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Need Help Training A Duck Dog

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  • Need Help Training A Duck Dog

    I'm having trouble getting my dog (almost 3) to bring any downed waterfowl back to me or to even pick them up. I got him to retrieve 3 birds his whole first season, but will not since then. I'm looking for advice on how to get him to not only pick up the ducks but also bring them back to me repeatedly. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  • #2
    I have owned and trained seven dogs in my fifty-five years of hunting birds. My youngest, a four year-old black Lab, has turned out to be quite the challenge. She was weak on retrieving but I managed to firm her up last year and she is doing fine now ... except she will not retrieve geese off the field. From the water but not the field. Go figure. She is great retrieving ducks. I guess it's the size of the things that is daunting. They are heavy and she is quite soft mouthed. So I live with it.

    For me positive reinforcement worked. I used the tastiest treat I could find. Put some in my pocket and gave her one when the training dummy was in my hand. Formerly she would swim out and get it but drop as soon as she hit shore. It took a while but eventually she learned she didn't get the treat till I got the dummy. Now she almost knocks me over with it. Next, moved her up to a bird wing. In your case, you should use a duck wing if you can get one. And by all means if you can shoot a teal, take one simply for the training tool. I kept a dead one in the freezer for several weeks this year and worked Ellie with it. That really firmed her up. Very small and manageable. We played "the game" with it. I leave the dog in the house and hide the bird in the yard then release her to find it. Ellie loves to play and loves the treat. Formerly with other dogs I would play the game in the field when geese weren't flying. Made the dogs stay at the edge of the field while I walked out to hide one. Then released when I came back. Old Pearl loved it but Opal would just find the honkers and wait for the older dog to come pick them up. When Pearl passed Opal assumed her role as goose retriever but never was interested in playing the game (with geese or uplands) or even retrieving bird wings. Once the birds are in the bag she was done with them. That's okay.

    Try it and let me know how you do. What breed are you working with?

    There is also a method called "force fetch." I don't like it but have never tried it. Amounts to hurting the dog to compel it to handle birds. You might have to resort to it but I would suggest if you go that route take the dog to a trainer who has experience with it.
    Last edited by Ontario Honker Hunter; 11-13-2019, 11:51 AM.

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    • #3
      I think this game you play will help a lot, it seems a great way to make it fun for the dog. I will have to try it! My dog is a smallish 3/4 lab 1/4 visla.

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      • #4
        Honk, Ellie sees all the dead geese on the field and thinks she would get shot if she goes there.
        I have told the story how I took the family poodle pheasant hunting and I did not know anything about it. She actually held on a pheasant and when it took off I shot it. The rest of the day she was 2" behind my heel. In front, dangerous, behind me safe.
        Last edited by jhjimbo; 11-14-2019, 07:37 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by gabes0331 View Post
          I think this game you play will help a lot, it seems a great way to make it fun for the dog. I will have to try it! My dog is a smallish 3/4 lab 1/4 visla.
          That mixture should work fine. Best hunting dog I'll ever own was 1/2 Lab and 1/2 golden retriever. She looked like a smallish black Lab.

          The three photos are of different dogs. Opal on the left passed just this past May. In the middle is late great Pearl the Wonderdog. On the right is Pearl's successor Ellie who is now four years old. And here is my eight year-old Puppy (aka Coral), a French Brittany. She is spectacular pointing uplands but not a great retriever. I have always had Labs to clean that up for her in the past. But only last year discovered the dogs work better if they work solo. So Puppy had to step up to the plate. So far she has not lost a cripple. She will only go stand over the dead birds but live ones she'll run down and hold for me.


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