Hunt Chase

Hunt chase may be a term you have heard wafted around, but what does it actually mean and what does it look like?

Hunt chase is where a dog performs the act of “hunting” and “chasing” wildlife, most commonly birds, squirrels and rabbits.

Hunt and chase don’t always happen together, some dogs will chase a rabbit if it leaps out in front of them but they don’t actively go hunting for it by sniffing and searching, however if a dog is hunting they often then chase once they find something.

Hunt chase varies in all dogs and you can measure how extreme their hunt chase is by asking yourself a few simple questions;

  • When they are hunting will they respond to recall?
  • How far away from you do they go while hunting?
  • How close does the animal need to be to your dog for your dog to chase it?
  • Will your dog recall away from chase?
  • How far will your dog run to chase / how soon do they give up chasing?

As my main experience of hunt chase is from Zebby I’ll use him as an example.

Zebby has varying levels of hunt chase depending on what environment we are in, how much interaction we are doing and how close and strong the scent is.

For example if we walk into a farm field that has a large number of pheasants in it he will not recall from hunting and will go a couple of fields away from me (becomes a tiny dot in the distance).

However a walk somewhere else with Zebby may involve some sniffing but consistent responds to recalls every time, and if a rabbit ran out ahead of him he may chase for a few seconds and then turn around and come back, so it all depends on the environment and the state of the mind of the dog at that moment of time.

[If he had been off-lead at that moment then I can guarantee I would have not seen him for about 10 minutes or more!]

How to prevent it

Find the right trainer

All dogs have predatory instincts and therefore they all have the potential to hunt chase.

Consider the main prey instincts that any dog may have… hunting, stalking, chasing, grabbing and catching, biting, shaking, plucking, tearing and carrying.

Therefore depending on the breed and their intended purposes they will have different strengths, for example terriers are good at hunting, catching and killing, whereas collies are wired to stalk and chase and lurchers tend to be all chase and kill without the hunt.

The one and most importance piece of advice I will give to you is go and find a qualified trainer who is experienced with hunt chase in you breed of dog.

In my opinion a trainer who has only ever owned collies and prefers collies is not going to be able to help you with your hunting spaniel as much as a trainer who owns and works spaniels on a shoot.

Of course above all the importance is to find a trainer who uses positive methods. 


Self control

Self control is an important skill for all dogs to gain for every day life, but especially for dogs with strong hunt chase.

A dog who is able to hold back and not act on it’s first impulse will be a better mannered, more enjoyable dog to live with.

Think about a dog who doesn’t charge through doorways, doesn’t jump up at the table to steal food, relaxes while you are at the pub having a meal, doesn’t chase the cat and stays close on a walk without running off to every dog it sees. That is a dog with good self control.

There are a huge range of training exercises that work on self control and I’d suggest you find a suitable dog training class or workshop near you that covers these.

Susan Garrett’s “It’s Yer Choice” game is a good place to start, plus Kiko Pup’s stay training method.

Also Jane Arden runs workshops such as Stop, Come, Click which covers self control and predatory chase.

Give your dog an appropriate outlet

I think it’s very important that we recognise what is natural for our dogs and then give them an opportunity to express these behaviours.

Spaniels have been bred especially for their strong sense of smell and their desire to hunt, so to not allow them to do any searching or sniffing at all is practically cruel.

Therefore a very easy and fun alternative behaviour for a spaniel is scentwork.

Scentwork training and competition is becoming increasing more popular and you should be able to find a class or workshop near you.

For anyone in Cheshire or Staffordshire I’d suggest you check out Tracy at Awesome Paws Dog Training and Barry at Happy Hounds.

You may also find that getting your dog in to a toy such as a tennis ball gives them an alternative activity to do during a walk instead of hunting.

Personally I don’t like a dog to be too over-obsessed with a toy to the point that nothing else exists to them except that ball, so balance is key.

Start young

Puppies tend to stay close on their first few walks as they are still very dependant on us. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to reward every time your puppy looks at you and comes back to you while off-lead.

Introduce play and retrieves early, as well as fun self control training.

What to do once you’ve got it

Prevent it from being practised

If you dog is frequently ignoring you to go running off and hunting then the first step is to prevent this.

Use a long line to give them some level of freedom but which stops them from ranging too far.

Increasing their mental stimulation in the house will make up for their lack of physical exercises and help to keep their arousal down.

Build up the foundations

While preventing the dog from disappearing you then need to be working on your recall foundations;

~ Consider introducing a new recall command, such as a whistle, and build a strong emotional response to that command by blowing it before feeding the dog their meal every day.

