If you’ve ever seen a hunter with his dog, you know that the bond between them is very strong. The hunting dog listens and responds to every command quickly and precisely. This takes time to accomplish but is well worth it.
Dogs such as the Labrador retriever and the Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever have been bred over hundreds of years to be good gun dogs. This doesn’t mean, however, that it is any easier today to get them to work than it was back then.
Commands such as Whoa, No, Kennel, Sit and Come are vital. Your dog must know and obey all of these commands before you take him out to the field. If your dog won’t obey you when he’s on a leash he certainly won’t obey when he has the freedom to run at will. Your dog should be taught in a realistic situation in the field and not at home.
Once your dog learns those commands and he has been taught not to be frightened by gun noise you can start field training. Start with dummy training. Your dog must learn that he is meant to retrieve something and starting with a dummy is the best way to teach him what he is suppose to do.
Pick a dummy that suits your dog. Some resemble game birds, others are plastic and some are fabric. Once your dog learns to retrieve the dummy and bring it back without shaking or destroying it in any way, you can begin to train with real birds. Sometimes the dog won’t touch the real bird at first, and you will have to go back to the dummy adding feathers and streamers onto it to resemble the game bird you will be hunting.
The streamers mimic movement of a bird when it isn’t quite dead so that the real thing won’t scare your dog off. Transition to the real bird slowly if your dog shows fear the first time he is asked to retrieve it. You can even get a stuffed duck or pheasant from a taxidermist and use it as a decoy dummy.
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