From sheep to ducks?
Sixteen-year-old Campbell Conallin is keen on duck hunting and would love a retrieving dog but the only dogs he has are the collies and kelpies on the farm, so he turned to our gundog expert, Mark Davis, for some advice.
My name is Campbell, I’m 16 and live in north-east Victoria. I want a retrieving dog but the only dogs I have access to are collies and kelpies. I wanted to know if it’s possible to teach my four-year-old abnormally large and sometimes easily excited collie/kelpie firstly to not be afraid of the report of the shotgun, as he will run back to the house if anything more than a .22 is used, and then how to retrieve rabbits/ ducks. My dad tells me it is not likely but he has never owned a properly trained retriever. Thanks for your time and for your commitment to the magazine, Campbell.
G’day Campbell, Great to hear you are keen on hunting and in your part of the world, there is some great hunting to be had!
Campbell, you say you only have access to farm dogs — collies/kelpies whose natural instincts are herding not retrieving.
But that’s not to say it can’t be done. I’ve hunted long enough to have seen an unusual mix of dogs retrieving ducks, from jack russells to yes, even kelpies! But they were trained as young dogs — so you have a difficult task.
Here is what you should do: firstly you need to determine whether your dog has any desire to retrieve. If he does, then there is some hope.
What is his attitude to the water? Does he readily enter the water for a swim? Would he retrieve a ball or dummy from water?
You say he is OK with the report of a .22, so introducing him to louder firearms should be achievable.
Approach this in the same way you would with a gundog pup: start him 100 m from the report of a shotgun and gradually move him closer and closer — remember plenty of praise and encouragement will help him overcome his apprehension.
If he ticks these boxes, then it is time to try to establish some reliable retrieving traits. Stretch a rabbit skin over a piece of timber and let it dry out, then use this to teach him to retrieve. Start on land and throw only one or two for him a day — and make it lots of fun!
Campbell, if you have some success transforming your farm dog into a reliable retriever that will be a great achievement and you will have no problem training a retriever.
If he doesn’t make it, then save your money and buy yourself a fine retriever. Good luck, Mark Davis