Duck & Bird Dog Training: 11 Commands To Know Before Your First Hunt


The sight of a skilled bird dog confidently working the water or flushing out game from the brush is a sight to behold. Having a well-trained dog makes all the difference and will help amplify your hunting skills with your dog’s natural instincts in a powerful way. But how do you go about training a bird dog?

In this collection of bird dog training tips, we’ll elaborate on which breeds make great bird dogs and duck dogs and discuss the different training methods and commands that you can use to perfect your game this hunting season.

Best Bird & Duck Dog Breeds

When it comes to selecting the best dog breeds for hunting birds and ducks, a few remarkable candidates stand out for their innate skills, exceptional trainability, and unwavering dedication to the task. These include:

  • Labrador Retrievers - Possess an innate ability to retrieve in water and on land, making them exceptional partners for waterfowl and upland bird hunting. Their friendly demeanor, intelligence, and adaptability also make them fantastic family companions when they're not out in the field.
  • German Shorthaired Pointers - Known for their versatility and enthusiasm for the hunt, GSPs are a favorite among seasoned hunters looking for a reliable and responsive companion. Excels in both upland and waterfowl hunting offering strong scenting abilities, agility, and natural pointing and retrieving instincts.
  • English Setters - An intelligent breed favored upland hunters for centuries. Highly adaptable, trainable, and an equally good companion on and off the field.
  • Brittanys - With boundless energy and an excellent nose, Brittanys are agile and eager to please. They are both adept bird finders, but also devoted companions for hunters seeking an exhilarating and productive hunting experience.

11 Best Commands for Duck & Bird Dog Training

1. Come:

The "Come" command is an invaluable tool for summoning your bird dog back to you, especially in situations where their safety is at risk or when you're ready to move on to a different location. During a hunt, quick and reliable recall ensures your dog remains within your control, preventing them from wandering too far and getting lost, and aiding in the smooth execution of hunting strategies.

2. Sit/Stay:

"Sit/Stay" commands are essential for maintaining control over your bird dog during critical moments, such as when you're preparing to take a shot or when you need them to remain still to flush out game. These commands help your dog stay composed and obedient, minimizing unnecessary movements that could startle birds or disturb your hunting setup.

3. Whoa:

The "Whoa" command is particularly important for pointing breeds. It instructs your dog to freeze in place when they've located game, so you can approach the birds without flushing them prematurely. A solid "Whoa" command prevents your bird dog from breaking their point too soon, ensuring that the birds remain within range for a successful shot.

4. Fetch:

The "Fetch" command is a cornerstone of a bird dog's skillset, enabling them to retrieve downed game birds and deliver them to you. A reliable fetch ensures that no birds are left behind, maintaining the integrity of your hunt and minimizing waste.

5. Heel:

The "Heel" command is crucial for controlling your dog's movement and position beside you, especially when navigating through dense cover or tricky terrain. It helps maintain a strategic and organized approach to hunting, preventing distractions and potential mishaps.

6. Find/Seek:

"Find" or "Seek" commands direct your dog to actively search for game birds in the field. These commands are fundamental for flushing and retrieving breeds, allowing them to use their keen sense of smell and tracking instincts to locate hidden birds and contribute to a successful hunt.

7. Hold:

The "Hold" command teaches your dog to hold retrieved game birds gently and without damaging them, preserving the quality of the catch and ensuring that the bird is intact when handed over to you.

8. Drop/Release:

The "Drop" or "Release" command prompts your dog to let go of whatever they're holding, which is crucial for both safety and efficient retrieval during a hunt. It ensures that your dog relinquishes the bird to you without resistance or delay.

9. Kennel:

The "Kennel" command directs your dog to return to a specific location, such as their crate or designated area. This command is useful for ending a hunt, maintaining order, and keeping your dog safe when not actively hunting.

10. No:

The "No" command serves as a deterrent for undesirable behaviors, helping you correct your dog's actions when they're about to engage in behavior that could disrupt the hunt or endanger themselves.

11. Leave it:

"Leave it" is essential for preventing your dog from picking up or engaging with potentially harmful items or distractions in the field, ensuring their safety and focus on the task at hand.

As you teach your dog these commands, use praise and rewards to get your dog excited to repeat good behavior.

