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Old Dog..New Tricks?

Big Brown

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Well, to make a long story longer, I just started hunting last year after 34 years on the rock and have a 4 year old lab. I had her out on a few pheasant hunts and she loved it and I was told that she hunted as hard as any labs they had seen. The problem is she is just going by instincts. I did not take her in the duck boat as she has a hard time sitting still and I didn't want to ruin anyones hunt. My buddy's have already taken one greenhorn under their wings, me!

Any way...

1) Is is too late to start traing my Morgan to be a reasonable hunting partner?

2) What steps should I take? Should I stick to either waterfowl or upland?

Keep in mind that I do not expect a ton but I just would like her to be decent and to improve my hunts and not spoil a buddy's hunt.

Any thoughts?

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Go for it!!! I once had an English Springer Spaniel that I did not hunt till she was 6. She turned out to be an excellet upland dog and once retrieved a 12 pound goose. She hunted till she was 13. Have fun!!!

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One way that I found to get my lab to be steady in the boat was to take him fishing with me. The first few times I kept him on a leash, but now he's great. Sometimes it takes him a bit to settle down, but I'm not worried he's going to jump out anymore.

I'm no expert but I don't think it's to late to train her.

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Big B.

It's not to late - let me tell you why. He just started hunting - that is a new and learning experiance (sp). With all new experiances your dog SHOULD be looking to YOU for guidence and support. That is where you can start suggesting some rules of what you expect during this time. The flip side is the dog will make his own rules and then you are SOL. If you want specific advice - ask what you desire and I'll throw in my $.02.


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Sorry for the delayed response guys. I was in the BWCA for the weekend with a 4 & 5 year old. I think I have the patience now to train and old dog new tricks.

I like the idea of getting Morgan out into a boat for starters. She has been in a pontoon many a time which I think give her too much room to roam and in the boat she is out retrieving bobbers, cranks etc. I will get her out this weekend in the boat with a lease.

1) I don't know if she even knows what a duck or pheasant smell like. I bought some pheasant scent but how do I get her to put that smell together with birds. Dummies?

2) She doesn't range at all when pheasant hunting. All I have to do is give her a whoa and she slows down. Will this change if she gets birdy?

3) Any suggestions on getting her to retrieve ducks. She will pretty much brings anything back that is thrown but I am not sure about getting her to associate the smell of a duck with something that dropped out of the sky (hopefully).

Sorry if these questions seem elementary but keep in mind that I just started hunting last year myself. I think based on your feedback it is not too late so I will go get some books and begin training myself on how to train her.

All suggestions are appreciate. Thanks a ton guys!

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She already has the instinct.

It doesn't matter on scent at this point. Wild scent is something she will recognize. However, tape wings from a duck or pheasant to the dummy and they will not want to pick up plain plastic again. Get a training partner for the boat deal. A canoe in the shallows and a starter pistol would work. Have one person, hidden in the bush somewhere to the side, launch the dummy in a high crossing arch. Kneel down with your dog in the boat saying ‘mark’ then shoot if you have the pistol. Please your hand vertically between his eyes lining up the dummy and say ‘fetch’ or ‘back’. Repeat as necessary~

OK, when she gets birdy you will find out immediately where your training IS vs. where you THINK it is! This is where discipline breaks down.

Alright, apply the scent to the dummy – keep pooch indoors (vehicle – whatever) and drag the dummy around. Now, if you can put the dummy on an 8’ pole, it is better. Because, the dog might just follow your scent to the dummy and get the same rewards. When he gets there praise and throw it for a quick undisciplined fetch (my personal reward system). Remember, to have the dog following your lead! His eyes should be focused on you till you tell him otherwise. Make it fun, exciting, thrilling, best thing since a spilt plate at dinner event.

Happy hunting


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I'd suggest having the hound work on sit/stay on land first. Once he will stay, you can start tossing dummies, still on land and then graduate to water. A dog is easier to control on land, water should come after a proficiency on land. I'd also pick up Water Dog by Wolters. "stay" is the most important tool for duck hunting, to retain your sanity in the boat. If the dog will stay and likes to retrieve, you can at least get your ducks back if you throw rocks by the duck and have your dog get the ducks that way(let's all admit it's happened, most of the time guys end up tossing shells, bring the rocks along). I'm not at all saying that's your goal, but it being late August and the with the situation at hand that may be what happens this year. You can teach stay in that time, but expecting blind retrieves for this year is a pretty lofty goal.

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