~ Don’t go for a walk but instead go for a training session. Stick to one part of the field and change direction every time your dog runs ahead of you, praising and rewarding them when they come running back towards you then quickly changing direction again.

~Throw treats for your dog to chase or hide them in the grass and encourage them to find it.

~ As mentioned above find an appropriate, alternative behaviour for your dog to do, such as playing with a ball or searching for a treat under your direction.

~ Practise in all different environments, working to ensure your dogs recall response is the same no matter what distractions. Start somewhere easy with a low level of distractions such as a large playing field.

Give yourself time

Behaviours don’t change over night and habits are hard to kill. Plus consider the time of year. I know my recall will always be more challenging when the young pheasants have been released from their pens around September.

Keep up with your training, keep it light and fun and try to create positive sessions.

The main thing is to seek help and understand your dogs desires and how you can accommodate their instincts in an appropriate way.

Happy training.




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Bark in the Park

Off to Birmingham? Yes Birmingham!

Last weekend Ash and I went to help Cheshire Canine Services at Bark in the Park, a fundraising event in aid of Retired West Midlands Police Dogs, held in Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham.

bark in the park

It all started when Mike asked me if I knew anyone who would run Have a Go Agility… “Why don’t you do it.” I said… famous last words!

We were all set to leave on Saturday morning, however on Friday I had noticed Guinness’ paw was all red and sore and on Saturday morning it was worse. I couldn’t leave it until Monday! So instead of being on my M6 at 9am, we were at the vets.


Luckily there was nothing stuck and it turned out that Guinness had licked and chewed it to death, probably from the stress and pain from his other leg. I dropped him off at home with a wash, some more painkillers and a sock on and we eventually set off.

We rocked up in Birmingham at 10.30am, just as the event was starting. No worries!

Cannon Hill Park is HUGE! 120 acres! The Bark in the Park event was on a lovely section alongside the boating lake, near to the tennis courts and crazy golf. Dog agility next to tennis courts… genius.


There were displays in the main ring throughout the day, starting with Sarah Hanson of Wiggly Dogs talking about training methods and then Paws for Thought Display Team did a very entertaining display with flyball, agility, tricks and fire!

Next up it was the turn of Cheshire Canine Services. I slipped into the ring to take some photographs of Mike’s display. He started off with Bob his young springer puppy and talked about foundations, before moving on to show Bill his working springer and Emma came in with her rescue Labrador, Monty. The real highlight was when Mike demonstrated how to work two dogs, using Bill and Alf. He left the two dogs in a sit and turned and walked away. Bill bum shuffled forward. Alf took a step forward. Bill snuck forward. Alf crept forward. Sending shifty glances at each other the whole time. Mike turned around and they sat bolt upright, stark still. The crowd was roaring! You could not have planned it.


As the day finished we started to discuss hotels and evening plans. Mike and Emma were driving home, Ash and I had booked into the Travellers Inn nearby and Owain and Katie had grabbed a last minute room in the Birmingham Hotel… the reviews were not great!

After a moderately quiet day with a bit of rain, Ash and I went to do 18 holes of the 32 hole crazy golf, before heading off to the hotel. There was a fair and square pub just up the road so we wandered off to grab some tea. “We need to go straight on at the round-a-bout and then it’s just on the right”. Round-a-bout… more like a spaghetti junction! After dodging across 12 lanes of traffic we made it!


Sunday morning arrived and the first question on everyone’s lips was how Owain and Katie’s hotel was! “We walked in and walked back out”. It turns out they got a refund and stayed at a nearby Holiday Inn, and then their bathroom ceiling leaked so they got a full refund from there! Not bad!

The sun was out and Sunday was already feeling a lot busier. The agility was almost none stop and a lot of police puppy walkers had come for the day so they all had a go. Perfect socialisation for them, walking through a tunnel and across planks on the floor.


The Police rocked up to give a very entertaining demo, showing off their detection dogs and some bite work with the up and coming pups, before getting the big boys out. Mr. Angry is obviously quite a well known character in these displays and he has a great entertainment factor during the bite work. The last capture was a dog running out and grabbing him and then dragging him back to the police officers who were hiding behind a shelter. Then when Mr. Angry fought off the officers and tried to escape the dog nailed him. I love watching “attack” dog displays, they are always so entertaining.

Rookie mistake alert, I had left my spare memory card in the car! Mike was straight in with his display so I didn’t have chance to photograph it. Instead I sat back and watched. A slightly different display to yesterday, this time Mike used Alfie a little more. As he set Alf up for a blind retrieve he said “Now I don’t know if it’s because he’s ginger… but… he doesn’t have a very good memory”. Just for you Ash! I reckon the two gingers are quite content with their “colour disadvantage”.


