How to train your dog to spot (and outsmart) injured subsurface ducks


When crippled ducks hit the water, they impulsively dive to avoid capture. Retrieving these elusive birds is challenging, even for experienced gun dogs, but it can be especially confusing for young pups.


That makes it important to teach dogs to spot and outsmart subsurface swimmers before the hunting season begins, using training gear such as the Dokken Diver dummy to simulate a lively downed duck.


Survival is priority number one for a wounded duck. When a retriever closes in, the duck will dive, then resurface a short distance away. If the retriever persists, the duck will switch tactics and dive longer, only surfacing to catch its breath; often, only its bill will be visible. That’s when it becomes important to train your dog to watch for wounded ducks swimming low in the water, and even dive to retrieve them.



If you’re an angler, the training can be as fun for you as it is for your dog when you employ gear such as the Dokken Diver (above), which works like an oversized floating crankbait. Using a heavy rod and reel spooled with high-test, non-stretch line, you cast out the duck-shaped dummy, reel it in a short distance underwater, then let it surface. Once your circling dog locates the Diver, you simply release it with a sharp jerk of the fishing rod. As the dog’s confidence grows, you can add more dives and increase the distance of the underwater retrieve. For added realism, have a partner shoot a shotgun as you cast, which also helps train the dog for steadiness and marking.