canine body language. With the right approach/energy/timing, operant conditioning makes a truly endless opportunity for broadening a dog’s horizons and with enough consistency and repetition, long distance work is absolutely attainable without the use of pain, pressure or abrasive force as seen in the training styles commonly practiced today.

Mallory Robinson is currently trains in Austin, Texas.