Using tie outs for training hunting dogs, the why, when, and how
There are many tools that are helpful when training retrievers for hunting or hunt tests. One that you may not think about is a tie-out or tie-down. At first glance this tool may seem like something no amateur trainer or one-dog family would need. But I would like to challenge that thinking. A tie out can be a great training tool for anyone training a hunting or competition retriever. Here is how we use a tie-out for dog training, and you should too.
What is a dog training tie out or tie down?
A tie-out is simply a stake and chain or stake and cable that is designed to hold a dog in place. There are single dog tie-outs, and multiple dog tie outs. In addition, you can buy a tie-out or you can make your own. Over the years, we have done both.
One common misconception for tie-outs is that a longer chain or cable for the dog is better than a short one. But while it may seem kinder to give the dog more room to move on a tie-down, that only makes the tie out more dangerous. The longer the chain or cable, the better chance that the dog will get tangled up or injured. Instead, the cable should be just long enough that the dog can sit and lay down normally when attached to the tie down, usually around 2 feet.
The stake that you drive into the ground to hold the dog in place should be thick hardened steel around 24 -30 inches in length, and it should have a swivel top that allows the dog to go around in a circle without getting tangled up. Stainless steel versions are even nicer and will hold up well to outside use.
Multiple dog tie-outs are called chain or cable gangs. You can buy a cable gang for as few as 4 dogs and as many as 8 dogs. We use this one. Multiple dog tie downs are a little different than the ones for individual dogs. They are made of one longer cable with multiple smaller cables connected at intervals along the longer chain. The ends of the long cable are secured to the ground with stakes. You can buy multiple dog tie outs in chain or cable.
Is a chain or cable better for dog tie-outs?
Over the years, we have tested both chain and cable tie outs for retriever training. Both work but we feel that the cable version has some definite benefits over chain. You should never use rope to tie out your dog because your dog can chew through it.
Chain tie outs usually weigh considerably more than cable tie outs. If you only have one dog, this may be of little consequence. But in our case, we need to tie out 6-8 dogs at one time. The weight of all that chain can become a nuisance quickly.
Ease of installation
If your tie outs are hard to install and use, you may often find that using them is not worth the effort. Chains can become tangled and be a struggle to get laid out correctly. Cables are easier to keep untangled and this makes installation quick and easy.
Chain can be exceptionally durable depending on how strong of chain you buy, but unless you buy a high-quality chain it can rust quickly. The cables we use are wrapped in rubber and have proven to be durable even when holding high energy retrievers in place.
The dangers of tie outs
As with any training tool, you need to use common sense and caution to use the tool correctly and make sure that your dogs are safe and comfortable. When you choose a location to tie out your dogs, make sure you look the area over and confirm that there are no sharp objects that could injure your dog. Also, consider if your dog needs shade if temperatures are high, and always make sure your dog has water available.
When using tie outs as a training tool, we do not leave the dogs unattended. We want to be able to see and monitor the dogs while they are on the tie out.
Using tie outs for retriever training
One of the main things we use tie downs for while training is to allow dogs time to cool down and recover after their training session. It can be dangerous to put a dog that is hot and fatigued from working right back into a dog box or crate. It is far better to give them some time to recover, drink water and cool down. In addition, if you are working in water, it gives your dog time to dry off. Tie outs work great for this purpose. But there are also several other benefits.
What do tie-outs teach hunting and competition dogs?
Here are some things dogs learn from being on a tie out:
Manners and noise issues
When you are working multiple dogs, your own or training with a friend or buddy, having one dog on a tie out can be helpful for correcting bad behaviors like barking, whining, and digging. It is much easier to see what a dog is up to when they are out on a tie-down. Since you can see the behaviors, you can quickly take steps to correct the behaviors.
Do you have a dog who thinks every retrieve is for them? Sitting on a tie-down having to watch other dogs get retrieves can be a good lesson for dogs like these. This is also extremely helpful if you hunt with multiple dogs. Tie outs can help you train your dogs that there are times when they are not going to get to retrieve, and their job is to sit quietly with good manners even when it is not their turn. Duck hunters that hunt with multiple dogs will benefit from using a tie out as they alternate dogs.
Honoring is also especially important for competition dogs.
Teaches dogs to deal with pressure
Dog training, especially hunting training requires dogs to learn to handle pressure and correction. Tie downs can help with this because a dog that is on a tie down cannot do whatever he/she wants. They are, after all, tied down. They do not get to retrieve every bird they see thrown, they do not get to jump around much, and they have the pressure of being limited in movement. In addition, the other dogs on the tie out are pulling on the cable also, so each dog is feeling the pressure of being controlled.
This may not sound like much, but it is amazing how many dogs that come to our kennel for training have never been restrained in any way. Dogs that have never been told NO, or corrected for bad behavior, can have a tough time with tie outs that severely limit their movement and behaviors.
Tie outs are a good training tool to handle the pressures of training to be a hunting dog.
Help increase desire
This is a little hypothetical as we cannot really know what a dog is thinking while on a tie out, but it is interesting how dogs on a tie out are extremely interested in watching other dogs’ retrieve. Seeing other dogs retrieving may help increase desire in a dog that is struggling.
Exposure to hunting sounds and gunshot
While on a tie out, our training dogs are exposed to many training and simulated hunting sounds in the field. They hear duck calls, shotgun blasts and whistles. Hunting and competition dogs need to be introduced to and comfortable with all these sounds. In addition, being on the tie out they learn that they do not have to get excited each time a shot goes off or a duck call quacks. They learn to relax and understand that these sounds are just a normal part of their life as a hunting dog. This training can be helpful in a hunting blind situation, as young dogs can often be very excitable the first few hunts and that can be exhausting for the handler.
We have even seen some of the older, more experienced dogs lay down and go to sleep on a tie out because they have become so well-adjusted to the sounds of the field.
What behaviors you don’t want on tie outs
Some dog’s struggle with tie downs more than others. But there are some behaviors that you should not allow.
We talked about this a little already, but always watch for dog’s that like to dig while on a tie out. This is a behavior that I would correct quickly and consistently. You do not want to leave holes where your tie down was, even if it is your own land.
I discussed this prior too, but it bears mention again. Barking should not be allowed on a tie down and you should take measure to correct it right away. Again, be firm and consistent. Your hunting dog must learn manners, and this is a great way to teach the QUIET command.
Final thoughts on how to use a tie-out or tie-down for dog training
A tie out or tie down is a great tool to incorporate into your retriever training routine. It can be a useful way to teach your dog control and manners that you might never consider teaching any other way. It is also an immensely helpful tool if you are hunting two or more dogs. Using a tie out means that you can focus on one dog and not worry about the other one. It is also a great way to let one dog rest while the other one is working.
Remember, if you really want your retriever to grow and progress this year but doing the training yourself sounds overwhelming or maybe your schedule is just too busy to get it done, I’m here to help! You can email me (email@example.com) or just give me a call (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time, happy retrieving.