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Fabarms L4s Initial Hunter Compact
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You're making want to get a a third dog! I am about due for a new pup. There is nothing like a well trained dog that YOU trained that flushes a bird, you hit it with one shot, they mark the bird and proudly strut bringing it back to you!

Gun Dog Supply has some great mini and mid sized canvas dummies. The minis are really small, so your girl might have already outgrown them. I use the minis the instant I bring home a 7-8 week old pup. I usually start in a hallway so that the pup has to go out and can only come straight back to you. Always keep the sessions short so that they end wanting more! Tons of praise to build confidence and excitement.

Another thing is I only ever throw dummies for my dogs to retrieve--no sticks or tennis balls etc. The dummy should have a special place in the dogs mind--it means both fun but also business as they get older.

Let us know how she's doing
I'm sure no expert but in my very limited experience-
  • No sticks. My dog can play 'tug', but ONLY with his rope toy. My wife knows this. Anything else and the toy must be carried gently and released immediately on command ("release!")
  • Mine LOVES his soft bouncy blue silicone ball that comes with a ball-flinging stick. I can throw that ball what seems like nearly 60 yards and it bounces and skitter... the dog nearly 100% can catch it in the air on the first bounce. That quickness makes him a machine at bringing back cripples and he loves the exercise. Of course he must RELEASE his ball immediately. We drop on the ground but you could train to the hand, of course. But Dog knows it's MAN'S BALL, not his ball. So does the man! (or woman. My wife is onboard with this training, too.)
-Mine was not into retrieving until one day when he was about 7 months old.. suddenly this was all he wanted to do- fetch and retrieve. No need to rush, it will come naturally.
- Once he learned to swim (a bit of a process of going in with him gently several times, letting him learn at his own speed, and then meeting some other Labradors that would jump off the low pier... he just needed to see the big boys doing it and he was all game to go. First efforts were pretty funny, but he learned. Then retrieving the dummy from the water was the best summer time game ever. I've dropped pheasants into water more than a few times and over a creek more than a few times, and Labradors are smart. They love to problem solve and retrieving over a creek is a great game, too.

-Tennis Balls... sometimes we're around untrained dogs that are "Getters and Stealers". In that case, there is another tennis ball in the pocket. Also.. sometimes a ball is lost. Another thing we practice is a well slobbered on tennis ball tossed into the thick grass in summer time to practice "Find It!" A big orange dummy is too easy!

As I said, I'm no pro at this but I do have a pretty amazing dog when it comes to a Flushing Retriever. His weakness is.. it's like murder trying to hold him back when he knows where a bird is. Our solution is to hunt the rough country where that's not an issue. He's 5 now and.. it took 3 1/2 years to get the Puppy in him scaled back! I can't imagine he would be any use at all in a duck blind or boat- he's gonna bring back the decoys no matter what.
 

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Fabarms L4s Initial Hunter Compact
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My dog is five, and we are still working on keeping him inside a canoe.
"There is water! I can drink it! Hey, do both sides taste the same? Yes! I can swim in that! MUST SWIM! SWIM!!!!" and it's a squirmy 75 pound dog that wants nothing more than to get in the water.

I don't know how to hunt ducks, although I am starting to see how we might jump mallards from the ground. No way my dog is going to sit still for longer than 30 seconds.. he's all go and no slow.

He's slowing down as he ages, so maybe when he's 8 or nine years old... but then again... our next step is grouse. Ducks are beyond me, I think. Not even talking about geese!
 

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It's something called obedience that you need to instill in your dog so it becomes a responsible passenger in a boat, canoe, kayak, truck, car, etc. I learned that decades ago with my first labs then the various pointing dogs, including setters and Pointers, as well as mutts that came along later. Teach the dog to sit or lay down properly - that they do so until YOU release them from the command, and not when they want to release themselves. It works in many other situations too, besides riding in a conveyance of some sort. It is really a simple and basic step in the obedience continuum.
That sounds great, and maybe the best trainer can train a pit bull to retrieve pheasants, but I could not. I believe some dogs have natural talents and natural proclivities. This Labrador- he has an overpowering desire to go in the water. Yeah, he's got a solid "stay." and "place". Just not in the close presence of a pheasant or a chance to go swimming. We're good with that. It's a partnership.

It didn't take much to train him to have no interest in rabbits or squirrels, but I sure don't want to spoil his desire to swim. that's a skill we use as we hunt creek beds and he's swum across the creek quite a few times to complete a retrieve, and a couple times to pheasants that went ker-plunk! And he is a murder-missle in insane brush after his bird, I don't want to lose that.
 

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Fabarms L4s Initial Hunter Compact
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Sigh. Well... this is a new thing for ME to learn. I am on it, soon as the water gets warm enough for ME to get all wet!
 

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I have a big red sled just inside the garage door and just tried your suggestion.

Obedience things we have very solid. Getting in his crate or the back of the car, he hops right in. We did space on the ground inside a 2x4 frame in puppy class ages ago.. but

He was NOT going in that sled! I was shocked! This might explain why he loves to swim but won't go inside a little plastic kiddy pool.

I will have my wife help to gently introduce him into the little sled.

Getting him into a canoe is no problem- he will follow us in, happily... but then he wants to move around and check the water on both sides, get out and swim, get back in, repeat.

You really hit the nail on the head here. Whatever it is, the sled makes him very... skeptical! He's not afraid, he's just not gonna step in to it, even with treats on the line. Two people, I bet we can coax him in with food and superior trickery.

Great tip!
 
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