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We as a country adore Labradors, as it is the most popular dog to own in the United States. Originally bred to be retrieval gun-dogs, they can also retrieve in water. Country walks, lakeside walks, or woodland walks, these pooches make the perfect companion. They are bright and eager to please and therefore can be easily trained. Their loyalty is second to none, so there is no doubt why we call them man's best friend. In the dog world, they are one of the brightest. Used for service dogs, military dogs, and hunting dogs, their possibilities are endless.
By following these training methods, you can teach your pooch to hunt to your own desires. An idea is to source the right type of Labrador for your hunt. Fieldline labs are bred specifically for hunting as they are more energetic and driven while showline Labs have a softer temperament and are not as fast.
Labradors are powerful swimmers. Their body design allows them to swim in freezing cold water for extended periods of time. This is why their most popular hunting game is ducks.
It is important to train your dog well in hunting duck, as the added element of swimming combined with the tracking and retrieval methods will challenge both you and him. This can be seen as a hard command to train your dog. But with patience, your Lab will be able to hunt, swim, and retrieve in no time.
Labradors can learn from an early age of about eight weeks. However, because of their bright, loyal, and food loving nature, they can be taught at any age. This type of hunting takes anywhere from eight to ten months, but continuous practice is needed to keep their skills to the best of their ability.
To get started, you will need an area of land which is available to hunt. Sourcing an area with a lake is ideal as the prey you are trying to hunt will most likely be there.
Your pooch will need lots of praise and treats, so it is a great idea to stock up on their favourite snacks before starting to train. If you wish to train your dog around gunfire, sourcing a firing range to train your pooch at is the perfect way to get started. Here, you can take your dogs for walks far away from the gunfire and slowly get closer. This will get your dog used to the sound.
The Independence Method
Teach your dog the scent of a duck by allowing it to play with one recently caught by another poacher. Try not to encourage your dog to rip or tear at the duck, as this can lead to bad habits later on.
Introduce your furry friend to water by taking him to the beach and allowing him to run along the water's edge. This could also be done in your yard with a paddling pool if you lack quick access to a natural waterfront.
Take your pooch to a field or woodlands and lay a duck where your pooch cannot see it. Allow your dog off the leash to use his nose tracking skills to find the duck. Repeat this step until your pup can confidently track the duck from large distances.
Introduce the live element of this by allowing your dog around a large lake to try and catch ducks sitting around the edge of it. Keep an eye on him and ensure that you have good recall to prevent him from running too far.
Once your pooch is catching the live ducks and bringing them back to you, introduce him to the water element. Allow him to swim in the lake with the ducks to catch and bring them back to you.
The Pack Method
Introduce your pooch to the 'retrieve' command. When he has mastered this, he should be able to fetch a toy and return it back to you. You can do this by being enthusiastic about him returning to you with a toy and rewarding him when he does.
Introduce your Lab to the type of prey he will be hunting. This is most likely to be ducks. Get him used to the scent by allowing him to play with a dead or recently butchered duck. Ensure that it has plenty of duck scent on it.
Get your dog to retrieve the duck instead of its favourite toy by tossing it in the same manner. Don't throw it too far,or he may lose interest in the object he is supposed to be retrieving for you.
Introduce your pooch to a pack of three to four experienced hunting Labradors. He will gain necessary skills and other behaviors from the other dogs that can help develop his ability to hunt and retrieve out in the field.
Take the experienced Labs and your own pooch on a hunt. Allow your Lab to follow the pack. He should be able to pick up the tracking skills from the rest of the group. Ensure that you and the other owners are in control of your dogs at all times.
Practice this method. Take your dog out weekly with the group. Your pup will become experienced in group tracking, hunting, and retrieval and this can translate over to independent hunting soon enough.
Once it looks like your pooch is a part of the pack rather than following them, it is time to try it on his own. Develop skills in tracking and recall in order to exhibit them effectively out in the field.
The Water and Gunfire Method
By eight weeks, your pup should be ready to start basic obedience. Use incentives such as treats, praise, and toys to get him to ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. Practice this often until you can master the basics.
Once your puppy has mastered this, get him to recall but from a body of water. Set up a paddling pool in your yard if necessary and place one of his toys in there. Get him to fetch the toy and bring it back to you.
Water and gunfire
Bring the paddling pool to a gunfire range or nearby and allow your pup to fetch and retrieve from the body of water while there is gunfire noise in the background. Start at a distance and get closer, but check with the establishment to ensure that this is something you will be able to do.
Place distractions around your pooch such as treats or other toys. Your dog should learn to ignore the distractions while heading towards the target. Make the target more interesting than the distractions, otherwise you risk your dog getting off track.
Change the target to a dead pigeon. This will allow your pup to understand the aim of the hunt is to find the pigeon. It will also familiarize him with the scent of a different bird.
Slowly move the gunfire closer towards the pup and increase the size of the body of water, such as a lake. You may need to arrange for a friend to help with the gunfire.
Live water retrieval
Here your pup is ready to retrieve birds from a body of water. Practice makes perfect as the scent of the bird may be harder to locate in water. You may choose to start in shallow water and move towards deeper bodies of water over time.
By Olivia Draper
Published: 05/25/2018, edited: 01/08/2021