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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'll start by saying I'm new to training and am currently working with my first lab. She is 15 months old and weighs in at 46# as of last week at her vet visit. I didn't expect her to be that small at all. I got her primary as a hunting dog and 90% of the bird hunting we do is for geese. This past weekend was the first weekend of our early goose season and she got her first taste of goose hunting. Needless to say, she definitely had the deer in the headlights look when she got out to the first one and realized how big it was. I ended up walking out to pick up the birds. I then proceeded to just toss the one goose and try to teach her "the game." She figured out what I wanted but still struggled to pick them up and hold the weight. I guess my question is how to go about getting her use to carrying the geese. Do I continue the simple marks until she figures it out on her own or go back to hold with a goose. I'm leaning towards the simple marks to keep it more "fun" but I don't want her to develop any bad habits either. I kept three whole birds to use before our next hunt.

A little training background: she spent 6 months with a HT pro last winter and got her JH before coming home in May. She's been through FF, CC, FTP, double T, and we're currently working on swim-by. Also, for what it's worth, I was really happy with her steadiness in her blind during both hunts. Two of us went out Saturday and she never broke. Then four went on Monday and we had a flock of 15 land right in front of the blinds 10 minutes before shooting time and she never whined or broke at all.
 

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Shoot smaller geese lol

But seriously work on "hold" and "fetch" and help her learn where to hold them.

This is also a physical conditioning issue. She needs to build the muscles to hold a 10 lb goose off the ground and run/walk back. Is she's #46 and picks up a #10 goose and run back with it. Same as it wouldn't be fair to ask you to carry a #50 weight in front of you while you run wind sprints.

Build her confidence, she'll be fine. Many dogs her size and smaller have learned to handle geese.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I was hoping for some smaller geese, but unfortunately we didn't get any juveniles this weekend!

Her favorite bumper by far is her goose doken, but I guess I never paid attention to how much smaller it is than an actual goose. She carries it around while I set up every night, but when she got to that first bird Saturday she just looked up at me like "WTF do you expect me to do with this thing!" It was pretty comical to say the least.
 

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I still kinda believe that saying that great "goose" dogs are bred, not made.

While I believe you can train dogs to retrieve geese without issues; there are some that just do naturally, just like picking up a bumper.

My old BLM was a natural. First goose hunt...........sent him on a 30yd. retrieve...................sniffed it, looked back at me.................I said fetch, and game was on!!! Next bird was a sailer..................landed about 90yds. away..........................sent my BLM, who was 16 months at the time....................gets closer to bird, and bird wants to fight......................Spud just Butkus's this goose, running straight over it......................chest butting/tackling it!!!!!

You don't teach that.
 

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Heart not pounds.
 

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She just needs to get used to carrying them. Had a girl about that size that would tackle them and lift them completely of the ground. She learned to roll the bird over and get it behind the wings, which I've seen several smaller labs-boykins do. The dog could never see when she was coming back had to find us by ear ;). On her first hunt I remember her attempting to dragging one back by the wing and then neck, took a bit of practice to get the hold right. If you've saved birds start working her on picking them up off the ground, as she's small she'll have to learn the right location to grab them by, so she can balance and run.
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The best retrieves she had were when she grabbed them by the chest and carried them. When she would pick them up at the base of the wing or behind the wing, she'd end up tripping over them on the way back. I think I'll plan on working on hold with her holding the chest and see how it goes.
 

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Confidence and attitude plays a big part in smaller dogs picking up geese. I taught mine by just throwing a frozen goose a couple times a day, for a couple of weeks. Keep working and she shouldn't have any problems.
 

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Heart not pounds.
This forsure. My lab is 50lbs, and she plows crippled geese and brings them back like its her job! (it is her job luckily!) Wasn't always that way though. I spent a few sessions with dead geese getting her really excited and dragging it around (like you would a puppy). Once she got over "this thing is huge" she had to figure out how to pick it up. Now she is a pro.

heres a little vid last year when she was just figuring out the game. ( 11months old)

 

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I ended up walking out to pick up the birds. I then proceeded to just toss the one goose and try to teach her "the game." She figured out what I wanted but still struggled to pick them up and hold the weight. I guess my question is how to go about getting her use to carrying the geese.
An often used quote in our training ''You are not helping the dog by helping it''.
It also matters Not ,the size or weight of the dog .

 

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It has been many years since my first goose hunt. The "magic" of geese headed for the X never fails to produce a rush. Having a retriever "on
the ready" enhances the moment. Pounce is probably my last retriever and is certainly the smallest (less than fifty pounds). Prepping her for the
moment was "documented".

It starts with the nine pound freezer goose that is really old. Taffey, Kooly, Daisy, Gunny and now Pounce have made their first retrieve with it.
The routine is the same.......use an old pattern blind of at least 100 yards. Distance makes the retrieve. They were all on their own without
me getting involved as a pleading, jabbering distraction. Instincts when left alone can be magical. :)

The Goose Dog (prep)
 

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I have 2 golden females. One weighed 48 lbs, the other weighs about 52 lbs. In one season thye retrieved over 24 geese, many crippled. Like others they quickly learned to carry the goose by picking it up where the wing meets the body. For one particularly aggressive, leg shot bird, the older girl just dragged in it by its butt. The younger was just 14 months old. They both have courage and heart to spare.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Well I set three geese out to thaw this morning before work. When I got home I set the birds at the back pile of our double T and went in to grab the dog. I decided to run it cold so that she didn't know what was waiting for her at the pile. On the first send she nosed the bird a few times and then looked at me with the "you're kidding, right?" face. I gave a fetch command and she picked up the bird and brought it back. We ended up doing three sets of three for nine total goose retrieves. She picked up the other 8 without a "fetch" command needed at the pile. Besides a few drops in route due to awkward pickups, I think she did pretty good. Hopefully we get the chance to kill a few more birds this weekend to give it a try in the field.
 

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My 44 pound American Water Spaniel has no problem with big geese.
Funny you should say that, guy I hunt with (you know him David) has a American Water Spaniel......thing is a goose retrieving machine.

Your dog can do it.

On a side note, I love my lab due to her smaller size (59lbs) would love to find another one even smaller. I don't need a 90lb brute in the boat with me.
 

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35# AWS female (Gurley...RIP) retrieved these from land and water.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
My 44 pound American Water Spaniel has no problem with big geese.
Funny you should say that, guy I hunt with (you know him David) has a American Water Spaniel......thing is a goose retrieving machine.

Your dog can do it.

On a side note, I love my lab due to her smaller size (59lbs) would love to find another one even smaller. I don't need a 90lb brute in the boat with me.
The smaller ones take up a lot less room on the couch too! Although I do wish she was closer to that 60# mark.
 

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I have a 40 lb BLF that does okay on geese. She loves them and will tackle a winged goose like a little linebacker. She has no problem with smaller geese but admittedly has some trouble on the big boys, especially in deep snow. Her big issue with geese is not her body size but the fact that she has the smallest head and mouth I've seen on a lab; That creates the most trouble for her. However, she still gets the job done so your 46# shouldn't have too much of an issue.
 
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