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Issue With Decoys


2 DA GILLS

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I know others have asked about this issue, but I can not recall the advice. I had some fairly high hopes of the dog this weekend, but not too high since I know I did not get all the training done that I would have liked.

Here is the background. My Griffon is 2.5 years old and he is in his second "real" season of duck hunting. He has been force fetched (basic level), loves the water and has no issue retrieving anything. I have done work with decoys in the yard / water and done some live duck training activities with him. We have worked out of the boat, but I have never really tied it all together in training. It has only all come together while hunting.

So, the first duck drops right in front of us on Saturday. He sees it clearly, I send him. He gets the teal, gets caught on decoy string and it all goes down hill from here. He freaks out when the decoy catches him from behind and he drops the bird, struggles to free himself from this attacking decoy and climbs in the boat. I am not pleased about what has just occurred. He knows not to drop birds, but he has done it. He wants nothing to do with heading back out near that aggressive plastic duck and I am not sure how to proceed. He shows interest in other birds dropped, but I can not get him to make the retrieves. I am struggling to say the least. However, on one mallard that I winged and it made it to the cattails. We made our way across the bay in the boat and I sent him into the cattails. No issues and he returns with the bird. I praise him so he understands that this is the desired result. Later he retrieves some more birds, when we are away from the decoys.

So, how do we get over this decoy hurdle? Is it simply shorten my decoy strings to cut down on the issue and do more work in decoys (in the water) outside of a hunting situation? Part of me believes that I need to do more staged training situations, were there are decoys, guns being fired and bumpers being thrown by someone other than myself. Oh yeah and we need to be buried in the cattails with an obstructed view.

Any suggestions or easy tips? I am wondering how to get this to click for him.

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You just answered your own question!!!

Set up some decoys and work him in them. Start in real shallow water so you can force him to the bumper if need be. Once he completes one, he'll be back on his way. Get his confidence back up and do a number of retrieves till he's going with gusto again. Then next time into a little deeper water and one more time in chest deep water. He'll just have to learn to evade the decoy lines through repitition.

Good Luck!

Ken

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Labs,

Now that you mention confidence, I can clearly see that this has been lacking in him in duck hunting situations. When we do the whole throw and retrieve exercise without all the other stuff (boats, decoys, gun fire) he goes with some serious purpose after the bumpers. He is not typically a dog that lacks confidence, but I can see that I have not properly prepared him for the situations of real duck hunting. I probably need to really build his confidence around decoys, boats and gun fire all at one time. Then maybe try to set-up a controlled situation to have him hanging up on a decoy. A situation where I can work him through a potential hang up and have him learn there is no need to freak out about this aggressive plastic ducks that we always seem to hunt by.

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LABS, You might want to go a bit deeper into your "force him to the bumper" comment. I am not sure to many forum readers really know what "forcing to the pile" is all about.

Also, Gills the dog is either force fetched or he isn't. There really isn't a basic level. From the force fetch you would move on to collar fetch then stick fetch. A lot of trainers don't even go this far. Most AM's wouldn't go this far either unless they are following the Lardy tapes right down to the Q.

I am with LABS on this regarding the decoys. Make him run thru them and into them every day in the yard. Make the strings visible in the yard and long with the hopes he catches a paw on one so you can make a correstion right there. If you are lucky enough to have a beach close by go there with some long stringed decoys about 10 feet from shore and make him go thru them.

In the end its all about his comfort level. You have to get the dog comfortable with the things you want him to do.

GOOD LUCK!!!!

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duckbuster,

I am a rookie dog trainer, but I worked with an experienced dog trainer while training my dog. He did the FF training for me and I just needed to reinforce it. When I said basic level, I knew I did not word it correctly. He has been force fetch trained (not sure what collar fetch and stick fetch even are). Like I said, I am inexperienced and I am sure I am making some mistakes.

I am familiar with what "forcing to the pile" means and I have a few ideas on what I need to work on now. I knew I had not accomplished all the training that I wanted this past summer, but we had made progress. Clearly, I had not done enough to prepare him at this point. We will keep working on it and we will get there.

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Ya GILLS you are right. It is a constant work in progress. My dog is 41/2 and has gone down south every winter for 4 months of training for the past 4 years, this will be her 5th. Every year you still have to reinforce what has already been taught.

He'll get thru this little hang up I'm sure of that but like you said, it will just take some time. Anyway, he won't be in his prime for another 2 years or so. By then these little kinks will be worked out.

HAVE A GREAT SEASON!!!!

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I am fairly certain that we will have a great pheasant season because he has had that down since season one. If he improves this season compared to last season, I will very pleased. I knew his weak point was the duck work and I just never got the level of training in that I (he) need this summer. I can't and should not expect him to excel at something that I have done a poor job on exposing him to properly. Throwing a bumper off the dock (even several hundred times) is not enough to say that he will be prepared for duck hunting. This novice is learning.

I have duck / pheasant combo hunt in the Dakotas coming up soon. We will work on things around home until then, but the waters we typically hunt ducks in the Dakotas will be perfect waters for some additional training opportunities. Hard bottomed wetlands that I can get out in as well if needed.

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DB, you are correct in the advance stages in a FF regimen. When I trialed and ran tests we went through the collar and stick too. Those dogs are truley polished in their retrieving capabilities and it is much easier to do corrections using the collar than to constantly rely on the ear pinch. Now-a-days I generally lose the 'stick' portion of my fetch work as I have little intentions on running competitively again and if they 'pig' a little it doesn't bother me, and if they really pig or balk, I can rely on some negative pressure from the collar.

Gills, repetition will be your friend in this dilema. Lots of running through the dekes and FF to the bumpers would be a starting point. I think it would be prudent to set-up a spread and work him through the dekes with FFing than to just rely on FF to correct each problem as they arise.

Quote:

I can't and should not expect him to excel at something that I have done a poor job on exposing him to properly. Throwing a bumper off the dock (even several hundred times) is not enough to say that he will be prepared for duck hunting.


See! Give yourself some credit man! You have just exposed a huge problem that many trainers face and you so eloquently stated it. As with any training, assessing the problem and coming up with a plan to correct it, is paramount. Usually the best way to correct a problem is to mimic the situation that causes the problem, break it down to it's simplest form, step back a step or two in your training and begin building again from there.

With your situation, I'd work in the decoys and at this point, don't worry about the exposure to the hunt portion. (Simplest form... decoys are the problem) Starting on land with decoys so he gains confidence might be a good start. Then go into some shallow water with decoys and do some 'pile' work with the FF in the dekes. From there progress into deeper water and a full blown hunting situation. He needs to learn to complete each of those retrieves no matter what, and he needs to gain confidence in his ability to work in a decoy spread. It will come! I can sense your determination to get over this bump in the road. The only thing I would add is to get much of this out of the way before heading to NoDak. I've never been a big fan of 'training' in hunting situations... too many uncontrolled things going on in a duck blind. Re-inforcing out there will be great, but try and get him through some of his hicc-ups before you leave.

Dogs learn by repitition and exposure and we learn from each other! grin.gif

Have a great hunt when out there!!!

Good Luck!

Ken

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labs --

Right on the money. You give GREAT advice. Keep up the excellent work.

Hit

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I have not had a chance to use any of the advice given at this point. It is amazing how busy the weeks get between hunting weekends. It is so bad that I had to finish mowing my lawn with my head lamp last night. The neighbors got a kick out of it.

I am not hunting this weekend, so I will have time to work on this. I did get a few decoys out and I have them sitting out in the garage near his dog bed. I figure any exposure to the decoys will help.

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