Training Your Labradors To Hunt

Training Labs To Hunt

Although many labs today are mainly kept as family pets, due to their loveable natures, they are still highly popular for hunting. Labs originally come from the island of Newfoundland.

They were bred to work alongside fishermen. Their thick, short, water resistant coat was ideal for working in the water and their jobs included fetching ropes, hauling nets and retrieving the fish that escaped from the fisherman’s nets. At the end of the day, many of them also went home to serve as companions to their masters and families.

Today many labs are still bred and trained for helping hunters by retrieving game. They are also trained for shows and competitions in skill. Although labs are naturally inclined towards many of the skills involved in hunting, proper training plays a very highly important key role.

By following a few basic concepts, a lab can be easily and effectively trained to be a reliable and enjoyable hunting companion.

Training tips


When it comes to training any dog to hunt, the importance of good breeding cannot be stressed enough. Today this is not generally thought of when approaching training.

However, it is highly beneficial to find a dog that has been very selectively bred to have helpful tendencies and predispositions. A well bred dog will naturally tend towards things like a soft mouth, a calm and steady demeanor and a cooperative nature.

The average hunter is not likely to be highly knowledgeable and skilled in the art of training. Becoming an expert should not be required in order to be an effective trainer.

It should not be a complicated matter. With the proper base set of inherent skills in a well bred dog, any hunter, even the least knowledgeable and skilled should be able to train a dog into an effective and pleasant hunter. This is why breeding is so important.

Some believe that one of the biggest factors that has led to the current ongoing digression in good breeding is the modern day field trial system. As the number of entries into these trials has increased over the years, the trials themselves have in many ways begun to focus on less important factors.

These trials have become intent on eliminating numbers through evaluating skills that are not of great importance in a good hunting dog. These skills include pinpoint marking, angle when entering water and lining.

As a result, trainers and breeders focus on developing these skills rather than focusing on encouraging skills and behaviors that are truly valuable on a hunt, such a behavior. Wayward training methods and bad breeding tend to work hand in hand and end up producing dogs with less than ideal tendencies, such as hyperactivity.

Shock Collars

Many turn to electric collars in search of an effective way of training not only basic obedience and boundaries but also skills like hunting. Although an electric collar can be a good and effective tool in the hands of a skilled trainer, most people hardly qualify as such.

As a result they end up only abusing their dog and creating more problems. This mess is ‘helped’ along by a lack of inherent good traits that were lost somewhere along the breeding line.

Someone that knows how to properly train, can accomplish the same results without a shock collars as they can with. Rather than focusing on forceful means like the collar that can lead to abuse, aggression problems, and an increased pain tolerance, look to enhance your training experience through the use of proper methods.

Basically all basic obedience issues can be resolved through the use of proper training.

Obedience On Command

Laying a solid foundation for obedience is one of the most important aspects in good training. The first step towards effective training is teaching your dog basic obedience. It is highly important that a dog obey regardless of the distractions going on around them.

A well trained dog will quickly and thoroughly respond to basic obedience commands no matter what situation they are in. They will not be sidetracked by the cat that crosses their path or the dogs barking and running circles in the yard next door. This focus and discipline is invaluable in the midst of a hunt.

When it comes to obedience in a dog, one of the more common issues is failing to respond to the command to come. Getting a handle on coming, staying, heeling and sitting on command should be the basis for any training. When a dog is capable of accomplishing those skills, they are ready and able to do basically anything else that you may ask of them.

The Non Retrieve

Once you have perfected basic obedience commands with your dog, you will be ready to move on to more specific hunting training. Along with instilling obedience in your dog, you should also seek to instill a reliable steadiness. Steadiness is a very valuable trait in a hunting dog and one of the best ways to accomplish this is with the non retrieve.

The non retrieve is just what it sounds like: the dog watches a bird get shot and fall, but does not get to immediately retrieve it. Once the bird has reached the ground, it is retrieved by the trainer or another dog, while the pup in training watches.

This is the opposite of most training methods today that focus on allowing the pup to retrieve at will as soon as the bird falls. After thousands of retrieves, and a very well established break habit, the attempt is made to steady the dog by teaching non retrieves. As one can imagine it requires some force and punishment to counteract the established breaking behavior that was encouraged from the beginning.

When the dog becomes used to not retrieving more often than retrieving they learn to be steady without the use of punishment and with very little effort on the part of the trainer. A steady dog is an effective and very pleasant hunting companion.

Unless circumstances, such as wind or current that could carry the bird off, come into play allow the pup in training to sit and wait
about 10-15 minutes before allowing them to retrieve. Another exception would include a crippled bird, in which case an immediate retrieve is necessary to ensure the bird does not escape.

This method is also highly effective in teaching the dog to rely on their master rather than to be self reliant. Instant retrieves train the dog in self reliance. Once self reliance is established it can be very difficult to convince a dog that they should need their master for guidance. When they are trained to look to their master for cues rather than to bolt at will, they will also respond much better to hand signals and blind retrieves.

The delayed retrieve works by giving just enough time after the bird falls that the dog will not remember exactly where it fell. The dog will be able to remember a general direction where the bird fell but since they won’t remember specifically where the bird is, their certainty will falter once they are off and they will be more likely to look to their trainer for guidance.

Training your Labrador the basics is the first step towards having a great hunting companion.


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