duck dog with ducks

How Long Does It Take To Train A Duck Dog?

Having a duck dog during hunting season makes finding and retrieving ducks much easier in marshy environments. So how long does it take to train a duck dog?

duck dog
A labrador sits obediently with a mallard duck.

While most duck dogs can be trained between sixteen and eighteen months, some dogs take more naturally to duck training than others. If your dog has an aptitude for training, you can teach them to be a duck dog between six and seven months. Once trained, duck dogs should practice three days a week.

Along with the time it takes to train duck dogs, owners should know how to train dogs correctly to avoid burnout and make sure their dogs enjoy their training. Let’s explore this in greater detail below:

How Many Months Does It Take To Train A Duck Dog?

duck dog training with decoys
A Black Lab with a Mallard duck

Generally speaking, it takes between sixteen and eighteen months to train a duck dog; however, some dogs take more naturally to training than others and can achieve results between six and seven months of training.

Once a dog has become proficient in retrieving, it is unnecessary to train every day. However, trained duck dogs should be trained periodically and then every day for a month before hunting season.

At What Age Should You Start Training A Duck Dog?

duck dog with duck in its mouth
Powerful black Labrador is retrieving a duck during a duck hunting day

Puppies under six months of age have very short attention spans, meaning that any training sessions shouldn’t exceed five minutes and should only involve essential repetitions. Introducing too much information over lengthy sessions will cause puppies to lose interest.

Puppies between six and twelve months shouldn’t be exposed to training sessions longer than twenty minutes. If you have a puppy that can grasp concepts after a few instances of repetition and only after a few minutes, don’t include more training just to take up twenty minutes.

After twelve months of age, most dogs will reach physical maturity and improved concentration. Provided they have been trained correctly from a young age, adult dogs should be able to improve and refine their skills with ten-minute sessions, three to four times a week.

Note: all training sessions should be reduced during hot weather while owners remain vigilant for overtrading and/or dehydration signs.

How Do You Train A Duck Dog?

Before you begin training drills, you must teach your dog some basic duck hunting conditioning skills and obedience training:

  1. Obedience training
  2. Introduce your dog to water
  3. Expose your dog to guns
  4. Introduce your dog to boating
  5. Invest in quality training equipment

1. Obedience Training

Before you can teach a dog advanced duck hunting and retrieving techniques, you need to teach your dog basic commands and obedience training. Therefore, once your dog understands how to come, sit, stay, and fetch on command, you can teach them duck hunting techniques.

2. Introduce Your Dog To Water

Dogs should be introduced to water at an early age and safely. Instead of throwing them in the deep end and forcing them to swim, begin introducing your puppy to water via shallow splash pools and hoses before introducing them to ponds, lakes, etc.

Furthermore, if your dog is hydrophobic/does not enjoy the water, do not force them to be around water and reconsider training them as a duck dog.

3. Expose Your Dog To Guns

Because dogs have sensitive hearing, loud noises like gunshots can be traumatic and frightening for most dogs. Therefore, dogs should slowly be introduced to guns at a young age by first becoming accustomed to the sight and smell of firearms before the sound of guns.

Furthermore, it is recommended that you start with quieter and smaller rounds/firearm alternatives like BB guns or pellet guns. As smaller firearms help dogs understand the purpose of guns and grow their confidence around guns and the loud sounds they produce.

4. Introduce Your Dog To Boating

Similar to introducing dogs to water at an early age and making it a fun activity, dogs should be introduced to boats and learn to become accustomed to their speed, sounds, and rocking motions.

Encourage your dog to enter and exit boats on command to learn to enter boats independently and learn to associate boats with having a fun time!

5. Invest In Quality Training Equipment

When training your dog and going on duck hunts, you should invest in the following equipment:

  • Scented training dummies
  • An e-collar for your dog
  • A dog blind to camouflage your dog
  • A neoprene vest to keep your dog warm and camouflaged

What Drills Should You Use To Train A Duck Dog?

There are two critical drills your duck dog should practice:

  1. Blind retrieves
  2. No-fail recall

1. Blind Retrieves

Using four scented dummies or bumpers, stand with your dog in the center where you intend to throw the dummies for retrieval. Throw out dummies in opposite directions, one after the other, while teaching your dog to stay until all dummies are thrown.

Once you have thrown them out, tell your dog to collect each dummy in random order (not the order you threw them in.) If your dog retrieves the wrong dummy, do not scold them; instead, throw the dummy back and ask them to retrieve the correct dummy.

If they retrieve the wrong dummy again, walk with your dog to the correct dummy until they learn to understand your commands.

2. No-Fail Recall

Teaching your dog recalls is fundamental to duck training and general obedience training. Begin recall training by taking your dog to an area with no distractions and putting them on a 20-foot lead.

Allow your dog to maximize their distance from you before you call them and give the lead a slight tug; when your dog returns successfully, give them a treat.

Once your dog has grown accustomed to increased lead length, perform the same drill with them off the lead.

Conclusion

In conclusion, training duck dogs requires commitment, patience, and attention to detail. Most importantly, duck dogs should enjoy their training and have a holistic understanding of all aspects of duck hunting.

References

https://homesteading.com/train-a-hunting-dog-to-retrieve/

https://www.outdoorlife.com/8-ways-to-ruin-your-duck-hunting-dog/

https://www.fieldandstream.com/three-essential-drills-for-training-duck-dog/

https://www.ducks.org/hunting/retriever-training/5-key-points-for-training-your-retriever

https://www.animalpicturesarchive.com/how-long-does-it-take-to-train-a-duck-dog/

https://www.ducks.org/hunting/retriever-training/10-pitfalls-in-retriever-training#:~:text=A%20good%20duck%20dog%20can,during%20the%20hot%20summer%20months.

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