With the challenging events of 2020 and running into limited availability of life’s staples, I’ve been thinking of getting back into hunting to lead a more sustainable lifestyle. But I’d like to take my Cattle Dogs. So before setting out, I wanted to know, do Cattle Dogs make good hunting dogs? Here’s what I found out.
While Australian Cattle Dogs (ACD) are known for their herding instinct, their strong prey drive, stamina and loyalty also make them well-suited to be hunting dogs.
Can Heelers be Hunters?
Heelers can definitely learn how to hunt. As one of the top ten most intelligent dog breeds, Cattle Dogs can be easily trained to do a variety of tasks, including hunting. There are many successful examples of ACDs locating game and retrieving them.
In fact, the tracking game is very similar to the ACD’s instinct to herd cattle, sheep, or a flock. With guidance, a Cattle Dog can learn not only how to track the game but also how to bring it back to their humans.
Do Australian Cattle Dogs Retrieve?
Cattle Dogs are absolutely one of the most naturally inclined retrievers. ACDs are highly skilled at fetching, so it should be no surprise that Cattle Dogs can be very successful retrievers. Once they identify the ball, the frisbee, or the intended game as their mission, they will seek it out and return it. Cattle Dogs love to please their owners with a job well done!
What Kind of Game Do Cattle Dogs Hunt?
Cattle Dogs are known to hunt a variety of small game animals including squirrels, moles, gophers, rabbits, foxes, and raccoons. As a bird hunting companion, Cattle Dogs can help identify and retrieve game like pheasant, geese, quail, duck, and sandhill cranes. There are even accounts of a pack of Cattle Dogs bringing down a large wild pig, but strong caution is advised to avoid a hog’s potentially dangerous tusks and powerful jaws.
How Can I Train My Cattle Dog to Hunt?
There are several training methods to teach a Cattle Dog to hunt. All training methods involve repetition, consistency, and positive reinforcement.
First, start training your Heeler as young as possible. It is recommended to start training Cattle Dogs between two and four months of age. Second, begin socializing with your puppy to learn different sounds, scents, and surroundings. Adapting to new environments is key to your Cattle Dog’s success as your hunting companion.
Here are some of the most common steps to begin training a Cattle Dog to hunt.
- Train your dog in basic obedience and manners.
- Hold daily practices. Reward correct behavior.
- Familiarize your dog with different terrain and bodies of water.
- Introduce your dog to the selected game by using scents, skins, decoys, or frozen birds.
- Encourage your dog to follow a scent trail on a leash.
- Drag tethered fowl for a short chase to activate the dog’s hunting instinct.
- Continue daily practice and always remember to reward correct behavior rather than punish.
- Reinforce off-leash recall using whistles, hand signals, or commands.
- Familiarize your dog with loud noises – drops, slams, and loud pops.
Prepare for the first hunts to be just practice outings with your Heeler on a leash. It’s critical for hunting dogs to learn how to wait patiently beside you and wait for your command.
How Long Does It Take to Train a Cattle Dog to Hunt?
It can take between four to six months for basic hunting dog training which requires dedicated time with your Cattle Dog identifying the intended game, waiting by your side, then retrieving the game without damaging it. It helps to have access to hunting areas for frequent practice sessions.
The Cattle dog’s temperament and personality can contribute to the dog’s training timeline and ultimately to their success in hunting. Also, it’s good to keep in mind, that some dogs may not be interested in hunting, no matter how much time is spent on training.
There are varying opinions on the time necessary to complete hunting dog training. When training Cattle Dog’s to hunt, it’s best to focus on your Cattle Dog’s iterative improvements, rather than a specific timeline.
How Can I Test My Cattle Dog’s Hunting Instinct?
Nonprofit organizations such as the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA) promote the highest standards for training and testing hunting dogs.
Cattle Dogs under 18 months are tested on their natural ability to measure tendencies to point, track, and retrieve. Adult dogs, older than 18 months, are judged on both their natural ability and utility, which also measures training and obedience.
Ideal hunting dogs should have at least one to two years of experience hunting both fur and feather and excel at the following hunting actions:
Ignore the stereotypes of the ideal hunting dog. Australian Cattle Dogs are well-suited and proven that they can become successful hunting companions.