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Looking to get your kids more engaged with dogs and hunting? Some simple insights from real-deal dads below on how you can start them early.

TAKE IT SLOW & MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS

“Being able to enjoy and incorporate my son into training has been one of the best things in my life.” – Alex Britton

“Every dog I sell gets a long talk about their new hunting buddy and how they can become part of the pack.  With kids it is crucial to take it slow and let the kids and pup/dog bond over time.  Little kids under estimate their speed and all too often can sneak up on a dog.  When I have new pups around the house, we bring the pup around the kids in short controlled play sessions.  This way the pup avoids being startled or overwhelmed with the new family, especially the kids.” 
– Alex Britton, Southern Oak Kennels – Bracken Creek, Father of 2

“I’m not a dog trainer, so you’re better off listening to Alex! But I agree on taking it slow. You can keep it really simple and teach them about whistle cadences (1 blast means “sit,” 3 means “come”). Kids love a whistle. One thing I can struggle with with Gunner is that he is really zoned in on me, so when Marie says “go get it,” he’ll look to me first to make sure he can do it. Because of that, I’ll usually stand behind Marie so that when he looks back at us I’m raising my hand to send him. It gives Marie a thrill that she’s sent him, and I’m still working with him.”
– Addison Edmonds, Gunner Kennels Founder, Father of 4

“A good way to start is to get the kids involved with simple commands and the daily routine. Simple commands like sit and stay, or being the ones to feed the dog help. You can have the kids work on enforcing good behavior (ie sitting and waiting before they get their food, waiting at the door rather than just barging out). If you start with the basics around the house – and encourage your kids to praise your pup when they do it correctly – it can help create a bond between the kids and the dog, and establish pack order around the house.”
– Levi Glines, Photographer, Father of 3 (soon to be 5)

LET THEM TAG ALONG

“Take them along, but don’t force them to participate in something they don’t want to do. Some kids may enjoy ‘hunting’ with their Poppa to spend the time with him, but doesn’t necessarily enjoy the cleaning of the birds. That’ll come with time, so let them enjoy what they want, that’ll go a long way!”
– Christian Dubois, Photographer, Father of 2 (soon to be 3)

“Having the dogs has allowed William to come along on hunts and start sharing my passions. The dogs, especially Archie, are the reason he comes along and enjoys the hunts.  Watching his favorite dog pick up birds gets him just about as excited as when Archie sees those mallards cupping up over the decoys.”
– Alex Britton, Southern Oak Kennels – Bracken Creek, Father of 2

“Get the kid out hunting! It’s fun to have your kid train with you, but I think it really helps them to go out and hunt with you, and see your dog in action. It helps connect the dots and see the true purpose for all the training that you do.”
– Levi Glines, Photographer, Father of 3 (soon to be 5)

MAKE IT FUN

“It didn’t matter that we didn’t get any birds, we had fun and she still remembers that day two years later.” – Addison Edmonds

“I’d say when incorporating your kids in training, temper your expectations. Don’t always expect perfection from the dog or kid during those “child focused” training sessions. There will be time to clean up any mistakes later, but early on the main objective is keeping it light and fun. Try to build confidence in your child and empower them to feel like they are able to “control” the dog and have the dog “obey.”
– Levi Glines, Photographer, Father of 3 (soon to be 5)

“When taking little ones hunting, I’d say make a big deal about it, build it up so they look forward to it. Bring all their favorite snacks and let them make small decisions, so that they feel included – things like, where should we park the UTV? Where we should set up? If you’re on a bird hunt, give them a whistle. It won’t spook anything and they feel like they are included. Just small things that make it more fun. The last time I took Marie dove hunting it couldn’t have gone any worse in terms of the spot, but it was still fun. The second she said she was ready to go, we picked up and left.”
– Addison Edmonds, Gunner Kennels Founder, Father of 4

“Don’t over do it, when training or hunting. One thing I learned taking Emmy (my oldest daughter) with me hunting from a very early age is that their attention spans are SHORT. Many of my hunts have been cut short because she was simply ready to go. That’s perfectly ok! You don’t want to wear them out right from jump street. And on that note… BRING SNACKS! I don’t know about y’all, but my kids are snack queens. They can eat 24/7. Snacks help prolong our time together in the blind, or deer stand.”
– Christian Dubois, Photographer, Father of 2 (soon to be 3)

Alex Britton / Photo by Cole Duehring

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

“Teach them the ways of conservation, and why we do what we do. My girls are complete softies for animals, but when it comes to hunting, they understand that it’s part of putting food on the table!”
– Christian Dubois, Photographer, Father of 2 (soon to be 3)

“Talk to your kids about the importance of training and what you are trying to accomplish. Kids are inquisitive and like to understand why you do what you do. How you speak about your dog goes a long way with your kids. If you model love and respect for your dog, your kids will pick up on it and imitate your behavior.”
– Levi Glines, Photographer, Father of 3 (soon to be 5)

Addison Edmonds / Photo by CANA Outdoors

LEARN FROM THE KIDS TOO

“Pay attention to them. You can learn a lot from the innocence of a child. They soak up so much in the outdoors. They notice the little things, the birds chirping, the swiftness of a squirrel cruising the forest floor, the beauty of each animal we take. Things we adults can take for granted through time.”
– Christian Dubois, Photographer, Father of 2 (soon to be 3)

Alex Britton / Photo by Meghan Lupyan White

Photos by Christian Dubois

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