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Training springer for rabbits? (kinda long)

Training springer for rabbits? (kinda long)

Postby Netzapper » Wed Mar 17, 2010 9:49 pm

(First post here. I apologize if I'm unaware of appropriate conventions.)

My wife and I bought an excellently bred field-line springer spaniel puppy in January. He's now almost six months old. Initially, I had no intention of hunting him and so just did the usual housepet obedience training (at which he's been quite satisfactory). But, he's so well bred that he desperately *wants* to hunt. Everything from leaves in the wind to songbirds to anything he scents in the brush--he thinks raccoons are, perhaps, a bit too large. He naturally, if inefficiently, quarters on ours walks. He has a proud, cheerful natural retrieve that just melts your heart. Excellent pup. It'd be a crying shame to let all that go to waste. So I decided I'd take him hunting--I shoot anyway, just haven't hunted.

But what do I hunt? This is for the dog to utilize his natural talents, and provide an excuse to wander fields with a shotgun. I don't really want to deal with bag limits and seasons, or small, sparse populations. Not to mention I'm not really a big fan of the taste of fowl in general, although game meat is better than most. So after reviewing the relevant state game regulations, and my cookbooks, I settled on rabbit. They're underhunted and overpopulated many places. A spaniel will flush them. And based on childhood BB gun experiences in suburbia, I reckon they're fun to hunt.

This'll be the first hunting dog I've trained. This is also the first dog I've had in my adult life. So at least for some sort of starting point for building a training program, I bought the book "Hup!" by James(?) Spencer. I'd be proud to walk a dog with even half the skills described in that book. His technique seems quite reasonable, as well, if expensive in pigeons. But therein lies the conundrum: a pigeon is a bird, which is not a rabbit.

Should I use rabbits? Hobbled bunnies in place of clipped pigeons? How do I dizzy a bunny? (For that matter, how does one dizzy a pigeon?)

Or should I train on birds? If I train on birds, do I have the potential to teach him to hunt both birds *and* rabbits? Will I be able to, in some way, indicate that today we're hunting pheasant, but tomorrow we're hunting wabbit? Or would every pheasant hunt also be a rabbit hunt? (I'd be fine with any of those answers, frankly.)

Please, give me your advice. I need to know whether I'm saving up for a pigeon coop or rabbit hutches. Or if I'm totally off base and need some completely different training scheme entirely.
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Re: Training springer for rabbits? (kinda long)

Postby Ditch__Parrot » Wed Mar 17, 2010 10:28 pm

:lol: :lol: dizzy bunnies :lol: :lol: Thanks for the chuckle its been a long day I needed that.

I'll try to help a little. Little different perspective since I have pointing dogs and you have a flusher but I'll give it a shot. First off I can't imagine using any dizzy bunnies for training. Birds you just tuck their head under their wing, pull their feet out straight and rock or shake them a bit and they pass right out.

:oops: I break my dogs off of rabbits but I have a friend that regularly hunts rabbits with his pointing dog, and i've enjoyed shooting bunnies over him numerous times. I'm pretty sure the same general principles would apply for flushers. There is no way to tell the dog one day we hunt one thing the next day something else. My buddy regularly hunts pheasant, quail, and rabbits at the same time. Usually you can tell by the way the dog is acting rather if its a rabbit (little less excited) or a bird they are scenting, but sometimes its just a suprise when you flush. I guess i've just used way too many words to say that the dog is expected to handle his bunnies just like a bird.

I think the biggest thing with hunting rabbits with a flusher would be training the dog to sit when they flush. This would be for safetey. Most of the people that I have bird hunted with that had flushers never trained to that degree. With the bunnies it would be essential though. IMO

Congrats on the pup. Welcome to the world of gun dogs.
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Re: Training springer for rabbits? (kinda long)

Postby Netzapper » Wed Mar 17, 2010 11:08 pm

Ditch__Parrot wrote:I think the biggest thing with hunting rabbits with a flusher would be training the dog to sit when they flush. This would be for safetey. Most of the people that I have bird hunted with that had flushers never trained to that degree. With the bunnies it would be essential though. IMO

Congrats on the pup. Welcome to the world of gun dogs.


I think you're absolutely correct. With a bird, they're pretty likely to take flight at some point, right? So you can shoot (literally) over the dog at the bird (even in training). A partially trained spaniel could still hunt birds. With a rabbit, he'll need to reliably hup on flush for me to have any shot whatsoever.

That actually helps me in my overall conundrum. If a bird-trained dog will hunt rabbit, maybe it's better to train him on birds in the first place. I did see a great Afghan recipe for squab.
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Re: Training springer for rabbits? (kinda long)

Postby Sharon » Thu Mar 18, 2010 12:33 am

Seems to me he needs the same training as we train the beagle - rabbit pen at a local beagle club and lots of experience in the woods on rabbit. I'd be looking at some Beagle Training Books. I know he can't track like a beagle but the rabbit introduction could be the same.
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Re: Training springer for rabbits? (kinda long)

Postby jimbo&rooster » Sun Mar 21, 2010 6:47 am

I would imagine that if rabbits are over populated as you say that you should be able to find some public or private ground where there are a bunch of bunnies and just let the pup run. the pup will eventually start to bump the bunnies and chse them. for a while id just let the pup chase. you can worry about sit to flush later. my lab will flush and retrieve rabbits while we are out hunting quail and pheasants the fun thing is she'll even retrieve the bunnies to hand (never owned a beagle that would retrieve) . the dog wont be able to differentiate between birds and bunnies you will just have some bonus flushes on birds from time to time. good luck
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Re: Training springer for rabbits? (kinda long)

Postby WiskeyJaR » Fri Dec 10, 2010 4:58 pm

I would think using the CC would come in handy here. In side a large pen or yard, using the CC to teach sit or "HUP" on flush. Inside a fenced area so you can "recycle" the rabbit. Maybe use a bird launcher with a weaken spring so as not to fling the rabbit sky high when launched...:P)

I too am training me dog to hunt both rabbits and birds. The thing Im worried about most when interducing me pup to a live rabbit, is if the pup tries to retrive a live rabbit and the rabbit starts kicking is the claws scratching the pup up, and causing the pup to start to balk at a rabbit, or to become "hard mouth" to kill rabbit, whitch isnt what you want when working with birds.

Keep us posted on how your training is coming.

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