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Imagine that it's dawn and the sun is just peeking over the horizon. You are sitting in a duck blind, listening to the sounds of nature. Your loyal dog is curled up at your feet, patiently waiting until he is told to do something else. Suddenly, you hear the sound of ducks overhead. Your dog moves into the seated position and you remind him to hold the 'Sit'. Your buddy knows what is about to happen and he eagerly waits for the opportunity to spring into action. You take aim at one of the ducks, and as you do so you are reminded why you love duck hunting.
There are many important skills that a dog has to learn in order to become a loyal hunting dog. Using a blind is one of those skills. Just like the hunter, the dog must stay hidden from view so that he will not scare off the birds. Even more importantly, teaching him to stay next to the duck blind prevents the danger of him being in the way.
You can generally expect it to take between one and three months to train your dog how to use a duck blind. Your pup will probably learn what to do in a matter of weeks, but it can take longer for him to learn how to do it around distractions and for long periods of time. If your dog already knows how to maintain the down position for long periods of time, then he should catch on to this even quicker.
If your pup finds the blind scary when you first introduce it, spend extra time getting him comfortable with it by making the presence of the duck blind extremely rewarding with treats.
If you choose to use the 'Sit' command while using the 'Sit Down' method, make sure that you do not let your pup out of the sit position at any point until he is given his release command. It is important for 'Sit' to automatically include staying in duck hunting work, so your 'Sit' command needs to be very consistent with what you will require later on during duck hunts.
To get started, you will need a duck blind and some tasty treats. Your pup will also need to know the 'Sit' or 'Down' command, and a release word. If you are using the 'Settle' method or the 'Boundaries' method, you will need a slip leash, a regular leash, or a check cord that is ten to twenty feet long. With all of the methods, you will need patience and consistency.
The Sit Down Method
To begin, teach your pup the 'Sit' or 'Down' command. When you teach him to 'Sit' or 'Down', teach him to stay in that position until you give him a release command, such as 'Okay' or 'Free'.
Introduce the blind
When your dog knows 'Sit' or 'Down', then get him comfortable with the blind. Set up the blind and scatter treats behind the blind where your dog will be. Only put treats in the area that you want your dog to be in in the future. Encourage him to explore the blind and get the treats. Do this until he is completely comfortable being near the duck blind.
When your buddy is comfortable around the duck blind, call your dog over to the blind and tell him to 'Sit' or to 'Down'. Reward him with treats when he does so. Practice this until he begins to sit or lay down on his own without you telling him. When he sits or lays down next to the blind on his own, praise him and give him a treat.
Continue to reward your dog for sitting or laying down. After he is in position, reward him again every three seconds that he remains in that position for up to one minute. As he improves, space out your rewards until you are giving him one treat every minute that your pup remains seated or in a down position.
When your pup can remain seated or down, then reward him only for initially sitting or laying down and for remaining in that position for longer and longer periods of time. Gradually increase the amount of time that he has to remain in that position for before you give him a treat. Practice this until your pup can remain seated or down for two hours in the duck blind without needing treats.
The Settle Method
Attach a leash
To begin, teach your pup the 'Down' command. Practice the command until he can do it around distractions and hold it for a minute.
Introduce the duck blind
Next, get your dog comfortable around a duck blind by placing treats around the blind in the area where you want your dog to stay. Repeat this several times, until he is completely comfortable with the blind.
When your pup is comfortable with the blind, put a slip leash on him and lead him over to the duck blind. Tell him 'Down', let the leash touch the ground, and step on it with your foot. Keep enough slack in the leash for your pup to not feel it while he is laying down, but not so much that he can stand up.
Whenever your buddy tries to get up, let the leash catch him and prevent him. When he tries to get up, tell him 'Ah-ah'. When he lays back down again, praise him, but do not give him a treat for laying back down. When he holds the down position without trying to get up for two minutes, then give him a treat.
As your pup improves over time, gradually increase the amount of time that passes between treat rewards so that he has to remain in the down position for longer before being rewarded. Increase this amount of time until he will remain in the down position for one hour before being rewarded.
When your pup will hold the position for one hour, practice getting up and walking a few feet away from him. If he tries to get up without being released, rush towards him and tell him 'Down' again. When you are able to get up and walk a few feet away without him following you, go over to him and place a treat between his front paws as a reward. Practice this until you can move about freely while he remains in place.
Practice 'Down' commands with your pup often. Do this until he can hold the position for up to two hours without trying to get up. Remember to always release him with a command or by giving him another command to perform instead when you are done.
The Boundaries Method
Introduce the duck blind
To begin, set up your duck blind and introduce it to your dog. Encourage him to sniff it and explore it. Place treats in the area where you want him to be by the blind and encourage him to eat them. Do this until he is completely comfortable around the duck blind.
Attach a leash
When your dog is comfortable with the duck blind, attach a long leash or check cord to him. Lead him over to the blind and place a few treats on the ground in the area where you want him to be. Create an imaginary circle in your mind of the area where you want your dog to stay next to the blind. While he is eating the treats, stand on the boundary line of this imaginary circle and wait for him to finish his treats.
Block attempts to leave
When your pup finishes his treats, block his exit and tell him 'Ah-ah'. Take a step towards him so that he gets back inside the circle. Repeat this every time that he tries to leave until he stops trying to get out of the circle. When he stops trying to get out, praise him and toss him a treat. He can be either sitting, standing, or lying down to get his treat, but he cannot leave the circle.
Practice staying in the circle
Practice keeping your dog in the circle and rewarding him when he chooses to stay inside. Do this until he no longer tries to get out of the circle. Whenever you wish for him to leave the circle, give him a release command.
Make the task more difficult for him by walking out of the circle yourself. If he starts to follow you, go towards him with your palm facing him like a stop sign and tell him 'Ah-ah'. Walk towards him until he is back inside the circle again. Practice this until he will stay in place even while you move around. Praise and reward him when he successfully remains inside the circle while you walk around.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 05/30/2018, edited: 01/08/2021