Irrespective of the breed, puppies encounter an entirely new world of excitement, fun, growth, and intimidation in the first couple of months of their lives. Training your greyhound puppy new habits, avoiding harmful habits, and instilling obedience is an excellent way for your potential hunting buddy to realize their full potential.
A Greyhound is a special breed of dog with an aerodynamically shaped body that enables them to slice through the air and reach high speeds quickly. According to the American Kennel Club, these canines are the fastest breed of dog in the world with up to a maximum race speed of 72km/h. These great speeds make greyhounds the perfect dog breed for hunting.
Are greyhounds good hunting dogs?
Yes, greyhounds are calm and gentle dogs, but they are also great hunters. They have a powerful prey instinct and often chase anything that moves fast. Biologically, they are wired to chase, catch, and sometimes even kill small animals that run fast.
Here is an informative step-by-step guide on how to train your greyhound puppy for hunting:
- Socialize your puppy
- Practice basic obedience skills
- Crate training
- Ensure your puppy is fit
- Introduce a scented dummy or caged rabbit
- Gun conditioning /training your Greyhound
- Use positive reinforcement and affirmation
- Critique your training method
Socializing your puppy
Greyhounds have a gentle and calm temperament. They need constant socialization to prevent them from being timid. You will notice your pup needing more keen attention in comparison to other dog breeds. When he becomes friendly and accustomed to you, it becomes easier to respond. This is especially so for the second stage of training.
You should socialize your dog only after it has had its immunization doses. Immunization prevents any exposure to common infectious diseases. The socializing stage should commence when your hound is around 2 to 4 months. The early start is critical for greyhounds, as their puppies demand longer walks in comparison to other dogs. While outdoors, you will need a martingale collar to keep your greyhound from outrunning you. Never use a metal choke collar as it can damage your puppy’s throat. Avoid the standard buckle collar, too, as a greyhound can back out of it.
The next step is to introduce your puppy to other dogs. First, begin with dogs that you know from your neighborhood. Keep an eye out to ensure the safety of all the pets involved at all times. Trips to a dog park and other open areas are suitable for your puppy to explore.
Practice basic obedience skills
Teaching your puppy how to respond to basic commands goes a long way. It will ensure you have a smooth transition when training. Teach it to sit, stay, come, and begin introducing the word ‘hunt.’ Avoid giving multiple commands at once, as it will only confuse your puppy.
Greyhounds may not be natural at sitting because of their stature. You will tend to notice it balancing on its tail when you give the ‘sit’ command. If it is an ex-racer too, sitting could take time. Praising your puppy when it responds to your training will provide them with a confidence boost. Kindness and avoiding scolding your dog is also a top recommendation.
Other skills, like crate training, should go with the obedience skill set. Early crate training is vital for successful travel in future years. Have fun, and enjoy short trips with your puppy. Putting him in a crate only when going to see a vet will cause your pup to avoid it altogether.
Pick a crate that is big enough to fit your greyhound puppy, considering the height they may eventually get to.
Ensure physical fitness
Greyhound puppies go through rapid growth spurts. Their joints are also developing, and you will need extra care not to overstrain them. As such, make your walks non-strenuous. A morning walk and evening one are enough for your four-legged friend. You can opt for a tracker during these walks lest your hound outruns you. Finally, Greyhounds are responsive to sight in nature, and any small animal they catch sight off will get them off their feet. As such, be sure to have a tracking collar on whenever possible.
Let your puppy roam free
Hunting grounds and the countryside can be intimidating for a young puppy. Since you are eventually going to do serious training and hunting, it is essential to get your puppy used to the environment. Allow your puppy to run free to discover and explore the surrounding terrain, meadows, and birds. As your puppy gains confidence on the hunting grounds, increase the sessions.
The fun increases your puppy’s body strength, predatory instinct, and builds confidence. Introduce your puppy to water because they will soon come across water when hunting. Keep track of your puppy because they could quickly get lost or into trouble. During these sessions, it is best to use locator collars such as the Whistle GO & GO Explore and Tractive 3G GPS dog tracker.
Introduce a scented dummy or caged rabbit
Having set a good foundation, your pup is ready to get a hunting feel. You will need some hunting tools like dummies and rabbits. By this time, your puppy should be between 5-7 months. The preference of rabbits to birds is because hounds don’t hunt birds, unlike other hunting dogs like the Labrador retriever.
There are two great ways you can handle the hunting introduction. The first involves using rabbit skin. Offer your pup rabbit skin so that it catches its scent and gets familiar with it. You can play fetch with it using the rabbit skin. A fun tip involves wrapping a dummy with the rabbit skin. This is if you have the time for such creative stunts.
The other alternative involves a caged rabbit. It has to be tame and put in a wheeled cage. This alternative works well because the rabbit does not get injured while the hound is watching it run. It tends to give your puppy a view as though they are watching a hamster on a wheel.
Move to the field once you are happy that your puppy has got accustomed to seeing the rabbit. The field has to have many rabbits, allowing the hound to hunt them. Remember all the obedience skill training you had practiced with your dog? This will be the time to put the training to the test.
Notice how your hound responds once you utter the word ‘hunt.’ Even so, once the hound spots the rabbit, they instinctively run. Always be confident you know how to command your dog in this expedition. It saves you a lot of stress. Be sure to praise your puppy when they succeed.
Sometimes, you may have to expose your hound to the sound of gunfire. Ensure this process is in a step by step form to avoid scaring the dog. Most dogs fear gunfire, especially when in close range. You should start with a far range, and then reduce the distance as you progress. Rabbits hop in a circular motion and then return to their original place. If your puppy was keen during the rabbit introduction session, they would notice this.
