Man out fishing on a boat with his hunting dog

Training Your Bird Dog in the Offseason

The dog days of summer are upon us and most sportsmen are still trying to find that trophy walleye, or other gamefish that has eluded them throughout the summer.

A boat ride while fishing will allow your dog a chance to get used to a moving boat.

Panfishing can be fun during this timeframe if water temperatures are not cooperating with big fish. One thing that most outdoorsmen probably are not thinking about during fishing is dog training. However, this can be an opportune time to “kill two birds with one stone,” by taking your duck hunting companion with you while fishing!

Get The Dog Used To The Boat
A lot of waterfowlers will wait until opening morning for their dog’s first boat ride of the year. These same duck hunters have been on numerous boat rides with friends or family members throughout the summer and never thought about taking their gundog with them. We all know that the duck opener can often bring unexpected chaos with thing such as motor problems, decoy issues, or even gun malfunctions. If you throw in dog confusion, opening morning can turn into one big mess!

Lures and bobbers can be used as a distraction to teach your gundog steadiness.

To avoid the dog confusion part, try bringing your dog with you the next time you go fishing. Make sure your dog understands that there are rules that have to be followed while riding in a boat. Distractions during boat rides are common and allow you to test your dog if he or she reacts to them. By having a leash and choke chain, or a remote collar on, will make it easier for you to discipline your dog during such events.

Steadiness is one key element to having a dog under control in the boat. Retrievers tend to want to jump out of the boat when they see movement in or on the water. Keeping your dog steady can be worked on while casting. Crankbaits and bobbers will resemble a thrown dummy or bumper and will often get a dog to break. This is a great time to teach the dog that he or she must be obedient until released. If the dog does jump out of the boat, make sure to correct them back into the boat and not allow them to chase your lure. (Make sure you use hookless baits when beginning this process!)

Casting can simulate dummies being thrown and can teach your gundog steadiness.

Take A Retrieving Object To Toss
It is important to bring a fun retrieving object along so that you can also work on successful retrieves during this process. “Kennel” your dog at a certain location in the boat that he or she will be in while hunting. Teach them that this is their spot and to remain there until being released. Helping them out of the water, back into the boat is another area that can be addressed during the fun retrieves. These drills are a lot easier when the weather is warm and you don’t have waders on!

Try taking your dog on your next boating adventure. This time can not only establish good boat manners, it can also create a good bonding opportunity with you and your gundog.

Shop The Sportsman’s Guide for a great selection of Dog Supplies/Training Aids!

Jason Dommeyer has a lifetime of hunting experience and 15 years experience as a dog trainer. He has turned many pets into expert hunting dogs at Cannon River Kennels. ( In addition to training hundreds of hunting companions, he has trained dogs for premier pheasant hunting lodges in South Dakota along with duck hunting lodges in Mississippi and Mexico. His experience also includes both hunting and guiding for upland and waterfowl game from Canada to South America.

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