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Common Mistakes When Training a Labrador Retriever

Once they’re properly trained, Labrador retrievers are amazing duck hunting dogs. In fact, with a little bit of consistency and a controlled environment in training, these dogs are so smart and such a good fit for hunting ducks that they practically train themselves. If you’ve been having trouble with training your retriever, you might be making one or more of these extremely common mistakes.

Raising the Dog in a Pen Outside

In years gone by, hunting dogs were raised outside in pens, and they grew up to be perfectly socialized and to have the kinds of relationships with people that they needed to get the right communication cues and to be good duck hunt companions. Today, that’s not really the case.

Why? Well, in the old days, your kids would’ve been spending just as much time outside as in (and usually more time out). They would’ve been in the pen with the pup from an early age, and they would’ve played a huge part in socializing your dog to be a good companion when you go hunting ducks.

Today, most kids spend most of their time inside watching TV and playing video games. So, if you want a well socialized hunting dog, you should probably keep it inside with you, your family, and your kids to forge that bond.

Repeating Commands to Get a Better Reaction

In your mind, you repeat commands to strengthen your dog’s association with the command. You repeat, “Sit!” thinking that your dog will learn the command faster and get it ingrained in his brain. However, saying, “Sit! Sit! Sit!” can actually be confusing to your dog. He thinks that your repeated command is the command, and he won’t know what a single “Sit!” means. It takes some patience, but try not to repeat commands to get a better reaction.

Yelling or Pleading When the Dog Doesn’t Respond

If your dog doesn’t follow your command, you might be tempted to yell the command, to plead with the dog, or to otherwise change your tone. Don’t do it. The dog didn’t disobey you because he didn’t hear you – he heard you just fine. Consistent tone will help a great deal more with training than yelling or getting frustrated and pleading.

Too Many Retrieves

This is another one that sounds counterintuitive, especially to duck hunters who want to make sure that their retrievers really know how to retrieve. However, overtraining your dog’s retrieval skills with multiple, uncontrolled retrieves is a good way to wear the dog out and push him to his physical limits. Trust that your dog was born with retrieval instincts (that’s why they’re called retrievers), and work on other parts of his training more than his retrieving.

So, are you making any of these four mistakes with your Labrador retriever? If you want a great duck hunting dog, remember that human contact and consistency in training are important. And you don’t have to spend hours training him on retrieves. Avoid these mistakes, and you’ll have a great duck hunt dog in no time. Good luck!

Jonathan Speigner