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.

Field and Game - - GUN DOGS -

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

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