by Gary Koelher
Waterfowl dogs that routinely pick up downed ducks may display a completely different mindset when first confronted with the task of retrieving geese. Canadas, snows, and specks are generally larger, look and smell different, and are cause for much more formidable labor.
A goose’s size and weight alone are enough to confound dogs that have not been conditioned in advance. While this issue is seldom addressed in dog training books, there are ways to prepare your retriever for its first goose hunt.
“Geese have a scent that is different from ducks,” says Auggie Argabright (shannondoahkennels.com), who has raised and trained retrievers for more than 30 years near Queenstown, Maryland, in the heart of Atlantic Flyway goose country. “To familiarize our dogs with the smell of a goose, we let our pups play with goose wings, but not tear them up. We introduce them to wings when they are very young.” As the pups grow, Argabright attaches goose wings to retrieving bumpers, the larger the better.
“When we take a young dog on its first goose hunt, we make sure the birds are dead before we send the dog to retrieve them,” Argabright says. “You absolutely don’t want a young dog going in on a crippled goose.”