The best part of the year for the avid bird hunter is the fall. Cooler weather and changing leaves are just a couple of reasons why hunting is so much fun during this season. As with any outdoor activity, having the right equipment for the job makes all the difference in the world when it comes to your enjoyment level.
Your choice of dog can have a major impact on how successful you are when out hunting for wild game.
This is a question that many people ask when they are thinking about getting a bird hunting dog. They wonder whether or not their German shepherd will have the skills and energy required to do a good job in the field.
Can German Shepherds Be a Bird Hunting Dogs?
German shepherds can be good bird hunting dogs. Although not primarily used as hunting dogs, German shepherds are capable of meeting the requirements of this job.
They have a powerful noise to help them point out birds and track wounded ones. Not forget to mention, they have a lot of strength and stamina, which makes it possible for them to spend hours working in the field to catch prey.
It is important to remember, though, that German Shepherds are not born with the instinct of a bird hunting dog as they are with other types of dogs such as Labrador Retrievers and German Shorthaired Pointer.
Luckily, because of their intelligence, it won’t take long for a German Shepherd to learn the ropes and become a skilled bird hunter with its master.
Can Any German Shepherds Be a Hunting Dog?
The German Shepherd can be trained to hunt a variety of quarries. However, they are best at tracking and recovering little creatures like rabbits, vermin, and fowl.
However, do remember that each dog is different, and while some dogs might excel, others may never get the hang of it.
So if you wish to use your German Shepherd as a bird hunting dog, it is best to start training them at an early age. This will allow the puppy to learn important skills that will help it become an effective hunter, such as following your commands and paying attention to the surroundings.
Taking part in hunting training exercises is also another important aspect of successfully using your German Shepherd as a bird hunting dog. This will allow the dog to use its nose to track its prey and be able to communicate with you when you need them most.
When Should You Start Training Your German Shepherd?
It’s recommended that you start training (or conditioning) your German shepherd dog between the ages of 6 and 12 months old. Socialization, basic obedience, and increasing his prey drive are prior to this. Then you might begin teaching him bird dog commands or enrolling him in his first hunting class!
How Long Does It Take To Train a German Shepherd to Become a Hunting Dog?
I can’t say for sure how long it takes to train a German Shepherd dog. It would depend on many factors, such as how much time you put into training your dog and the age of the dog when you start training them.
However, I can say that for most German shepherds, it can take up to 2 years for them to become solid, skilled hunters and possibly 12 to 16 months old if you can find a good hunting club or if you enroll them in a good hunting class.
How to Train German Shepherds to Retrieve Birds
Although training a German Shepherd to hunt might be a bit challenging, it is not impossible.
To guarantee they follow your every command while hunting, you’ll need to start with the basics and slowly wean them into the hunting lifestyle. Just like a child, you’ll need to raise them up with proper education.
Here are some tips that can help you train your German Shepherds to become great bird hunting dogs:
1. Start with Basic Obedience Training and Socialization (2 – 4 Months of Age)
The success of training your German shepherd to be a bird hunting dog will largely depend on their ability to master the basics.
The first thing you’ll need to focus on is basic obedience training. This means teaching them how to walk at heel, sit, stay, come when called, fetch, and kennel command.
This step might seem simple, but it will be the foundation of their training. Not only will it help them learn how to respond to your commands, but it will also teach them how to listen and pay attention to you when in the field.
Socialization is another crucial aspect of training your German Shepherd. This is because your hunting partner will likely meet plenty of other humans and animals while they’re out in the field.
Without good socialization, they will not know how to properly act or respond towards other people or animals. This might cause them to get distracted, which can be dangerous when in the field.
2. Slowly Expose Them to the Hunting Lifestyle (4 – 6 Months of Age)
After you’ve socialized your German shepherd and they know the basics of obedience, it’s time to gradually expose them to birds. By exposing them to birds early on, you’ll give them a head start at the prey drive.
In the beginning, you could simply take them for a walk near the woods and let them explore every bird they can find. During these first few introductions, you should not give them any “hunt” command or push them actually to go after the birds.
