How to Train a Labrador Puppy to Hunt

Hard
8-10 Months
Work

Introduction

Imagine standing by a lake on a hot summer's day and retrieving a duck for your dinner. By teaching your little Labrador pooch to hunt and retrieve duck, you can do just this. Labradors traditionally are retrievers - gun dogs with a flair for swimming - so their real forte is in water retrieval. 

Labradors are the most popular dog in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. No doubt because of their fun-loving, loyal, and intelligent nature. With a mixture of colors and personality traits to go with them, you can pick your Lab puppy to suit you. Their love for tasty treats, intelligence, and loyalty make them an extremely easy dog to train.

Defining Tasks

Labradors' main prey are ducks. Therefore, training your pup to hunt in water is an important element to master. The good thing is that because Labradors are such an intelligent breed, the best time to do this is when they are young. You can start training your puppy at just eight weeks old and the training should take from eight to ten months. Puppies are great at learning and absorb everything around them, so this challenge will be quicker than training an older dog. 

Hunting duck can be difficult because two elements are at play here. Your pooch has to be able to swim confidently while tracking its prey and listening to you on land. An advantage is that they do like swimming. They are like ducks to water, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Getting Started

To get started, you will need to source a body of water in which you are able to hunt, preferably ducks. If this is unavailable, a pigeon or bird shooting range is also ideal. To train your little pooch to get used to water, it is wise to buy a small paddling pool so that he can get familiar with getting his feet wet. 

Labradors love food and so lots of treats on hand is a great idea. Puppies also respond really well to high pitched praise and so a lot of encouragement is also crucial. To train your Labrador to his full potential, it is a good idea to buy more toys. These can act as decoys and distractions to your pup. By using decoys, you will be able to train your puppy to focus on the task at hand. 

The Water Retrieving Method

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Step
1
Early training
From eight weeks old, take your new pup to parks and fields in which it can learn to ‘sit’, ‘stay’ and ‘recall’. This is also a good time to work on socialization and interactions with other dogs, people, and animals that are not the chosen prey animal.
Step
2
Water training
Bring your pooch to a body of water and allow it to run its feet in to get used to the feeling, such as taking it to the beach. You may also choose to use a lake, a river, or a creek that is nearby. The more opportunities you present for water exposure, the better.
Step
3
Practice on land
Familiarize your dog with a certain toy and its scent. Begin to throw it back and forth using a command word such as ‘retrieve’ when they return the toy back to you. Make sure to keep this command consistent, as you will be using it often.
Step
4
Practice in water
Get your pup to run into a body of water while chasing a toy that you have thrown for him. This will get him familiar with the feel of retrieving in water. Try not to throw too far at first, as he may struggle to fetch the toy in deeper water.
Step
5
Real retrieval
From here you can place the toy in the water without your pooch seeing it thrown in. Once the command is called, he should use his amazing sense of smell to pick up the toy's scent. Practice this often in order to build confidence in and around the water at varying levels of depth.
Step
6
Live retrieval
Once this is done, you can hone in on getting your pooch to hunt and track for ducks instead of his toys. This method takes time and patience, so be ready to start small and gradually build on skills that your dog already has.
Recommend training method?

The Gun Fire Method

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Step
1
Retrieval
Train your eight-week-old pooch to bring back items on recall. This can be done by throwing his favourite toy in front of him and then giving him lots of praise and treats when he returns it back to you.
Step
2
Scent retrieval
Once he is able to retrieve through eye tracking, throw his toy a large distance away without him looking. Use the retrieve command for him to find the toy and return it. This is done by nose tracking. Alternating these methods is important to building the appropriate skills.
Step
3
Gunfire
To get your pup used to gunfire, take him to a gun range and have a little walk around. Provide lots of support and praise in order to keep him calm. You will want to start off at a distance and gradually decrease that distance over time. Don't rush this part, as you may end up causing your dog to develop a fear rather than a tolerance.
Step
4
Bird play
Source duck or pigeon and let your dog sniff and play with the bird. This will allow your pooch to get used to the scent of the birds and how they feel in and around his mouth. You may want to have a few spares on the chance that he begins to tear at them like toys.
Step
5
Shooting range
Take your pooch to a bird shooting range. Your dog should be used to the gunfire noise. Once you have shot down the bird, use the retrieve command. Your pup should be able to use his eyes and nose tracking experience to find and retrieve the bird.
Step
6
Practice
Try to increase the range of shooting from the length of a field to acres. This will get your dog used to using nose tracking rather than eye tracking and vastly increase his hunting skills over different terrain.
Recommend training method?

The Brace Hunting Method

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Step
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Recall
Make sure your pup is able to come back to you when he is off the leash. This can be done by slowly allowing him to roam further on the leash and then calling him back and giving him lots of praise. Work this up to eventually getting your pooch off the leash.
Step
2
Brace
Introduce your pup to an experienced hunting Labrador. This is called a ‘brace’. Take him on a walk to get him socialised with other dogs, people, and the environment that you will be working in during your hunting.
Step
3
Bird scent
Introduce your pup to the scent of a dead duck or bird. This will give him an idea of what to track and hunt for when in a real scenario. If necessary, you can purchase butchered birds or a container of bird scent that can be rubbed on another object or item.
Step
4
Experienced hunt
Take your puppy and the experienced Labrador on a hunt together. Let your pup follow the brace. He will pick up how to track and retrieve from copying the adult lab and learn other crucial skills that he will need to be successful on the hunt.
Step
5
Practice makes perfect
Carry on doing this every time you take your Labrador hunting. You can test if your puppy is ready by allowing him to carry out a hunt by themselves. Remember to not expect too much all at once. Your puppy will take some time to learn.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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