The air is still, the grass is long, and your shotgun rests in your hands as you see a duck on the pond ahead. You take aim, exhale one long and steady breath, and pull the trigger. There is a flurry of feathers and the scatter of nearby birds, but you found your target. The problem is, that target is floating in a pond and you’re not in the mood for an early morning swim.
What makes it more frustrating is that you have an old dog at home who might not be as energetic as he once was, but he’d still make for an awesome hunting companion if you could only train an old dog new tricks. Well, you can! Older dogs still have what it takes to hunt by your side, and with the right training, you’ll never have to worry about losing a duck, because your dog will retrieve it for you.
You might be surprised to see how much your dog is still up for a challenge, and definitely one that involves hunting prey like ducks. What does training your dog to hunt ducks look like though? It involves perseverance and patience. Old dogs are often stuck in their ways, so training can take months.
It will entail familiarizing your dog with ducks and other animals. It will involve rigorous obedience training and use of numerous commands. It will also involve basic retrieval training before you venture out into the wild. The training will, therefore, need to be done in stages and consistency will be essential. All of this will be challenging and time-consuming, but it will save you losing a kill and time spent wading through water for your prize. Although the challenge may seem big, you and your aging dog have the history and this experience will bring you closer than ever before.
Before you begin training you will need to ensure you have several things. You will need toy ducks and raw meat or duck scent to help familiarize your dog with the prey. You will also need enough outside space to practice in, free from distractions, plus access to a pond or lake. In addition, for one method you will need a rope and an anchor. Note that all methods will require a serious amount of treats!
Apart from that, just come equipped with a hard-working attitude and a serious amount of patience.
Now you’re armed with the essentials, it’s time to do battle with the duck!
When I throw a dummy duck on land if the dog cant find it what should I do should I work him torwds the duck
Hello David, Yes, if he cannot find the duck, work him toward it. Has he been taught directional commands yet? Such as sending him back, left, right, stopping him on a whistle? If so you can stop him when he starts to get too far from it, and then send him toward it by giving him a directional command such as back, right, or left, then stop him again when he gets closer to it, to line him up better, then send him again in the correct direction, and so forth, until he reaches the duck. You want to make sure that he reaches the dummy when possible or his confidence in you will gradually decrease if he thinks that you are continually sending him toward a mark that does not exist. If the problem is happening very often, then practice his marking skills at a closer range, and help him work up to the distance that he is having trouble with now over time, or work up to the type of terrain that is giving him issues, if that is a problem. Using real dead ducks can also help because his mark will be likely be stronger on a real bird that he is super excited about, and the scent of the bird will help him to find it more easily. If you duck hunt frequently, then you can freeze entire birds in bags, to bring out to use on training day. The bird may need to thaw out a bit before the training session though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Is this to old to start training for duck hunting
Hello Daniel, As far as teaching the formal training parts, such as come, fetching, sit, and directions - he is probably NOT too old. Socialization is age depend though, so whether pup is too old probably depends on whether he does alright around loud noises, in water, near a bird, and in the types of environments you will be in. Those types of exposures are normally introduced during puppyhood so you will need to gradually, carefully test whether pup can adjust to those things. Start how you would with a puppy, such as loud noises far away at first, combined with fun things. A bird wing first, then dead bird, then live bird. Gradually get pup used to the water, making it a fun game and working up to being able to plane off and really swim out a little further. If pup has the drive for duck hunting, is willing to please and generally trainable, and can adapt to the socialization things I mentioned, then you can likely still train him to duck hunt. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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At home, my Golden is very eager to retrieve the dummy and stay put when i tell him, but has a hard time applying it in the field. I've taken him on 4 or 5 hunts, and he is reluctant to grab the bird, has a hard time staying calm in the blind, and can never pick out the real bird in the water. He seems to think that what we practice in the backyard is a game. What should I do?
Hello Landon, It sounds like pup needs more in between practice with dead birds in training sessions, and in water. I suggest freezing dead ducks that have been shot, and brining them out ahead of time enough to thaw some, and practicing retrievals in your yard with those. Practice retrieving dummy's in a calm body of water during practice also. When pup can retrieve the dead birds and retrieve dummy's, combine the two and practice retrieving the dead ducks, tossing out into the water, during training practice. You will also want to finally add in the full set up, recruiting a hunting or training buddy to sound a dummy gun and make a duck call, then toss the bird out into the water from a hidden area, so pup can practice focusing while the exciting noises are going on, watching the bird fall in water, and remember where to swim to to retrieve. You will have to start with tosses closes to shore first, then tosses further out as pup improves. If the water pup is expected to retrieve in is moving at all, you will need to add water that is moving a bit too to the final training, so that pup learn to account for the bird moving down stream to be able to find it in the water. Essentially, a lot of middle steps in training are being skipped right now it sounds like. You will make to practice the elements of the hunt in a more controlled training environment, starting with just a couple of new things at a time and gradually building on those things - like just having real dead ducks or birds in the yard, retrieving dummy's in water, then adding other elements onto that and combining things as pup improves. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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