Training Gun Dogs for Bird Hunting

Dog Bird Training – How to Train a Gun Dog on Bird Hunting

A good bird dog stays close enough to hear its handler while ranging out in large circles in order to locate game. A well-trained dog also marks fallen birds for retrieval.

This is a natural instinct, but it takes time and training to develop consistently. A dog that cannot control its natural urge to chase and overrun wild birds will never be a reliable hunting partner.

Training Dummies

When training a gun dog on bird hunting, it’s important to use equipment that closely resembles the game birds they’ll encounter afield. For this reason, we’ve stocked a variety of training dummies for gun dogs that look, feel and smell like game birds. For example, the Dokken Dead Fowl Retriever Trainer dummy looks and feels like a duck (or pheasant or any of a number of other game birds) and is designed to encourage a balanced carry.

In addition to looking like game birds, most training dummies can be marked with a wing or training scent for scent-related training sessions. Whether applying a training scent to a vinyl dummy or injecting a scent into a foam dummy, these training aids help dogs track down and find their quarry.

Additionally, many of these ersatz bird training aids allow owners to up the ante with training drills by incorporating shotguns, calls and decoys to create a realistic hunting scenario for their dogs. This helps to acclimate the dogs to the noise and movements of real birds as they creep into blinds and load up guns in the predawn darkness of a waterfowl hunt.

Training Bumpers

The best dog bird training equipment helps your hunting dog become a well-rounded canine companion. A good place to start is with basic obedience training, especially solid OB (Obedience, sit, stay, here and heel). A force training collar is ideal for teaching your dog to not pull on the leash.

Once your dog has rock-solid OB, you can begin to train it in more advanced ways. A dummy launcher is an essential piece of training gear, as it allows you to shoot a dummy far away to force your dog to search for it. This is the type of training that you will do when hunting and helps prepare your dog for locating game birds that are in cover.

Another good idea is to incorporate marking drills that mimic actual hunting scenarios. Doing this on land and water can help get your dog accustomed to various environments and terrains that they will encounter in the field.

Training Live Birds

Bringing real live birds into a training scenario is an important step for upland hunting and waterfowl retrievers. Getting the dog used to the sight, sound, and smell of a downed bird is crucial to their success. It also helps them to bridge the gap between training and hunting.

Using game farm-bred ducks or pheasants (with clipped wings to limit flight) and allowing the dog to work them in a controlled setting is a great way to accomplish this goal. It is best done under the guidance of professional trainers to ensure the safety and proper handling of live birds.

In addition to working the retriever on downed birds, it is also a good time to get them familiar with the sound of a duck call and the handler’s commands during the hunt. It takes a considerable amount of time and experience to teach a sporting dog to stay in range and respond to commands while hunting.


Before a hunting dog is ready for the field, they need to be conditioned. The most important skill is obedience; a dog that barks or bolts out of sight can jeopardize the hunt or even cause an accident. A good way to condition a bird dog is by taking them on long walks in the woods or on grassy fields, exposing them to the types of cover they will encounter during a hunt, such as reeds and tall corn.

It is also important to incorporate scent training with a check cord, using a training dummy with a known location stuffed with scent, such as duck, goose, pheasant or grouse. This teaches the dog to track and locate quarry and helps them learn that a signal to hunt close means they should find game. A retriever’s retrieving ability is also crucial, so it is essential to train with dummies and bumpers that mimic real birds and use force fetch training.

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