Teach Your Hunting Pooch Direction

by Tom Goldsmith | September 5, 2014


Only 10 minutes into our hunt and we had several ducks down. Some stone cold dead, others still flopping on the surface of the water. My Labrador retriever, Truman, was only too willing to pick up the closest bird to the blind. That, however, wasn’t the humane thing to do. The crippled birds were the priority.

This is when it’s helpful to have a dog that can take direction.

Left-Right-Fetch Exercises
Teaching a dog to follow voice and hand signals can be fun for you and your dog. All you really need is a dog that likes to retrieve and some open space to run training exercises.

Once your dog completely understands and complies with sit and stay commands off leash at a reasonable distance, you can progress with the “fetch” exercises.
Start by having your dog sit and stay. With it watching, place 2 retrieving dummies on either side of the dog at about 10-yards. Then step in front of your dog and back up about the same distance.

When you have the dog’s attention (and it is still sitting in the same place), throw your arm to the right or left and give the command to fetch. It’s natural for your dog to first go to the last dummy placed, so mix it up and keep your dog guessing. If your dog goes for the wrong one, stop him or her using the sit command. Repeat this until your dog gets it right. Give lavish praise when it does.

Once success becomes routine with this fetch exercise, start placing the dummies further away, still on either side.

Baseball Games
To add more complexity, you can place a third dummy behind your dog. Think baseball.

Your pooch will sit and wait for instructions on the pitcher’s mound. The dummies are placed in the same formation as 3 bases, and you give the commands from home plate.

It’s important for your dog to understand that when you cast your arm and command “over” that it move in that direction.

For a second base pick up, command “back” and raise your arm straight up to command it to go back and pick up that dummy. As always, repetition is the key to success. These exercises are completely doable for any handler and dog duo that has a desire to succeed.

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  1. George wrote: Voice commands are OK when distances are short as in doing baseball. But, at distance if the handler yells back or over, all the dog will here is noise. Best to teach your dog to respond to the arm/body signals. My dog will respond to arm/body signals out to about 300 yds. I have seen many field trials dogs doing a 400+ yds blind. the words back or over are never spoken, only a whistle and a silent cast for over or left or right back. at that distance the dog only hears a noise they think is Back.