It is important to teach your Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever puppy to retrieve downed game or ducks and deliver to hand, without him crushing or mangling the bird. Developing a duck tolling retriever this way is a matter of consistent training and conditioning. While some puppies have a natural tendency to retrieve and drop the object in your hand, others would rather drop the object at your feet or bolt and run around carrying their prize. Natural retrievers only need encouragement, making sure they do not pick up any inappropriate behavior, while puppies that drop items or run away with them require more repetitive, gentle training. You want to develop a Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever that always returns the bird to hand without damage. Your puppy must learn to hold an object and then release the object to your hand upon command, just as he had to learn the stay, down, or sit commands.
It is easier to teach your tolling retriever appropriate retrieving and release behaviors than it is to try to stop incorrect ones. Well-bred tolling retrievers have a natural inclination to carry and hold objects in their mouths, which you should never discourage. Keep things you do not want your puppy to have out of reach. The day you bring the new tolling retriever puppy home, you will probably notice him picking up and carrying objects. This is the first step towards developing a soft mouth and good delivery. You never want to chase the puppy or grab something out of his mouth. If he picks up an unsafe item, encourage your puppy to bring the object to you.
To begin training, use a lightweight, small, canvas bumper or even a knotted sock. Sit or crouch on the floor in a hallway or other confined area, throw the item to your tolling retriever puppy, and then encourage him to bring it back. When your puppy does, praise and make a big fuss, letting him share it with you by allowing him to keep it for a few minutes, while you hug and pet him. Gently remove the item sometimes, other times, gently remove it and give it back still praising him. You want to encourage your puppy's natural hold while building trust. For early retrieving in larger areas or outside, continue using this method.
There are some things to avoid while working on retrieving with your tolling retriever puppy. Never have training sessions that are too long, because your puppy will stop having fun and lose interest. Because you are teaching your dog to retrieve, never play tug of war, chase him when he is carrying something, or grab anything from his mouth. If you find yourself becoming annoyed, losing patience, or getting discouraged because your puppy is doing something incorrect, never shout or call him for correction. Instead, end the retrieving session on a positive note, lots of praise, and start again later.