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Training A Coyote Decoy Dog: The Early Days

coyote decoy dogThe first days out in the field with your new hunting partner can be the most enjoyable and the most frustrating. It is a whole new world for him and he is going to want to take it all in.

The first few times out with your dog, keep him on a tether—a 20- or 30-foot length of light rope. It will be best if you are not actually hunting; it is difficult to juggle gear and a rifle with an inexperienced dog running circles around you and wrapping you up in the tether. Just take the dog along for scouting trips or hiking. It will be good for both of you. Keep him on the tether for the first half hour of so, or until you feel comfortable turning him loose. Dogs have many personality variations, so use your best judgment. Your dog might have experience outside, he might be a ranch dog or you might use him to hunt other species, but here we’ll assume the dog hasn't been out much. Either way, it’s best if he burns off a little energy before you untie him.

Starting Slowly

This is where the real education begins. Try to expose the dog to as much as you can before you start hunting, so everything isn’t new to him. That way, when you start calling coyotes, he’ll be focused on you and the coyotes. Obstacles you will almost certainly encounter are rabbits and small critters he will want to chase, as well as deer and livestock.

Also look out for porcupines, skunks and rattlesnakes. You should expose your dog to them and thoroughly break him from chasing such critters before you start hunting. When your dog starts off on a chasing adventure is the proper time to correct him. It’s a real pain for both of you if your dog comes wandering back with a face full of porcupine quills, or a snakebite. Regarding the latter, watch the wound carefully if your dog is bitten in the face. The bite will swell fast and, in some extreme cases, can block the dog’s breathing.

An E-collar is an invaluable tool. When you purchase a collar, get the best collar with the longest range you can afford. You will be glad you did. Nobody said this decoy dog deal was going to be cheap or easy!

Your dog must learn to travel and handle himself outside. His feet need to toughen up and he needs to learn about cactus and all kinds of other nasty things. If you take a dog out that has been living in a kennel or in your backyard, there is a good chance he's going to be pretty tender footed for a while, and you might wind up carrying your dog back to the truck. It doesn't take long for a dog to figure out the world, toughen up, and get in shape, but you’re far better off doing this before you start hunting.

The Fun Begins

When the groundwork is done, it’s time to show your dog a coyote. I prefer dead ones at first; they don't bite back. The best method is to take your dog along on a few stands, but keep him tied close. Let him see what is going on, but tied so he can't get in front of you while you are shooting. Keep him tied well behind the gun so you can shoot without worrying about him getting in the way or being too close to the muzzle blast. If you ring his bell with a .22-250 right next to his ear, the last thing on his mind is going to be you or the coyote. That’s a quick way to ruin a good dog.

As a coyote approaches, try to let your dog see it before you shoot. There will be times you end up shooting the coyote before your dog ever sees it, but if at all possible, cue your dog into what is going on. It might take a pile of stands and called coyotes before you feel comfortable letting your dog loose, and that is fine. In most cases, he will do more good being there beside or behind you than running loose. When the coyote is down, let your dog find it. Hopefully, he saw it go down, but if not, let him do the finding. When he finds it, reward him. For many dogs a dead coyote will be adequate reward. Some dogs don’t seem to care much, but either way praise him for finding it. This will help when he needs to blood trail wounded coyotes.

Hunter And Finder

For a recreational caller I think it’s more important to have a dog that will find a wounded coyote than a dog that actually works coyotes hard. If you hunt much, you are going to wound a coyote eventually. The benefit of a dog in such instances can’t be overstated. After you have let him find a few close ones that you knocked down, bring a buddy along and have him drag a coyote several hundred yards out of your dog’s sight, then let your dog find it. Repeat this, going farther each time, letting your dog find the carcass. You will be glad once your dog becomes a reliable tracker. In many states you can use dogs for all types of wounded game. It should be that way everywhere, but some states do not allow it on any big-game animals—a real shame because the amount of wounded animals that could be recovered with the aid of a dog would be immense. Every effort should be made to follow up and dispatch any animal that is wounded. A wounded coyote, if he survives, is a highly educated coyote that might no longer have the capacity to take natural prey. These coyotes are likely to become someone's problem, either the local farmer or rancher, or suburban pet owners.

This should get you started. Expect a lot of early disappointments along with the good experiences. Start with a solid foundation of obedience, followed by ground work in the field, and you will both learn a lot. A good dog is the best hunting partner you can have, and well worth the time and effort you took to train him.

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