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Dog training and trialing

Attention: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, changes have been made the application processes for both dog training licensing and dog trialing permitting. Please consult the relevant section of this page for more information on how to obtain a dog training license or a dog trialing permit this season.
dog handler

Training a gun dog with live birds increases the likelihood of a successful harvest of game during the hunting season. Dog training has deep roots in hunting and conservation culture. In order to develop dogs that can reliably hunt and recover game, it is vital to train with a variety of game under varying conditions.

It is important that dog trainers and clubs know the rules concerning the use of game during training to both support wildlife conservation and to stay out of trouble with the law. Many state and federal laws and regulations apply to the importation, possession, use and disposal of game used in training and field events. These rules serve two general purposes: to protect the health and welfare of native wildlife populations in Wisconsin and to ensure that hunting regulations are enforceable.

Dog training refers to any teaching or exercising activity involving sporting dogs in which the primary purpose is to enhance field and/or water performance. Sporting dogs are used for hunting game birds and game mammals and include breeds as pointers, setters, retrievers and hounds.

Regulations governing the training of sporting dogs vary according to what species the dogs are being trained with and where the training takes place. In addition, the department also issues permits for dog trials occurring on both public and private land.

Map - Dog training areas

Dog training on state land is allowed on designated Class I and Class II dog training grounds. Class I grounds are open year-round for dog training activities and trainers may use equine animals on approved land. Class II grounds are those areas approved for dog training but may have specific regulations. Many Class II areas are closed April 15 - July 31 to protect nesting birds. An interactive map of all dog training areas can be found here. Use the list of dog training areas by county to find your nearest training ground and see maps of the area as well as site-specific regulations. 

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Help Prevent the spread of RHDV-2 to Wisconsin

RHDV-2 Biosecurity Dog Trialing Hunting_1.pdf

Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Type 2 is highly contagious and deadly among rabbits, hares and pikas, both wild and domestic. It has been identified in several southwestern states, and robust biosecurity is essential to preventing its spread.

Wisconsin hunters may encounter rabbits or hares while afield or when working with their dogs. The following are steps dog trainers and trialers can take to help prevent the spread of RHDV-2 to Wisconsin:

  • Prevent the introduction of RHDV-2 to Wisconsin:
  • Take precautions when training or trialing with your dog or hound in areas where RHDV-2 has been found:
    • Clean and disinfect all surfaces and equipment that come into contact with rabbits or hares.
    • Scrub first with soap and rinse thoroughly with water. Then disinfect with a 10% bleach solution.
    • Bag any clothes you’ve worn while handling rabbits until they can be washed.
  • What to do if you find a dead rabbit, hare or pika:
    • Report any mortalities involving three or more wild rabbits, hares or pika to the local state wildlife authority.
    • Do not touch any wild animal carcasses that you find dead.
    • Do not allow dogs to eat found carcasses.
    • Do not move the carcasses of rabbits, hares or pika.

Training licenses

Rules and regulations

A bird dog, hound dog and dog club training license authorizes the licensee to purchase, possess, release and use certain captive-bred species for dog training purposes. A training license does not allow for commercial shoots, selling, breeding or propagating of animals.

Bird dog training license

Attention: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all DNR service stations have been closed and all counter services have been suspended. To obtain a dog training license, mail your completed application to:

Attn: Alaina Gerrits
Wisconsin DNR WM/6
101 S. Webster St.
P.O. Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707

Please allow 1-2 weeks for processing

retreiver

 

A bird dog training license [PDF] allows you to purchase, possess, release and shoot the following species for dog training purposes:

  • captive bred quail of the subfamily odontophorinae,
  • gray partridge,
  • chukar partridge,
  • red-legged partridge,
  • mallard duck and
  • ring-necked or Reeves pheasants.

A dog training license is not needed to:

  • to accompany a trainer or observe dog training activities,
  • to assist in handling the dogs,
  • to handle dead birds killed by a licensed bird dog trainer,
  • to train on a licensed hunting preserve,
  • for dog club members to train on a licensed dog club training property,
  • to train on certain free-roaming wild animals Aug. 1 - April 14. See hound dog regulations [PDF] or bird dog regulations [PDF] for more information.

Bird dog training leg bands

Bird dog training leg bands are free of charge and can be requested at any DNR service center.

Bobwhite quail, pheasants and gray partridge must be banded around the leg with a bird dog training band supplied by the department prior to being released for dog training purposes. Captive mallards used for dog training shall be identified by one of the following methods prior to six weeks of age:

  • remove the hind toe from the right foot,
  • tattoo a number or letter combination on the web of one foot,
  • band one metatarsus with a seamless metal band or
  • pinion a wing by removing the metacarpal bones, rendering the bird permanently flightless.

The licensee may not have any unused department issued bird dog training leg bands with them while engaged in dog training activities. Wild birds and birds that are not banded or identified as required above may not be killed during training exercises.

A bird dog training license costs $25 and is valid until the third Dec. 31 after the date of issuance.

Hound dog training license

A hound dog training license [PDF] allows you to:

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The hound dog training application is the application for three types of licenses: hound dog training, dog club training and bird/hound dog trialing.

Please use a separate copy for each type of license.

