Yamaha Outdoors Tips — Retrieving Dogs and You
By Steve Hickoff
I’ve hunted with sporting dogs for almost forty years now, and if I know one thing, the bond you build early when that canine is a pup will last a lifetime.
This goes for training and hunting with that canine companion. Here are some tips to help you encourage that retriever to hunt effectively.
Build the bond by spending as much time as possible with that dog from the time you bring it home. This includes the off-season, and definitely when the season is open.
Crate train that pup from the start by encouraging it to view that dog box as a place of comfort and refuge. The dog crate should never be used for punishment, and only as a safe place to kennel the dog on your trips from home and back.
Early obedience training in a calm, comfortable setting will obviously help when hunting and at home. If I’ve learned anything, it’s to offer concise commands during ongoing instruction. Sit, stay, kennel up, come, and so on work better than a string of incoherent words and sentences. You’ll only confuse the dog that way.
Early on, say at eight weeks of age, teach by association and enthusiasm, taking that dog everywhere you go if possible. This helps with socialization. Introduce it to other dogs early as well. This will help you in duck camp.
Four or five months of age is a good time to step up obedience training, though again it starts the moment the dog comes home with you. For retrievers, use dummy exercises to unleash and stylize abilities you’ll later use when hunting.
Retrieves from some distance are called “marks.” After you’ve taught the dog to sit and stay (this is crucial later in your blind), you can then toss a white dummy so that s/he can see it fall (much like a duck). These dummies are widely available. Use them, instilling fun and function in the retriever.
Control is crucial in training. Toss the dummy. Insist that your dog stay close. Release that retriever to cover the line from your location to the dummy drop spot. Repeat regularly as a form of play and practice, and again make it FUN.
In the end, exposing your dog to obedience commands—fun and function while retrieving—will make your waterfowl hunting experience more fulfilling.