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Too old?

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So my 95lb chocolate will be 3 April. He swims like a fish and will sort of retrieve a ball/dummy. I have hunted out of a canoe since I have had him, so I have never trained him "hardcore" being he is too hyper for a canoe. I will now be hunting out of a new boat that will be able to get me into a lot of places that my canoe got me. Is it too late to get my dog into being what he was made to do? Any suggestions how to go about training an old dog new tricks would be great. Thanks guys.

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I used a dokken duck dummy that you can inject with scent for retrieving practice to get my labs used to the smell and taste of waterfowl and play catch with that every day. This might sound stupid, but in the spring I used to take the retrieving dummy load up the boat and the dog and head out to the slough and pull into the cattails and practice throwing the dummy from the boat. Eventualy, I slowly start working some decoys into this game, and increase the amount of decoys every time I go out. This gives the dog a chance to get tangled in the decoys and learn how to avoid them before duck season. Nothing worse than being out on opening day and having the dog get tangled in decoys. It isn't really the dogs fault as typically up to this point a newer dog has no experience with a decoy spread.

Another training technique that works well is to carefully breast out a duck or two, fold the feathers back over the breast and take a bunch of string or rubber bands to cover up the exposed part of the duck. Then throw them in the freezer. Go out to a farm field if you can this time of year with your frozen birds and take the dog for a walk while carrying a shotgun with trap loads. When the dog is not paying attention, throw the duck up in the air and touch of a load in that general direction. This will train the dog to look in the direction the gun was shot, and will help them as they will learn to associate the direction the gun is going off and will learn t look in that direction, when they see the falling bird, which you have been playing catch with at home, they will learn very quickly to get it. Just like they have been doing at home. When you get back home throw the birds back in a plastic bag and back in the chest freezer.

Now when you are in a real hunting situation, when the gun goes off, and the bird falls, it should be automatic. Dog will look in that direction, hopefully see a falling bird, and go get it. What is really funny is when you shoot the gun and the bird doesn't fall and the dog looks at you like, what the )%^*)^+_%$? Really, you missed it? Good job!

The only problem, I still have yet to overcome is when I am in a real hunting situation, and we notice birds working and start paying attention, the dog tends to start paying attention too. Then when we pull up the guns to shoot, the dog already sees the birds and jumps out to make the retrieve before we even shoot. The other thing that has happened is that we are not paying attention, and all of a sudden you look at the dog, and notice the dog is watching something. You look in the direction the dog is looking and great there's a duck I never saw coming. I cannot tell you how many times my dogs notice the birds before I do. I have had them jump out of the boat to make a retrieve on a bird that I am not even prepared to shoot. My solution to this was to put them on a leash tied to the boat so they cannot jump prematurely.

Good luck, I don't think it is too late, but you will have to put some consistent effort into this endeavor daily until the dog has it figured out. Tons of praise will go a long way as a reward when they do things right.

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