Getting a 4 in duck search.

Pointing, retrieving, flushing, tracking, behavioral issues, puppy training, etc.

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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby orhunter » Mon Dec 19, 2016 12:17 pm

The one thing that stands out as the most valuable trait is, drive. Not much a person can do if the dog is lacking. A person can nurture water drive but must start young so as to nurture the other things that temper that drive.

A good number of dog owners know from the beginning they'll be doing a utility test down the road and should begin the pup's preparation as early as 12 weeks. It doesn't have to be much as long as the desired results are met. Releasing live ducks on land so the pup becomes familiar with the chase, capture, sight, sound and smell of a duck. After a few dry land success' , graduate to a wet environment. Doesn't have to involve swimming. Next step would be scent location of a hidden duck on a shoreline. Once the nose is educated, you're half way there. The drive should be enough to guide the nose to the prize. The really odd thing about taking this approach is it doesn't involve training. All a person is doing is creating opportunity.

I'm a firm believer that a sudden crash course in duck searches is mostly a waste of time with the exception of that uncommon driven dog that just does it/everything automatically. Getting a fearless pup off to a good start will certainly pay off come test day.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby Bruce Schwartz » Mon Dec 19, 2016 1:01 pm

Nicely said Willie and Orhunter. Training can nurture or hinder the dog's natural instincts. Best for the dog to have the right stuff from the get-go.

I like to teach "hunt dead" or "dead bird" commands on land so that the dog knows he's expected to hunt on it's own until it finds the dummy/duck. This is done in the yard and then extended to the field. Toss a dummy that the dog hasn't seen and say "dead bird" and let the dog hunt it up. This is generally done at the end of a training session because it ramps the dog up and is very enjoyable. Everybody's excited when the dog picks up the dummy after a long hunt! Later put the dog behind an obstacle and shoot off a retrieve-r-trainer so the dog doesn't see the direction or the fall and then send for a hunt 100 yards or so out. If the dog looks back (pops) or starts to come in yell at it to "dead bird" or nick with the collar if need be. The dog learns this command through time and repetition and so when you train for the duck search in water the dog is already programmed for the test. This command is used all the time looking for a downed bird while hunting.

The other skill that seems to be necessary in the UT duck search is for the dog to take a line across some open water at the git-go so that the dog gets off to a good start and isn't milling around at your feet. Experienced trainers for the UT will always teach the dog be able to first cross an open body of water right off the line.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby gwp4me2 » Mon Dec 19, 2016 1:52 pm

I don't know how to get through to some people that the duck search is not about retrieving the duck. One poster mentioned not being able to send the dog in the right direction. In every test I've ever seen or tested in the dog is intentionally sent in the WRONG direction. The duck search is a test of drive and will to continue, to overcome obstacles and expand the search no matter what it takes. Those are the main things being judged in the duck search. The retrieve only comes into play if the dog actually finds a duck. Many people would argue that steadiness isn't desirable in the field. "I want my dog after that retrieve as soon as the bird is shot." So why test steadiness if you don't use it? Bottom line is there are some elements of the NAVHDA test that are designed for obedience and some that are designed to evaluate desire and natural ability. Don't get hung up on the fact that a UT test doesn't exactly mirror the way you use a dog when hunting. The focus should be that a true UT1 dog will be a great hunting partner. A great duck search dog can be a pain because they are constantly bringing you back other peoples wounded birds. We hunt pheasants in the swamps and the dogs want to hunt cripples so bad sometimes it is hard to keep them on dry ground where the pheasants are.
One poster mentioned that a 'good' retriever will already search. Well a 'good' dog of any breed will do what it was bred for. The purpose of the tests is identify which dogs are the 'good' ones by using good judges to actually see the work.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby orhunter » Mon Dec 19, 2016 2:34 pm

Probably the biggest obstacle in doing what said is having and maintaining a number ducks. They are dirty, yucky creatures. You need to use live ducks, with various amounts of restraint to train with so as to keep the pup excited and focused. The pup must always be able to overpower the duck. Be aware of wind direction as we gotta get the pup used to smelling what's it's also seeing. This builds trust in the nose. Before long, the pup will be driving blind. The nose becomes the tractor beam..... All this without training. How To Help Gun Dogs Train Themselves

The nurtured retrieve starts before the duck. Shortcut to avoiding FF.....in some dogs.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby AverageGuy » Mon Dec 19, 2016 6:40 pm

Yep live ducks are filthy beasts to keep around for long.

