While many breeds of dogs have been used as hunting partners for hundreds, even thousands of years, the German Shepherd was not actually bred to be a duck hunting dog. In fact, this breed was originally intended as a herding dog to help farmers control their flock.
However, in the early twentieth century, the German Shepherd began to be used for hunting. From tracking deer to retrieving small games, they have proven to be valuable hunting partners for many people.
But what about hunting ducks? Can German Shepherds Duck Hunt?
Can German Shepherds Be Used for Duck Hunting?
Today, most hunters agree that German shepherds can be used as good duck hunting dogs as long as they are trained properly. This is because their intelligence makes them adept at following orders, while their keen sense of smell and sharp eyesight make them good at spotting prey.
If you’re still not sure about German shepherds’ ability to duck hunt, just take a look at this article from the American Hunter to get an idea of how good German shepherds are at duck hunting.
Keith Benning, a resident of northern Minnesota, told his story on how his German Shepherd fetched the day during a duck hunt and guarded the boat at night. What a fantastic dog, right?
Is a Male or Female German Shepherds Better for Duck Hunting?
Male or female German Shepherds can both be good hunting dogs, as long as the dog has been trained to hunt. However, many people use female German shepherds for duck hunting because they tend to listen and follow orders better than their male counterparts.
These are generalizations, of course, and don’t always apply to every dog since every dog can have their own unique personality. But for your reference, these are some general differences between male and female German shepherds.
Males tend to be bolder, have a higher prey drive, and are more aggressive. On the other hand, although females tend to be more obedient and learn tasks faster, they are also more likely to be nervous or timid than males.
This means, generally, you will need to spend more time duck hunting training your female German shepherd than you will with a male, especially during the introduction to gunfire stage. However, once your female is trained, they can be better hunters than their male counterparts.
If you opt to train a female German shepherd, do also note the possibility of periods of “calling” if your female dog is in heat or recently gave birth. Call or hunting during this time will not be as effective as a male, and the period may hamper her ability to hunt.
Do German Shepherds Get Cold Duck Hunting?
Since the best season to hunt waterfowl is during the cold fronts of mid-fall, some owners might be worried about their hunting dogs getting cold while duck hunting.
One good thing about German shepherds is they have a high cold tolerance. While their coats are not as thick as huskies or malamutes, they can still stay relatively warm in cold weather.
This makes them excellent hunting companions throughout most of the year. However, do remember that anything below 40 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold for German shepherds. So check the temperature first before heading out to duck hunt.
If you insist on hunting when it’s below 40 degrees, you may want to dress your dog in a coat for warmth. One proven deterrent to the cold is doggy booties, which are usually sold at pet stores. These boots prevent the heat from escaping through their paws and keep them warm throughout the day.
How to Train a German Shepherd to Hunt or Retrieve Duck?
Now you’ve learned that German shepherds can duck hunt, but how do you get them to dive into the water and go after your prey?
Here’re are some tips for training your German shepherd to hunt duck:
1. Focus On Basic Obedience First
Before anything else, make sure your German shepherd can follow basic commands without making a mistake. This means he should come when called, sit for a treat, and stay until released.
These basic obedience commands will serve as a foundation for future training, including hunting and retrieving. Retrieving a duck is a difficult task for any dog, but if your German shepherd knows how to come when called and sit when told to, he’s halfway toward bringing the waterfowl back.
2. Introduce Your German Shepherd Puppy to Water Early On
One mistake hunters make is not introducing their dogs to water early enough. When you’re going to hunt duck with your German shepherd, it’s an absolute necessity to make sure your dog is comfortable around water!
Start as early as you can, slowly introducing water into their everyday life. Leave a small wading pool for them to play in or allow them to dip their paws into a kiddy pool – just teach them that the world consists of more than just land.
3. Practice With Scented Training Dummies
Once your German shepherd is comfortable around water, it’s time to teach them the scent and feel of their future prey.
You can do this by purchasing a high-quality training dummy that has been scented with the smell of a duck. Fill it up with some yummy treats, then take your dog out to the backyard and throw the dummy into a small pool and ask them to bring it back to you.
Reward them when they dive in and retrieve it, praising them for a job well done. The more you do this with them, the more they will learn to associate the scent and feel of waterfowl with a reward which translates into a successful hunt.
4. Introduce Your Dog to “Shooting”
For your German shepherd dog to perform successfully in the field, they need to be comfortable with the presence of the gun and the noise of gunfire.
If it’s not already, start taking your dog with you to the shooting range. First, let them see you load and unload guns until they’re completely comfortable around them, then slowly introduce the sound of gunshots.
It’s okay if they’re a little startled by the noise at first; it’s natural for them to be wary. But, with time and patience, they’ll understand that the loud bang means they’re going to get a reward when they retrieve the dummy.
5. Take Them on a Boat Ride
The last step in training your German shepherd to hunt and retrieve waterfowl is to get them used to ride in boats. Take them on several boat rides to introduce them to the movement of the water and how it feels when they’re standing in the middle.
Once they are comfortable on it, practice throwing the training dummy into the water again for them to retrieve. This time, they’ll be doing it out in an open cove or pond rather than in your backyard, where they have a lot more room to run around and stretch their legs.
After several successful training sessions, your German shepherd will be ready for the actual hunt!
Can You Train an Older German Shepherd to Duck Hunt?
Older dogs can be trained to hunt, but it is more difficult than teaching a young dog. The older they are, the more fixed their mind will become on what behavior gets them what they want (in this case, retrieving).
It’s always best to start training your German shepherd as soon as you bring them home because the earlier you start, the easier and faster the training will be.
German shepherds can be taught to duck hunt. The training process is extensive and requires a lot of time and patience, but if you get your dog started early enough, it will be successful.
To train your German shepherd, first, introduce them to water early, then train them with a scented dummy. Once they understand the scent and feel of waterfowl, it’s time to introduce their dog to guns, take them on boat rides and train them to retrieve again.
After several successful training sessions, it’s time to go duck hunting!