Help! How Can I Play Without Messing Up My Duck Dog Puppy?

Dec 18, 2020

As a retriever owner, one of the biggest fears that you may have is, "What if I do something that messes up my retriever?"

If that thought has crossed your mind, you are not alone. There's a lot to having a great hunting dog and family companion. One of the biggest question areas revolves around playing with your retriever. Many people wonder what is okay and what is not okay.

The fear of messing up your dog plaguing your thoughts and the desire to have a calm pup that listens well and doesn't get in too much trouble can leave you feeling helpless and confused when your pup begins to act out.

On the one hand, you feel that you should do something, and on the other, you are afraid you will mess up. After all, you don't want to create bad habits that can hurt you down the road.

Sound familiar? 

It feels like a pretty helpless situation that you hope eventually goes away. But...

There's good news!

This is not a helpless situation.

You can and should do something about it. In fact, when your pup begins to act out, it's actually not a bad thing, but rather, it is an opportunity that you can take advantage of to help shape and mold your puppy into the gundog and family companion that you want it to be.

The key, though, is knowing what to do. Do the right thing, and it will benefit you for years to come, do the wrong thing, and that can create headaches for you later. 

What You Can Do That Will Make All The Difference

First and foremost, you should understand that when your pup acts out and does something that you don't want it to, it's not doing it intentionally. Odds are, it just wants to play because it has loads of energy that it needs to release.

Most of the time, an energetic pup will start to chew things, pick things up, and then try to run away with them. Normally after that, it will try and eat that object (whether it's safe to eat it or not.)

Here's where the opportunity comes in...

All of the energy that your pup has can be harnessed to build trust, build confidence, and develop a strong working relationship early on in your pup's life.

It's all about what you do that makes all of the difference.

You can...

- Start Teaching Your Dog How To Learn Early

- Work On Early Retrieving

- Work On Early Hunt Development

- Take Chaos & Leverage It For The Future

Each one of these things you can do to keep your pup engaged, out of trouble, and set it up for success in the future. 

Start Teaching Your Dog How To Learn Early

Teaching your dog to learn may sound strange at first, but this concept is one of the foundations of how we train at Cornerstone. If you want to help your dog reach its full potential, then, this is the first place to start. One would think that this skill set of learning comes naturally, and in some ways it does, but I want to let you in on a little secret.

If you just leave it to chance, you are missing out on one of the greatest opportunities that any retriever owner has. If you learn to do this, then you are putting your dog miles ahead in training and you are unlocking one of the greatest keys to training.

I will not say much more here because we have another post on this, but you can click here to learn more about it. 

With that in mind, I would recommend reading the rest of this post first before reading the post mentioned above.  

Work On Early Retrieving

Retrieving is one of the big reasons to get a retriever, and with that in mind, I am sure you are eager to start. That's a great thing! 

Early retrieving is a great way to start building a bond of trust between you and your pup. The key is to do just enough to whet your pup's appetite and leave it hungry for more.

A few retrieves every other day or so should be more than enough to make that happen. Not every pup will be into retrieving right away, so if your pup isn't, then don't sweat it. Revisit retrieving periodically, and eventually, the spark will ignite for your pup.

Work On Early Hunt Development

By far, early hunt prep is one of my favorite ways to start developing engagement between my pup and me, all while awakening its hunting instinct. 

Anytime your pup decides to get rambunctious and start getting into things, you may want to give this a try. 

Here's how it works...

Take a handful of treats, place them in low cover, like grass, and then wipe your hand along the ground in the outline of a circle so that the scent of the food transfers from your hand to the ground. 

Then, as your pup begins to sniff the scent area and its tail wags, you can either blow the hunt whistle, or you can say, "hunt 'em up!" Once your pup is about to find a treat, click to mark the hunting behavior, and then your dog will be rewarded for hunting up the treat.

You can do this for a few minutes and then stop. I recommend doing this periodically, especially when your pup is amped up and looking for trouble. Instead of your pup getting in trouble, you will have then taken that opportunity to harness its energy into something productive. 

Take Chaos & Leverage It For The Future

Pups tend to be a bit chaotic and often love to pick up sticks and other things. When they pick them up, they are often just hoping that you will come to try and take it from them so that they can play keep away. (It's an entertaining game for a young pup!)

Instead of falling into the keep away trap, here's what you should do...

When your pup picks something up that you don't want it to, never try to lung and take the object away from the pup. Instead, let this be an opportunity to reward your pup for bringing it back to you. 

Now you are probably thinking, "What if my pup doesn't bring it back, though?"

You need to give your pup a reason to want to bring something back to you. Anytime your pup brings something back to you, you should reward it for doing so.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to give your pup a treat for bringing it back. (I highly recommend using a clicker to "mark" the delivery to hand when the pup brings the object back to you.)

Doing this will greatly increase the likely hood of your pup bringing objects back to you. In fact, if you do this right, it will almost turn into a game for your pup. You should start to notice that your pup will start looking for things to pick up and bring back to you.

Better have lots of treats handy! 

If you apply this advice, you can play with your duck dog puppy in a way that will be productive & fun for your pup, all while providing massive future benefits for you in the hunting field.


Joshua Parvin

P.S. Training a retriever on your own can be difficult. (Especially if you don't know where to start, what to do next, and what to do if problems arise). Fortunately, it doesn't have to be...

Our 52 Plus Course lays everything out in a step-by-step course that covers every detail along the way. You can train confidence, and you can end up with a dog that anyone would be proud to have in the blind.

Want more details? Sign up for the 52 Plus Preview Today and you will see what I am talking about.