At this stage, you’re just letting them smell and experience birds of prey. As you expose them to more and more birds and guns, their desire for hunting will become more apparent. They’ll start showing some interest in finding birds while out on a walk and even want to chase them when they see them!
Assuming your shepherd has learned the basics from your previous training sessions, this is a great time to teach them how to fetch. Once they show interest in birds and want to chase after them, you can use a dummy bird to help them learn how to retrieve them.
3. Slowly Introduce Them to Gunshots (6 – 8 Months of Age)
At the same time, you should also start introducing them to guns and gunshots. You can do this by simply carrying around an unloaded gun or laying it on the ground. Once you are sure that your German shepherd is used to the gun, you can progress to firing the gun.
Go on the field and shoot your gun a couple of times in the distance. The loud noise will frighten them, and this is okay. Just reassure them and show them that it’s safe. If done correctly, this will teach them that loud noises are nothing to be afraid of.
Nonetheless, not all German shepherds will respond the same to gunfires. If your shepherd has a soft temper and is easily scared, gunshots might cause them to cower in fear or even run away. They’ll need more exposure and training to get them accustomed to the loud sound of gunfire.
4. It’s Time To Get Serious (8 – 12 Months of Age)
By this age, your shepherd will be used to the presence of guns and should have a decent understanding of how to hunt. This is your opportunity to improve their performance and get them ready to hunt with you.
Take them more and more times to the field but this time give them a specific task to accomplish. For example, show them the dead bird and then let them sniff around until they locate it. Then, tell your shepherd to “fetch” while giving a hand signal that tells them which way to go.
Don’t get discouraged if your shepherd doesn’t get it right the first time. Instead, always encourage them and show that you’re happy with their progress. If they do well, reward them by playing a game or giving them a treat.
5. It’s Time To Start Career as a Bird Hunting Dog (12 – 16 Months of Age)
Now your hunting partner is officially ready to be taken into the field! They should have a good understanding of how to find, track, and retrieve birds.
Take them to different places. Don’t just stick to the same spot. For example, if they only know the fetch command or are familiar with finding birds in one specific area, teach them about tracking down birds in other areas.
You should also train them to be comfortable in a wide range of weather conditions so they can perform well on a hunt. This is especially important if you plan to take them on competition or long hunting trips.
Can You Train Older German Shepherds to Hunt Birds?
Yes, this is possible. In fact, German shepherds as old as four years old can also become excellent bird hunting dogs. That said, it’s essential to keep in mind that the mature age of a shepherd will determine how difficult their training process will be.
In general, it’s best to train younger shepherds rather than older ones. This is because they’re less likely to reject your training and also respond better to it. But if you do decide to train an adult shepherd, expect the process to be much more difficult than when they were younger.
Here are some factors that affect how easy or difficult it is to train adult German shepherds:
A shepherd who has trained well and has a lot of socialization experience will likely better understand what you’re trying to teach them. This means they’ll be able to pick up on commands faster and are more likely to respond well during training sessions.
If your older shepherd also has a hunting experience with other games, it’ll be much easier to train them. In fact, some shepherds may naturally know how to track and hunt birds because of their hunting instincts kicking in.
An older shepherd who has a health condition is likely more stubborn and can be a bit difficult to train. For example, if they have arthritis or are otherwise in pain, it can be hard for them to listen to commands.
3. Temperament Traits
As dogs get older, they will develop certain traits and behaviors that also affect how well they can be trained. For example, shepherds who are timid or easily intimidated by new things might have a harder time learning how to hunt.
This is why I recommend starting training your shepherd as a puppy. They’re more malleable and easy to train at a young age. When they get older, you may have a harder time persuading them of things or getting them to listen.
Although German shepherds are not naturally born bird hunting dogs, they can be trained to become one. It’s just a matter of time and dedication on your part. Just remember that dogs are individuals, so that each one will require a different approach to training.
Please refer to this guide for tips on how to train your German shepherd during the stages of their development process.