Dogs need exercise to stay healthy. But does it always have to be free running and what about dogs with strong hunting behaviour? Read up on how to master walks with your hunting dog.
How much exercise does a dog need?
Dogs want to run and romp, some more and some less. How much exercise a dog needs depends, among other things, on its breed, age, state of health, but also on its daily condition. Breeds that were bred for physical work, such as hunting dogs, usually need more physical exercise than a companion dog. Young dogs usually have an even greater urge to move than older ones and also want to play more with other dogs. Sick animals naturally do not want and should not be exposed to enormous physical stress and need more rest. Just like us humans, dogs don’t feel like working out every day, they might be tired, have experienced something they need to deal with or don’t like the weather at the moment.
Your pet mainly gets exercise when you take him for a walk. On the leash, you set the pace and it is usually limited to walking speed or a light trot for the dog. When running free, the dog can choose how fast he wants to run. Many dogs will run a couple of laps and then move on to sniffing and exploring. Forcing the dog to run, for example with ball games, is not necessary and usually counterproductive. How much exercise the dog needs depends on the individual. Pay attention to how much and, above all, what kind of exercise is good for your dog.
Does it always have to be free running?
Free running has the great advantage that your dog can be more self-determined than on a leash. However, it is not always possible to let your dog run free everywhere. Sometimes it is even dangerous.
When it is better to keep your pet on a leash:
- In road traffic
- If a leash and/or muzzle is required by law
- If the recall is not perfectly trained
- If other people or animals could be put in danger or are afraid of your dog.
- Hunting dogs in the forest and in the field
- In the breeding and sowing season
- When your dog is in heat or has sniffed out a female dog.
- In a large radius, i.e. if your pet moves too far away from you.
What are the alternatives to free running?
As a dog owner, you are always obliged to ensure that the dog is exercised in a manner appropriate to its species. In today’s society, especially in the cities, this is often more difficult than it used to be in the countryside. In the old days, you could just let your dog out the door and it would occupy itself, in the yard or elsewhere. However, physical exercise is just as possible on a drag leash as it is in a free run.
If your pet has to be walked on a leash, you should observe the following:
- A drag line gives the dog a lot of room to move.
- Make walks interesting (incorporate exercises, find sniffing spots, incorporate search games, city agility, etc.)
- Change pace (you can walk slowly at heel or run with your dog).
- Take longer walks (adapted to the dog)
- Run in fenced areas
Hunting dog – so what?
You may think that my dog chases wild animals, but he doesn’t catch them anyway and always comes back?
You should consider a few things:
- The animal that is chased by the dog, even if the dog does not catch it, can later die as a result of this chase. Either due to injuries or as a result of the enormous stress.
- If mother animals die during the hunt, the babies do not survive either.
- Violation of laws. In Lower Austria, for example, against § 64 of the Hunting Protection Act. It states, among other things, that if the dog is outside the owner’s sphere of influence and is hunting animals, the hunter is authorised and allowed to shoot the dog. So always be aware of this.
- Many dogs fall into a kind of tunnel vision when they are hunting and are no longer aware of their surroundings. Unfortunately, some dogs get run over, run far away and lose their bearings and can’t find their way home, or run to the point of exhaustion and never come back because they literally collapse.
- Hunting is self-rewarding, i.e. the hunt alone without success is enough to release happiness hormones in the dog’s body. That’s why the likelihood that he will do it again increases with each hunt.
Solution Anti-hunting training?
Training the dog not to hunt sounds easier than it is. If the hunting behaviour is very pronounced or if the dog has already had hunting successes (be careful what is a success is decided by the dog, for some it is enough to pick up the scent) this makes things even more difficult.
Hunting is a natural behaviour and cannot simply be trained away, the dog must be offered adequate alternatives to have any chance at all. Which alternatives depend on the individual dog. The following exercises are part of anti-chasing training and should be built up well and positively:
- Recall and emergency recall (mostly with whistle)
- Minimise radius (if your dog runs too far away call him back in time)
- Strengthen the relationship with you
- When walking, the dog’s attention should be with you, not in the environment.
- Increase impulse control and frustration tolerance.
- Hunting together
Anti-hunting training requires a lot of patience and consistency. As it is built up very individually, it is advisable to have a good dog trainer at your side who will build up a positive training with you and your dog step by step.
Your dog needs exercise and, as far as possible, free running. However, there are many alternatives for exercising your dog on the drag line. Whether free running is possible with a chasing dog through anti-chasing training depends on the dog and your patience during training. So decide when, where and how you want to let your dog run.