Emma joined the display and they set Alf and Monty up on retrieve races! Monty grabbed his dummy but then ran over to Mike, bouncing around next to Alf looking very pleased with himself! Poor Emma had to go and fetch her dog from the “head trainer”.

As the displays had a break all of a sudden everyone had come to the agility! I had a queue of dogs and people crowding around to watch, cheering on each dog as they bravely made it through the tunnel and over the jumps, quickly followed by their owners. A great success.


It was brilliant to meet some twitter people and I finally came face to face with Mark Doggett (@MarkyDoggett) and Dave Hibbert, the event organiser and voice behind @WMP_dog. Plus I also met a fellow Andy Biggar Photography student, Joanna! (@joeynoble).

_DSC0033 I sat down to grab a quick lunch and heard Dave announce “and the winner of the waggiest tail is definitely Monty!”. I looked up and it was Emma! Way to go Monty.


The afternoon was getting hotter and hotter and Ash and Mike both released their legs. Much to Mike’s dismay it was concluded that crocks and socks are not cool!

The final demo of the day, Mike and Dave did some bite work with Morgan and Kai. Dave donned the jacket and was adamant that he could do the commentary and take the bites… there were quite a few lines of “So I’m going to try to get away and Kai is….”. We were all impressed with Dave, for a slim bloke he can take quite a pounding from these dogs!


Time to go home, Ash and I went back for our second round of Crazy Golf. As Mike drove past he shouted “Whose winning?”.  “I am!!” Ash and I said at the said time! It turns out Ash won… twice!

A really fun weekend, it was great to meet new people, put faces to twitter profiles and spend a day with friends and dogs!


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Cheshire Game & Angling Fair

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Betley Gundog and Game Fair 2013

This weekend I went along to the Betley Gundog and Game Fair for the Sunday. I left Guinness at home away from the guns and out of the sun and instead picked up my camera.

My friend Katie was doing a Flyball Display with her team, the Carry On’s.


They put on a fabulous display and showed the different parts to Flyball; the starter dogs, the breed dogs, how to do change-overs and then finished off with an exciting race!

Next up was a Bird of Prey Display from Rosliston Forestry Centre. Using a few volunteers from the crowd, they had a Barn Owl flying between people and then changed the crowd members and did the same with a young kestrel. The information was really good and it was very easy to listen to.


The best part was the Saker Falcon which flew out low over the crowds and round past the stalls, swooping in to try and grab the bait on the long line and then flying out again.  It stopped for a break and settled into a tree right above Katie’s head. We didn’t think he was going to come out.


The big star of the day was Andy Cullen MBE, a highly regarded gundog trainer. Andy gave some fantastic advice and information about training dogs and showed off a range of different breeds and their uses.


He used quite a lot of young dogs and demonstrated the different levels of training exercises. The best moment was seeing his 18 week old Springer Spaniel! Andy talked about puppy training and how important it is to get your foundations right.

He emphasised on the importance of positive reinforcement and made a point about not needing to shout or beat your dog to make them listen, but you also don’t need to be silly smoochy either. Just be yourself and reward your dog.


Last but not least was Cheshire Canine Services with a protection dog display. This was really entertaining and had a lot of wow moments. Mike Crawford runs the company and led the display, showing us different stages of training a protection dog.


Again their display consisted of young dogs and it highlighted the use of positive reinforcement in their training, especially play rewards. They did exercises with bite sleeves, an attacker with a weapon, crowd control and chase and detain. The pièce de résistance was a mock terrorist attack and one of the dogs jumped into a caravan to detain an attacker. Amazing!


Around the fair there were a handful of stalls with the usual tweed gundog trainer clothing, dog toys and accessories. There were also a few have a go stands such as archery, clay and rifles shooting.

Over in the distance in a different ring Terrier and Lurcher judging was taking place as well as ferret racing, although I walked away after watching them swinging the ferrets around like stuffed toys.  The Scurries competition was a trek away down the hill and  Andy Biggar, top Dog Photographer, had his own set up for special offer sessions. I managed to catch him for 5 minutes to say hello! (Very exciting).


The displays were on twice a day and quickly led on from each other so there was no sitting around waiting. It was a shame that everything was so spread out as it felt quiet around the main arena despite there being quite a lot of people about. The show was also a little sparse on stalls.  However I had a really enjoyable day and there’s plenty of worse things to be doing on a hot, sunny day!  It was lovely to see some friends and get some good photography practise.

There was a good general emphasis on positive reinforcement in all of the displays and I hope some people took note of this (such as the guy I saw pinning his dog down).

A great day out!