Another way of training your greyhound in the field today is by using an experienced dog. Your pup will join the trained dog whenever it hunts. This mode of training is more like an apprenticeship with the older, experienced dog passing its craft. You will then have to provide opportunities for solo hunts so your dog practices alone. Remember to locate your greyhound with the tracking collar once it runs from you. You can also recall it to get back after practice.
Gun conditioning /training your greyhound
A gun-shy dog isn’t a genetic flaw; some dogs are more sensitive, making them more likely to become gun shy. Bold puppies can become gun shy if the introduction of the gun isn’t done correctly. Here are tips on how to introduce your greyhound puppy to a gun:
- Make noise part of their lives.
Expose your puppy to many noises, voices, music, and TV. Start with low sounds then build up with time. Preferably, the introduction of gradual noise should be done when your puppy is having fun. Always remember to watch how your puppy reacts in such instances. With time, get as loud as you can.
- Get your dog to see the gun positively.
Dogs that are gun shy not only fear the sound of the gun but the sight of it. Make your greyhound puppies see your gun on a regular basis. Feeding time is an excellent time for them to see it as they associate the gun with food, which is their favorite thing.
- Introduce rabbit skins
Rabbit skins are a suitable means for training and playing. Increase the level of praise and reward for following up on the desired task. Assess your dog’s confidence. The rabbit skins are a means to drive up your dog’s prey instinct. Driving up your young puppy’s prey instinct is used as a tool to distract your dog from the noise and gunfire.
- Introduce gunfire.
Go to the field with an assistant and your pistol. Opt for quieter guns then gradually proceed to the louder ones. Position your assistant about 10 feet from the thrower. Release a rabbit, and when your dog starts chasing the prey, your assistant can shoot a blank pistol in the opposite direction. The prey drive should keep your dog from noticing the gun.
Repeat this over a few days until your dog shows no notice of the gun. Steadily move your assistant closer to the chasing dog and then now try using a real shotshell.
As long as the confidence indicators remain positive, you should be able to finish gun conditioning in a couple of weeks. Now start using gunshots as part of the training drill.
- Be ready to back up.
If at any point for whichever reason your dog gets timid, immediately take it back a notch. Gun conditioning is not supposed to push comfort boundaries for your pet. If you need to go a step back for your puppy to gain more confidence, you should do so. Watch your greyhound’s response and move slowly.
Remember that a dog that has a positive association with gunfire or barely notices it is a confident hunter.
What you should avoid when gun conditioning/training your greyhound
- Do not fire a gun around a gun-shy dog.
- Never take your greyhound hunting before properly introducing them to gunfire.
- Never take a greyhound puppy to a shooting range to introduce them to gunfire.
- Do not fire a gun near a greyhound without a proper introduction to guns and gunfire.
- Do not expose your dog to fireworks.
- Never fire a gun close to a greyhound when feeding him.
- Do not keep your dog outside during a major thunderstorm or lightning.
Many greyhounds may get gun shy from things unknown to their owners or trainers or out of their own control. It is best to get your dog introduced to noise and gunfire as soon as you can. Be patient and build your pup’s confidence around guns and gunfire.
Offer positive reinforcement and affirmation.
A good pat and an frequent ‘good boy’ for your dog once a hunting expedition has been successful does the trick. Greyhounds love receiving praise from their owners. They take it as a show of loyalty and attachment. You can rub their fur too as a show of affirmation.
Do not shout or yell at your dog; it makes them timid and feel abandoned. It is essential to understand that your greyhound puppy may not respond to you at all times. Even so, having a gentle tone will make your greyhound less aggressive or timid and more attentive.
Practice makes perfect. Offer your greyhound opportunities to hunt as often as you can. Since greyhounds love speed and are made for it, hunting is innate. Being one of the fastest canines gives it a head start in the hunting spot. You will notice how fun-filled hunting with your hound can be once it is well trained.
Critique your training method
Training a hunting greyhound puppy is work in progress. Whenever you make a short trip or start training, have a plan. Keep track, make notes of your puppy’s successes and failures, and work on them. Each of these is a reflection of the dog owner’s ability to train. Study your notes at the end of hunting or a training day and make the necessary improvements.
FAQs about Greyhound puppy hunting
When should I start training my greyhound?
Between 2-4 months is the best time to start socializing your puppy, crate training, and teaching your pup his name. Your puppy’s joints aren’t ready yet for running or jumping.
Between 5-7 months, obedience training is the target. This involves getting your puppy to yield to a leash and come when called. Introducing rabbit skins at this stage will amp your puppy’s prey drive.
Between 8-11 months is the ideal time to introduce a locator collar.
Between 12-16 months, your adolescent dog should know and perform most obedience training commands and learn ‘blind manners’ such as sitting still as owners call ducks.
How do I train my Greyhound puppy not to be gun shy?
You can slowly introduce noise and gradually gunfire to your puppy. However, do not take your young puppy to a shooting range to introduce them to gunfire. The proper introduction of guns and gunfire to your puppy is vital to train a great hunting dog.
Can you train a greyhound not to chase?
It is challenging but definitely doable. Training your greyhound not to chase helps eliminate many concerns. Being sighthounds, they are naturally build to chase after any small animal; however, there are a number of things you can do to stop them.
Take preventative measures and channel their energy into a productive activity. Obedience training, especially for young puppies, will also go a long way. This is because young puppies are very receptive and eager to please.
When should I teach my puppy commands?
Young puppies should start learning simple obedience commands at the age of 5-8 weeks of age, although they do have short attention spans. These simple commands are such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘down’.
Consistency, patience, and commitment are crucial when training your greyhound puppy to hunt. It’s all worthwhile once your hound comes back running with a rabbit or squirrel in its mouth. If you face challenges when training your greyhound puppy for hunting, seek help from professional trainers in your locale.