Dogs can often be invaluable resources when it comes to finding the right tools for hunting. Whether you’re hunting birds or small mammals, having a dog by your side can make it that much easier to track, alert, or retrieve potential game. One of the more common types of hunting dogs are retrievers that trained to venture out and bring back ducks that have just been taken down by a hunter. These dogs must be quick and hardy, eager to please, and with no hesitation to the field or the water.
A hunter should not rely on a dog’s natural instincts to tell them what to do, however, as domesticated dogs may or may not come equipped with the right know-how to do exactly as you want them to. A frustrated hunter may lead to an unhappy dog. The good news is, retrieving is something that dogs have been learning for many years. With the right combination of patience and repetition, your dog can become just as skilled a hunter as you are.
A hunting dog that is meant to become a retrieving dog will need to have the appropriate temperament for such work. An independent or aloof dog is not always the best candidate. Retrieving dogs should be large enough to hold their own out in nature and in the water, and must be effectively shielded from the elements. They will need to go through the process of learning basic obedience, then adjust to an outdoors field environment, and then learn how to retrieve in a particular way that may require the handling of small, live animals. This is a lot to ask of any dog, and it’s important to take the time to go through each and every aspect of the training before asking your dog to retrieve for you.
Retrieving is best taught once your dog is about a year old and out of his puppy stages and will likely take several months before they can be relied on out in the field, especially considering most retrieving work is done off-leash.
Before beginning with any sort of retrieving, basic obedience is paramount. Your dog must know how to 'sit', 'stay', 'heel', and he must have a fantastic recall off-leash. He must not be afraid of or hesitant around the water and must be accustomed to the sound of gunfire. Before expecting him to retrieve, these are all skills that you will need to have well in hand.
For training itself, a lure or substitute duck or other type of waterfowl should be either bought or made. Besides that, you will need a rope to tie onto the lure in order to get it back if your dog has trouble retrieving it, and a body of water. This can be a river, lake, or even a backyard pool or pond. Just be sure the water is chlorine-free and is shallow enough for your dog to be safe.