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Labrador Hunting

Since ancient times, humans have recognized the advantages of having an animal companion when hunting wild game. Dogs have been seen as man’s companion for centuries, providing everything from social companionship to protection. Because of the strong loyalty bond between a dog and its owner, using dogs to aid in hunting also has a significant history. Labrador Retrievers have been a very popular choice for hunters over the decades, due to the many breed-based Labrador traits that are beneficial for the hunting sport.

The Labrador breed was created in Newfoundland, when Newfoundland dogs were bred with small water dogs that populated the continent. The result was known as the “St. John’s Waterdog”, which soon grew in popularity in England. Though the breed eventually came close to extinction in Newfoundland due to a “dog tax” (which was imposed to try to encourage sheep breeding), the Labrador excelled in aiding British hunters and fishermen, due to its water-resistant coat and loyal retrieving skills. After America was discovered, Labrador Retrievers gradually grew in popularity as a hunting dog, replacing the Chesapeake Bay Retriever as a hunting companion.

Though many of the canine skills required in hunting are instinctual for Labrador Retrievers, it is possible to enhance these skills by an appropriate training program. Labrador Retrievers have a naturally obedient and loyal temperament, so they are one of the easiest breeds to train for the hunting sport. The most important element of a hunting training program, above all else, is positive reinforcement. A dog’s biggest pleasure is derived from earning praise from its owner, and this is especially true in Labrador Retrievers. Rewards should always be given for prompt compliance to commands, and eventually the dog will have the ability to perform complicated commands with the only reward being the owner’s approval.

The hunting sport which Labrador Retrievers are best suited for, is waterfowl hunting. This is because it’s near impossible for a hunter to retrieve a fallen bird from a wetland or marshy area without considerable effort (and getting extremely wet!). Labradors have an instinctual desire to retrieve and carry objects, and their oily coat is well suited for repelling water. The most effective way to train a Labrador Retriever for waterfowl hunting, is to use a hunting decoy. This decoy can be laced with “waterfowl scent”, which is a substance sold at hunting stores. Once the dog has recognized the connection between the waterfowl scent and retrieving the decoy, they can be introduced to a real hunt. It may take several hunting trips to successfully train your Labrador Retriever to bring the fallen game back, but for most Labradors, this is not a difficult skill to learn.

One of the overlooked benefits of training and hunting with a Labrador Retriever is the social bonding between the hunter and dog. Because of the Labrador’s loving, attentive temperament, the hunting experience can help strengthen the emotional bond with your pet. Also, the act of working together with a Labrador to accomplish a given task can be rewarding for the pet owner as well.

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