Almost any dog breed can be trained for duck hunting, but some breeds are better than most. The Golden Retriever is perhaps one of the best duck hunting breeds today, mainly because they’re water-loving dogs. This breed would be more than happy to wade in the water and fetch your kills for you.
Of course, this duck hunting dog breed requires a bit of training, preferably as early as possible. That being said, following are some tips on how to train your golden retriever for duck hunting.
1. Go Basic First
Teach your Golden Retriever the basics first before actually introducing him to duck hunting. This is especially true when it comes to the “come” command since you want to make sure that the dog will come back to your side every time. This requires that your dog be well-trained. By this, the Golden Retriever must be taught obedience under any circumstances or through any type of distraction.
Considering how an actual hunting ground can be full of all sorts of smells and sights that could distract a dog, it becomes crucial to train them more extensively than the typical house dog. A good way of ensuring obedience is by training the pooch in a distracting area after training them in the comfort of your home. Opt for the dog park or even your actual hunting ground and practice all basic obedience techniques.
2. Breaking Box
A breaking box is a tool you can use to prevent the dog from shooting off as soon as the duck hits the water. Although you want the dog to retrieve, this should only be done upon proper command. A breaking box will keep the pooch contained in a box during and after the shot. Once the shot has been made, you open the box and give the retrieve command. It’s important to STOP the dog from running out of the box before you’ve given the command, otherwise it wouldn’t work at all.
3. Decoy Avoidance
Another common problem duck hunters have to deal with is the propensity of the pooch to grab the decoys. Most think that just because the dog retrieves, he will already make an excellent hunting companion, which is not the case at all. The dog must also learn discernment allowing him to identify which items must be picked and which ones may be left alone.
A good way of doing this is by training the pooch specifically to ignore the decoys. Place the decoys on your lawn and walk the dog through it to show him that the decoys must be ignored. If he picks up any of them, correct the action immediately and place the decoy from exactly where he picked it up.
The next step is to introduce your training dummy into the mix. The dog must be able to identify which is the training dummy and which ones are the decoys. Praise him if he retrieves the right one and if he doesn’t put the decoy back in its original place to show the dog that they’re supposed to be left alone. As much as possible however, stop the dog from picking up the decoy in the first place. Once you see him acting as if to take the decoy, say “pssst” or any action that essentially tells the dog “no”.
At some point, you’ll have to expose the pooch to gunfire and waterfowl. The gunfire can be quite scary for dogs, which is why it’s important that they become used to the sound before actually bringing them in the hunting environment. One good way of doing this is by bringing them to a shooting range where the targets are clay, letting you practice on your aim at the same time. As for waterfowl, you can use an actual carcass or the actual feathers of the bird tied together. Remember: dogs operate better on their sense of smell so it’s crucial to get them familiar with the smell.
Lastly, don’t forget to exercise patience when training your Golden Retriever. They can’t be expected to get things right the first time. Although the dog breed is definitely intelligent, they can only learn through proper tutorial so if one method isn’t working, perhaps it’s time to switch to another one. Keep your hunting backpack equipped with everything you need to ensure consistency in training.
Brandon Cox is the founder of Stay Hunting, who is passionate about all things of hunting and fitness. Through his hunting website, he would like to share tips & tricks, finest tech that will excite all of the intricacies of hunting whether you be an amateur or a professional.