There is no age limit on training an older dog to hunt. However, there are many things to consider before training an older dog to hunt.
It is common to see dogs up to 4 years old being trained to hunt. It’s less common to see dogs over five years old being trained to hunt.
Can you train an older dog to hunt
It is possible to train an older dog to hunt, and many older dogs are trained to hunt regularly. Training an older dog to hunt is more about the mental capacity and physical abilities of the dog and less about how old the dog is.
With the right preparation and execution, you can train a dog of 5 years old for hunting.
Considerations before training an older dog to hunt
Before committing to training an older dog for hunting, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. Some things like health and mentality will have a major impact on whether the dog is suitable for hunting.
As the dog gets older, some health issues may arise. This is more common in dogs over 5, but health conditions can appear at any time.
Things like hip or elbow dysplasia may seriously affect the dog’s ability to hunt, and it would be unfair to ask a dog with serious health issues to perform such strenuous tasks.
If you are unsure of your dog’s health condition, take it to your vet for a full health check-up before committing to training for hunting.
If your dog is healthy, the next thing to consider is fitness, particularly if your dog is out of shape.
It can take several months to get your dog to peak hunting condition; this depends on the dogs’ current lifestyle and fitness level.
It’s important to start slow and not rush this stage as you run the risk of your dog being injured if it tries to do too much too soon.
Lifestyle is another important consideration when asking your dog to hunt. Most dogs are ready to scout or chase other animals at a moment’s notice.
However, if your dog has been a house dog all its life, asking him to go through some questionable terrain might be surprising to the dog.
Your dog’s mentality is a huge factor in whether your older dog can hunt or not.
It may be challenging to train an older dog, but it may become impossible if it is stubborn.
You need to really assess your dogs’ mentality and judge whether you think it can be trained or not.
If your dog has some basic training like sit and stay, you may find because he used to be trained, it might come easy. But, if your dog has no previous training and is used to doing its own thing, it may be difficult for this dog to take to training.
If you are unsure, take your dog to a professional trainer to have them assess it.
Instincts play a big part in a dog’s hunting ability. Did you ever see a Pointer lock onto a bird and automatically start pointing? This is all instinct.
My pointer was already pointing birds at five months old with no training.
If your older dog is a hunting breed or comes from hunting bloodlines, it may already have a powerful hunting drive, which is half the battle.
How old is too old to train a dog to hunt
There is no age that is too old to train a dog. Rather the question should be, “is it ethical or fair to ask your dog to hunt?”
Are they physically fit and healthy enough to hunt? Will you only be stressing your dog if you ask it to hunt because it’s so far from its comfort zone.
You can successfully train a dog that is 5 plus years to hunt, providing the dog is of sound mind and body.
How to train an older dog to hunt
Training an older dog to hunt is not so different than training a younger dog to hunt. The only difference is that an older dog has its own mind and may question some of the things you are asking.
If you ease your dog into it slowly, you should have no issues.
Get fit The first step in training your dog to hunt is getting them physically fit. Because this is a long process, we start it early. Not only will your dogs’ physical fitness improve but so will their mental fitness.
Exercising your dog will stimulate his mind also. It’s a good idea to take your dog for walks in areas you might be hunting so he can explore this surroundings. However, you will want to keep your dog on a lead so he doesn’t develop any bad habits like chasing game.
Start slow – It’s important that you start slow. We can’t stress this enough. If you try to do too much too soon you run the risk of stressing your dog and having it shut down on you.
Remember this training may come as a shock to an older dog. Start with basic commands like sit and stay.
Keep it short – It’s very likely your older dog may get bored of this new routine very quickly, so it’s important to keep sessions short at the start.
The first few weeks should be 3-5 sessions per day at 10-20 minutes per session.
You may find that your dog will start anticipating these sessions and look foraward to them. If this happens you can increase the sessions, but do it slowly as it’s still possible that it can become overwhelming for the dog.
Make it fun – It’s important that your dog is finding his training fun and not a chore. Older dogs tend to do do what they want, so if they find training fun that is what they will want to do.
To make it fun for your dog introduce games. For example you can use toys or a bumper to play treasure hunt with your dog.
This will encourage your dog to use it’s nose and seek out the toy. Which is very useful for upland hunting or blind retrieves.
Reward – All your dog wants to do is please you, it’s essential that you reward your dog regularly and let it know that he’s doing a good job. This will encourage him to keep going and will strenghten your bond.
Final thoughts on training an older dog to hunt
Just because a dog is older does not mean that it can’t hurt. Dogs are very adaptable and can quickly grasp things and overcome obstacles.
If you have an older dog you wish to train to hunt, follow the advice above and enjoy going through the process with your dog.
If, at any stage, you are unsure about your ability or your dogs’ ability, call on a professional trainer to help you out.
It’s very difficult to break bad habits in a dog, and it is much easier to get it right the first time around.