As you prepare for your next hunt, you will think of the time off work, lodging, food, clothing, and other supplies. You may not remember to take the time to remind your dog of the commands and skills that will be necessary on the hunt. Even if you think yours is the best hunting dog around, you will need to ensure that the dog is responding to all of these commands consistently, especially if it has been several months since your last hunt.
Although you probably do not use this as a command word for your dog, he/she must be able to stop and come to you when there is chaos. There may be many people, many birds, gunshots, and other dogs. Your dog must be able to consistently tune out all voices except yours in order to stay calm and return to you when necessary.
This command may be forgotten as you train your dog to retrieve, but it is a tremendous benefit to have your dog walk calmly beside you. It is related to the first skill, but involves the dog’s ability to stay at your side until you command him otherwise.
In order to find and produce game, the dog must be able to traverse the ground slightly ahead of you, in a predictable pattern. Typically the quartering pattern is back and forth, while slowly advancing forward. Although, most hunters would agree, it is most important that the dog successfully produces birds, not that the quarter pattern is precise.
Every hunting dog needs a good nose and a solid ability to use it. They must be able to track a scent, in any kind of terrain. Additionally, your dog must be willing to follow the scent wherever it may lead.
In an ideal hunting situation, there are hundreds of birds in your hunt zone. Your dog must be able to watch the one bird that falls, then go directly to that area to sniff it out. This ability is an asset to your hunt because it keeps people away from the area (which can disturb the scent of the bird). It also allows you to stay back and seek other birds.
Rest assured these skills are all teachable. If your dog lacks in one or two areas, start working on it well in advance of your hunt to ensure his success in the field. If your dog is having problems in many areas, your hunt could be frustrating and fruitless. Take the time to train your dog thoroughly, and then continue to refresh the skills each year before your hunt.