How To Train A Lab To Duck Hunt

In all endeavors involving dog training, it is best that the dog have a good relationship with the owner as well as a desire to please his/her master.  Secondly, it is a good idea that the dog be properly trained in basic behaviors such as sit, heal, down, and to come when called by name.  Having a dog well versed in these basic relationship skills makes further training much more pleasant. 

Here are a few simple items you will need to begin training your dog:

  • A leash
  • A fresh duck wing
  • A floating plastic retrieving dummy
  • And a cap gun. 

Most of these items are readily available from sporting goods suppliers.  You may have to do a little searching to find the fresh duck wing, or just save one from your next duck hunting trip.  Always be sure to keep the duck wing frozen.  You can thaw it out with a microwave prior to use.  Be sure to put a little water on it before starting the microwave.  The following simple steps should make training your dog a pleasure.

  1. To begin your training session, you need to get the dog interested in the duck and show him that doing so pleases you.  The first step is to use the duck wing.  Thaw it out and tie it to a string on a pole.  Take your dog to the yard and tease him with the duck wing.  This should be a fun game for him that he will enjoy.  Be sure to pause occasionally to praise him.
  2. Once he has shown good interest in the duck wing, you want to move on to retrieving.  have the dog sit next to you.  Then show him the wing, this time do not have it tied to anything.  Don't allow him have it.  Start by throwing it just a few feet in front of you.  He will want to chase after it, don't let him.  Make him wait till you give the command to retrieve.  You may want to keep a leash on him at first.  More than likely he will not bring the wing immediately back to you.  You can use the leash to get his attention with a sharp tug and give the command a second time.  Once he finally starts bringing you the wing, give him plenty of praise to reinforce the act.  As you progress with this activity, you may start throwing the wing farther and farther, and get rid of the leash.  This may also be a good time to introduce a cap gun.  Wait till the Wing is almost to the ground, fire the cap gun, then ask the dog to retrieve the wing.
  3. At some point you are going to want to start training your lab on water.  For the most part, these dogs love water and are not difficult to train here.  You can continue the above lessons with the floating dummy or the duck wing.  I sometimes tie the duck wing to the dummy just to keep the scent on the retrieving item.  Start slow though and don't throw to far into the water at first.  Again, remember to introduce the cap gun.  Eventually you will want to progress to the gun you will be hunting with.  But a cap gun works great for training.

Have fun with these steps and enjoy the time spent with your dog.  Be patient and never be harsh.  More can be gained from training a dog by providing positive stimulus than negative.  Good luck!

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