Submitted by: Caleb Wilds
It’s the perfect storm, a black cloud of ducks are circling into your spread and like usual that one or two ducks are coming down and landing on the water before the rest. I know what you are thinking. That’s great! They are committing! But before the rest of the ducks have the chance to cup up in front of you, your dog breaks and spooks them and they flare away. I don’t know about you but nothing is more aggravating to me than when a dog breaks and scares away the ducks.
Steady to shot is pretty much duck dog basics 101. I don’t mean your basic commands like sit, come, lie down and stay. If your dog does not know those commands you might want to consider leaving your pup at home next hunting trip. There are only two I am really concerned about when I am taking my pup on a hunt and that is place and they do not break or some may call it steady to shot. In my opinion a dog breaking is an inexcusable offense in a duck hunting dog and if not it should be!
Steady to shot is a very important aspect in a hunting dog. Because you won’t have to deal with your pup leaving the blind at inappropriate times or getting to excited and running into someone when they are taking shot or running all over the place looking for a bird when you missed, instead you can just tell him or her no bird. (Side note, I am just going to use her or she from now on because my dog is a girl.) You don’t have to use a gun or a starter pistol when you’re training your dog. It’s just not practical for some people due to the location they live at. You can start in your backyard with your dog sitting next to you on a leash or a lead rope in your hand and a bumper. You tell her to stay and you throw the bumper. If she breaks you pull her back to the spot she was sitting wait a few seconds then you can command her to go get the bumper. I just use her name for the command and let go of the lead rope. When they begin to stay you can start to test them by making different noises, making sudden movements and saying different words beside for the command you use. After she is not breaking from these steps you can start introducing guns into the mix.
Your dog knowing how to place is a handy tool to have when you are on a hunt. No matter if you are in a make shift blind next to a pond or out in a layout blind in the middle of a field. You will never have to worry about your dog being out of place when she knows how to place. You can start in your house with a dog bed or you can go ahead and start out side. You can use a small platform if you want or you can do what I do and use a mat. All that matters is that they get the idea. Start about three feet away. Have her on a leash and tell her to place, then point at the mat and lead her to it. When she gets to the mat tell her to sit and then reward her with either your praise or a treat. After a couple of sessions you dog should catch on. Then you can increase the distance.
Once you have these two down you can combined them and when you tell her to place you can teach her not to move from that spot till you say it’s ok. Place will come in handy and you won’t have to worry about your dog being in the wrong spot in or outside the blind and you can also use it in the field when you want them to get in their dog blind. Also you will not have to worry about them making the wrong move and scaring your birds. After all that work you should have a well disciplined hunting dog and on next season’s hunting trip your buddies can brag on her and you for how well trained and behaved your dog is.