I had great success using dead ducks, dead pigeons, and even Canada goose wings in training my now retired dog for Duck Search. I would seed the far side of a marsh or swamp at every prominent landmark - e.g. a blind mound, clump of willows so that any direction the dog might search into it was going to smell and then find something to bring back. It quickly trained my dog to believe that if it moved around and went to objectives it would find something. When it found the first one, I would send him again. That dog has excellent drive and so he was always eager to go again.

What I am after (and achieved) is making the dog believe it will always be successful in finding something if it goes, moves around and keeps looking. Worked really well and made use of less messy and easier to keep around dead birds vs live. I did of course use some live birds but not near as many times as I used dead ones. We have more work to do on Duck Search with my Pup but he went 11.5 minutes on the first live one when I shot the duck for him.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby Kiger2 » Tue Dec 20, 2016 10:34 pm

Averagegu,
that is exactly the same minder we put into our retrievers for blinds. That they will find something. Marks are the same. If i go where I saw the bird fall , I will find it.

Your method has merit.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby MFRsm » Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:47 am

This might be an old post but I'm reading it as I prepare for the UT Test. Lots of good points here but one thing seems to be missing training for the duck search should include training for a reliable resend. After a bang-up 6-minute search you don't want Fido looking at you with that hey boss I just searched that pond, there ain't nothing out there; I think I will just stay here look.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby AverageGuy » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:05 am

AverageGuy wrote:It quickly trained my dog to believe that if it moved around and went to objectives it would find something. When it found the first one, I would send him again.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby Densa44 » Sat Mar 17, 2018 6:33 pm

MRFsm has a good point. I always send my dog at least twice when training for the duck search. That is why I don't bother with the gun shot for the first retrieve. The dog brings back the dummy, dead duck, live duck depending on what I'm using (it doesn't seem to matter to my dogs) and I have her stand beside me to deliver, like a retriever, she is now focused on going again, if I wait too long (in her opinion) she will bark when I kick her off!

In the test my girls have run they have both found the duck. In the first case she retrieved it and wasn't required to go again. In the second case as soon as she flushed the duck into open water, the judges called it off.

In both cases the dogs would have loved to go again. If they think that there are birds out there they will be at it until dark!

The handler who said "if the drive isn't there you can't put it in" is right but on the flip side you can sure take it out. I take the collar off the dog just before I send her on the search. I suppose that it is a "training aid" but no one has ever said I can't do it. I've done it for years because I'm always worried that the dog will get hung up where I can't get to her.

Spring is coming to Alberta, another month probably but good luck to all.
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Re: Getting a 4 in duck search.

Postby 3drahthaars » Sun Mar 18, 2018 12:20 pm

Densa44 wrote:MRFsm has a good point. I always send my dog at least twice when training for the duck search. That is why I don't bother with the gun shot for the first retrieve. The dog brings back the dummy, dead duck, live duck depending on what I'm using (it doesn't seem to matter to my dogs) and I have her stand beside me to deliver, like a retriever, she is now focused on going again, if I wait too long (in her opinion) she will bark when I kick her off!

In the test my girls have run they have both found the duck. In the first case she retrieved it and wasn't required to go again. In the second case as soon as she flushed the duck into open water, the judges called it off.

In both cases the dogs would have loved to go again. If they think that there are birds out there they will be at it until dark!

The handler who said "if the drive isn't there you can't put it in" is right but on the flip side you can sure take it out. I take the collar off the dog just before I send her on the search. I suppose that it is a "training aid" but no one has ever said I can't do it. I've done it for years because I'm always worried that the dog will get hung up where I can't get to her.

Spring is coming to Alberta, another month probably but good luck to all.


The main reason for the search to begin with is for a dog to recover game that hasn't been shot over it! We've avoided being skunked numerous times on public land by letting our dog search the impoundment on the walk back to the parking area.

The dog should be conditioned to enter the water and search just like it were released in a field... i.e. there has to be something out there ...

If you set up this type of situation for training the duck search is little more than an extension of the field search and you're good to go.

As for the collar... it is traditional in Germany to remove the collar for the water search to avoid hanging up...

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