Copyright © 1996-2024, The
American Hunting Dog Club

If you are looking for help in training your hunting dog, The American Hunting Dog Club may be the solution! This organization, established in 1986, was formed to preserve and improve the American hunting experience and heritage. The Club participates in numerous activities promoting game conservation, safety, and sportsmanship within the hunting community. The AHDC has developed a comprehensive training and testing program that provides the dog owner with the tools to produce a "finished" hunting dog. The AHDC is unique in providing a training program and support for the hunting dog owner. Membership is open to owners of all hunting dog breeds.

The Club program is based on training (consecutive correct repetitions and praise), not breaking. The program is divided into three sections: basic, intermediate, and advanced training. Each element of basic training is broken into units that can be controlled, so that success can be assured and praise lavished on the dog. Each unit of work is taught thoroughly so that it can be used to prevent mistakes in the next step of difficulty.

All basic work and some intermediate work are conducted on a training table, which is about 2 feet wide by 8 feet long, with ramps at both ends. Height is adjusted so that the dog's head is just below waist level. Use of the table helps to concentrate the attention of the dog on the trainer. Three commands are taught in basic training: Heel, Whoa, and Fetch.

Intermediate training expands the conditions under which the dog works. "Whoa" is taught to voice, hand, whistle, and gunfire. The fetch command is expanded to include marked retrieves on land and water and retrieves from a drag trail on which the dog is started.

Advanced training teaches steadiness to wing, shot, and fall; retrieving under all conditions on land, water, or marsh; marked and blind retrieves; retrieving from intercepted trails on land and water; hand signals; honoring; and, all the other refinements that produce a truly finished sporting companion.

The training program is based on "Training the Sporting Dog", written by Don Smith and Erv Jones, and published by the AHDC. This manual is 324 pages with more than 100 explicit training pictures.

In order to evaluate progress and document accomplishments, the AHDC has a testing program consisting of four levels: Basic Instincts, Apprentice, Trained, and Master dog. The Basic Instincts test is for dogs under 16 months of age. This test evaluates the dog's potential for becoming a finished hunting dog before any concentrated training has taken place. The test rates hereditary instincts, temperament, coat, and conformation. The Apprentice Dog test, for dogs under 30 months of age, is appropriate to a dog learning his trade, where assistance and control input are to be expected. The Trained Dog test assumes the dog is controlled by the situation, but may need assistance in completing some tasks. The Master dog test requires the dog to work under all conditions with a minimum of assistance and in many instances with no cautions or commands.

All the tests are based on, and represent as realistically as possible, situations which are routinely encountered during most hunting seasons. Dogs are scored using a 10 point system. The dogs must score 6 points, or better, in each category to qualify. Failure in any category results in overall failure until the next testing period. The scoring represents a consensus of three judges. The results of all tests are entered into the Club database.

The program is set up to produce finished dogs of all the sporting breeds. About 20 breeds are currently represented in the Club. The choice of type and breed is a personal one and should be based on the type of hunting you do. The environment varies considerably from hunting southern quail in early fall, to hunting off-shore ducks in New England in January. Because of this, many members, who hunt a wide variety of birds, have more than one type and/or breed of dog. It would be unfair to expect an upland bird dog or a heavy-coated retriever to function in extreme environments for which they are not designed, despite their ability to do so.

The American Hunting Dog Club originated in Southern New England. Another chapter is now active in the Pennsylvania and New Jersey regions.