How to Train Your Duck Dog or Bird Dog

A well-structured approach to training a duck dog or bird dog will help ensure your success. Here are several training techniques that are useful for both beginners and experienced hunting dog owners.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement involves rewarding desired behaviors with praise, treats, or toys. This method encourages your bird dog to associate correct actions with positive outcomes, enhancing their understanding and enthusiasm for learning. Incorporate this technique into your training plan by offering treats and praise when your dog successfully follows commands such as "sit," "stay," or "retrieve." Positive reinforcement is suitable for both beginner and advanced training, promoting a positive atmosphere that motivates your dog to excel.

Consistency & Persistence

Consistency and persistence are key pillars of effective training. Consistently using the same commands and cues helps your bird dog develop a clear understanding of expectations. Persistence ensures that you reinforce commands until they are reliably followed. Whether teaching basic commands or advanced skills, maintaining a consistent approach throughout your training sessions is essential for success.

Rewards and Treats

Using rewards and treats as incentives reinforces desired behaviors during training. Reward your bird dog with treats, toys, or playtime after successful command execution. Incorporate this method into your training regimen to reinforce positive behaviors such as retrieving, pointing, or staying. It's particularly useful for beginner training as it establishes a strong foundation of positive associations with commands. Not sure which types of treats your dog will respond to? Take our quiz to find out!

Dummy Training

Dummy training involves using dummy objects resembling game birds for retrieving practice. It's a crucial method to hone your bird dog's retrieving skills and reinforce commands like "fetch" and "hold." Incorporate dummy training into your routine by gradually increasing distances and difficulties, simulating real hunting scenarios. Both beginners and advanced dogs benefit from dummy training to refine their retrieving abilities.

Scent Training

Scent training familiarizes your bird dog with the distinct odors of game birds, enhancing their ability to locate and track them. Introduce scent training by incorporating bird scents onto dummies or objects, gradually transitioning to scent trails and hidden game birds. Scent training is suitable for advanced training, refining your dog's ability to follow specific scents and locate hidden game.

Live Birds

Introducing live birds into training allows your bird dog to experience the real-world challenges of hunting. Controlled exposure to live birds helps build confidence and instinctual behaviors such as pointing and flushing. Gradually introduce live birds into training scenarios, starting with basic interactions and progressing to simulated hunting situations. This method is suitable for intermediate to advanced training.

Overcoming Gun Shyness

Gun shyness is a common challenge that can be addressed through gradual desensitization. Start with soft sounds and gradually expose your bird dog to louder noises while offering positive associations. This process builds your dog's tolerance to gunfire, ensuring they remain calm and focused during hunting situations.

Training Aids

Training aids like tennis balls, wings, and bird scents enhance specific training aspects. Tennis balls can be used for retrieving exercises, while attaching wings or bird scents to dummies helps simulate real hunting conditions. Incorporate these aids into your training sessions to reinforce commands and mimic hunting scenarios.

Ensuring Perimeter

To ensure your bird dog's safety during training, consider using a SpotOn collar, which employs GPS technology to create a virtual fence. This collar prevents your dog from straying beyond a designated boundary, allowing focused and secure training sessions in a controlled area. The SpotOn system allows you to create multiple fences with no acreage limits. You just need the collar and your phone to get started, so it’s fully portable and can be used while hunting, traveling, or relaxing in your own backyard

Conquer the Hunting Grounds Confidently With SpotOn

From mastering essential commands, to refining intricate hunting skills, the path to becoming a seasoned hunting duo requires dedication and expertise. By using these training tips and commands, you and your dog can strengthen your partnership.

When you're ready to venture into the hunting grounds, ensure you're equipped with the tools that guarantee your dog's safety and your peace of mind. That's where SpotOn comes into play. SpotOn GPS Fence provides a cutting-edge solution to contain your bird dog within specified boundaries. Whether you're navigating remote terrains, transport vehicles, or dense forest environments, SpotOn's GPS technology ensures your dog stays within your chosen perimeter, allowing you to focus on the thrill of the hunt without worrying about their whereabouts.

Bring Home SpotOn Today! 

Order now and get ready to live life unleashed! 


Author Bio:
Jacqui Lantagne is a New England-based animal lover who enjoys spoiling Milton, a spirited mixed breed rescue dog.

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