A hound dog training license costs $25 and is valid until the third Dec. 31 after the date of issuance. For more information and regulations, see the hound dog regulations [PDF]

A hound dog or club training license does not authorize commercial or organized shoots, selling, breeding or propagating of animals or training of dogs with the use of captive black bear on DNR lands. No person engaged in training dogs may kill or cause to be killed any free-roaming wild animal including unprotected wild animals without the proper licensing.

Hound dog training on free-roaming wild animals

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Bear dog training. Dogs may be trained using free-roaming wild bear statewide from July 1 through Aug. 31 as well as in Zones A, B and D during the bear hunting season when hunting bear with aid of dogs is open. A dog training license is necessary to train on DNR public hunting land.

Rabbit and raccoon dog training. Dogs may be trained using free-roaming rabbits and raccoons year-round. A hound dog training license is required to train on DNR public hunting land April 15 - June 30. A license is also necessary to train from May 1 to June 30 on all public and private land in the Northern Restricted Zone[PDF].

All other free-roaming game animals. Dogs may be trained on all other free-roaming game animals, except wolves, year-round. A dog training license is required to train on DNR public hunting land April 15 - July 31. Training is not allowed May 1 - June 30 on any public and private land in the Northern Restricted Zone[PDF].

Dog club training license

A dog club training license [PDF] is issued to an organization that owns or leases land for the purpose of training bird or hound dogs to retrieve, point, flush or track game. A dog club training license allows the members of a club to purchase, possess and use approved captive wild animals for dog training on the club training grounds.

This license cannot be used on Class I and II dog training grounds. The dog club training application is the application for three types of licenses: hound dog training, dog club training and bird/hound dog trialing. Please use a separate copy for each type of license.

A dog club license costs $100 and is valid until the third Dec. 31 after the date of issuance.

A dog club must consist of two or more people, one of whom is at least 14 years old. All members must be eligible to participate in legal dog training activities. A list of club members must be kept in writing and made available to the department upon request.

Regulations and applications

Hunter smiles down on pointer

Reports and record-keeping

Each person holding a dog training or trial license must keep a record by date of all captive wild animals that are purchased, acquired, transferred, have died, been killed or have escaped. An annual report [PDF] is required for all license holders, while quarterly reports [PDF] are required for transactions pertaining to bobcat, coyote and fox. See the regulations for more information:

Trialing licenses

Attention: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the following forms are required for dog trials held on DNR-managed lands:

When holding an approved dog trialing event on DNR-managed lands, event hosts must observe the following:

  • Only outdoor events are permitted.
  • Group Size: Group size is restricted to 50 people. For multi-day events with more than 50 people, there may only be 50 people on site per day.
  • Social Distancing: Maintain social distancing, ensuring a six-foot distance between participants at all times.
  • Use of Disinfectants: Make disinfectants available to participants, disinfect high-touch areas between users and disinfect shared equipment.
  • Communication: Provide adequate signage recommending face coverings, six-foot social distancing and hand sanitation/washing.
  • Avoid cash and other person-to-person transactions if possible.
  • Avoid providing food and beverages if possible.
  • If food, beverages or other handouts (such as information packets) are provided, they should be individually packaged.

Rules, regulations and licensing

A dog trialing license authorizes the licensee and participants to engage in an organized, competitive field event that involves sporting dog breeds. The event must be sanctioned, licensed or recognized by a local, state, regional or national dog organization. A dog trialing license does not allow for commercial shoots, selling, breeding or propagating of animals.

The dog trial application and license is the application for 3 types of licenses: hound dog training, dog club training and bird/hound dog trialing. Please use a separate copy for each type of license.

Bird dog trial license

A bird dog trial license allows the licensee and participants to purchase, possess and use for dog trialing purposes:

  • captive bred quail of the subfamily odontophorinae,
  • gray partridge,
  • chukar partridge,
  • red-legged partridge,
  • mallard duck and
  • ring-necked and Reeves pheasants.

A bird dog trial license costs $25 and is valid until the first Dec. 31 following the date of issuance.

Hound dog trial license

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A hound dog trial license allows the licensee and participants to:

A hound dog trial license costs $25 and is valid until the first Dec. 31 following the date of issuance.

Application

Dog trial applications should be sent to the wildlife biologist or DNR service center nearest the trial grounds. Applications must be submitted 10 days before the trialing event. For trials prior to July 31, applications should be submitted by March 1. Applications for trials after July 31 should be submitted by July 1. After these deadlines, applications will be considered on a first-come/first-serve basis. Trials can only be conducted on lands specified on the approved license.

DNR Lands

Dog trialing on state land is allowed on designated Class I and Class II dog training grounds. See the map of dog training areas for all the dog trialing areas on state land. Class I field training grounds include the following:

  1. Richard Bong State Recreation Area - the west unit of the special use zone
  2. George W. Mead Wildlife Area
  3. Lower Wisconsin River Wildlife Area - Mazomanie Unit
  4. Kettle Moraine State Forest - Northern Unit
  5. Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest - Ottawa Unit
  6. Pine Island Wildlife Area

Dog trials may occur on other DNR lands if approved by the property manager. Trialing with captive bears is not allowed on any department land. Equines may only be used if authorized on the trial license.

Reports and record-keeping

Each person holding a dog training or trial license must keep a record by date of all captive wild animals that are purchased, acquired, transferred, have died, been killed or have escaped. An annual report [PDF] is required for all license holders, while quarterly reports [PDF] are required for transactions pertaining to bobcat, coyote and fox. See the Dog trialing regulations [PDF] for more information.