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Do they make good practice for dogs? When I move back home, Jinx will be a little over ten and a half months and I would like to get him instinct tested and see about starting lessons with him, on sheep. I can't wait. He eyes all his toys when we play(or at least what I assume is giving the "eye" he gets that low stalking crouch and slowly tries to circle his toys)


But can they work ducks too? My yard at home is too small for sheep, I could maybe have a couple goats(parents probably wouldn't go for that though...) but ducks, I could probably get away with five or six. I would like to be able to practice at home once we get the basics down, as a few times a month on sheep probably wouldn't be enough practice to really get proficient.


So would a little flock of indian runners be good practice or is it not worth it? Can they easily switch between sheep and ducks? Would indian runners be the best breed for this or is there another breed that's better?


We had a couple ducks for a while when I was younger(like 9 or 10 so I wasn't really responsible for them) but they got eaten by owls before they became adults so I don't really know what duck care entails but from everything I've read they don't seem very hard to take care of.


I mean if worse comes to worst the ducks will lay eggs and we can eat them. Or Jinx can eat them.

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I would not recommend ducks for a pup of that age, if you plan to train him on sheep. At 10+ months, he's ready to start sheep training.

Ducks are fine for little pups and instinct testing, but they also are highly reactive, very noisy and can bring out undesirable traits in a pup, such as excessive eye, working too close, or diving in and biting. Ducks do NOT work like sheep and should not be a substitute for, or addition to, proper sheep training.

Also, ducks are pretty messy and smelly to keep, and you'd have to secure them from coyotes, raccoons and other predators. IMHO, they're not really worth it.


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I am not going to comment on whether you should or should not - I will leave that to people who have far more experience than I do. But, I did want to make a few comments about working ducks, especially in relation to a young dog.


First of all, not every dog will work ducks and how they work ducks may differ from what you see on sheep. There are dogs that will act like ducks do not exist on thier radar, dogs that do not see ducks as working stock and will be likely to chase/bite/kill the ducks, and dogs that will actually be more confident on ducks and show more natural prowess on them. I personally own a dog that has LOVED ducks since she was first introduced to them - works ducks very naturally and a dog that did not see ducks as stock (initially - he now works them like all other livestock, but would choose to work other livestock if he were given that choice).


IF you did choose to get ducks for herding, you would definately want some lessons under your belt so that you could understand and stop unwanted behavior. You might want to take lessons on ducks as well (if you can find somewhere local) prior to purchasing ducks as well so that you can see what your dog will do while you have an experienced person there. Plus, working ducks is VERY different from sheep - thier balance point is the size of a pin, they tend not to fetch (you have a very big effect on the ducks and your effect changes with time and your interaction with them).


Equally, ducks work differently depending on the type of duck you get. I personally would not use Runner ducks. Runner ducks are more upright and fast, turn pretty quickly, and can be very exciting for a puppy. Thier speed may sound like a good thing, but if you are trying to get good work from your dog, especially with you as a beginner and your dog as young as it is, it makes it hard for you to see anything. I have worked several different ducks. Muscovys (sp?) are slower and seperate out easily. They flock better when young, but as an adult they are happy to each move at its own pace. Nice thing though is that they are pretty quiet working ducks. Peking (sp?) flock nice and tightly and move at a great pace. These inexpensive ducks are probably my favorite to work - however they are VERY loud so if your dog is right down behind them, they may have a hard time hearing you over the noise. Call ducks are very small and can vary in thier flocking ability, but if your grass is too high or uneven, it slows them down considerably. I do not enjoy working call ducks personally. I hear Welsh Harlequins, Roan (Ronin, sp? - really wish my computer weren't acting crazy right now or I would be double checking spelling and "breed" names), and Sweeds - I hear these work great, similar to my review on Pekings. I have worked a few crosses of these and they all flocked tightly, moved at a nice pace that still gave you time to react, but I do not think they are quite a loud.


My good friend happens to own several of these ducks and, a part of farm chores there is to put away the birds at night. The dogs gather them up and put them away, which is how I started learning to work them. And as I said, I have a dog that actually prefers to work ducks and is very natural with them in a way that she is not with sheep. But ducks are different - definately not sheep - so I would be looking at learning how to work the ducks (in addition to sheep) if you are going to try to use them as your practice livestock. Otherwise, I won't comment on the shoulds and the should nots - leaving opinions to working ducks as a practice livestock to the experts on training up dogs. I am still learning.


Edit : I forgot to even mention flight. If the bird can fly, it will. You will have to clip wings in order to avoid flying away as they do like to do if they have that option. Runner ducks and Pekings do not fly. I am sure there are others that do not, but those two I commented about so will add that bit.

Edited by ObeytheBC
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I had a mixed flock of laying ducks. They're loud, dirty, stinky, and I loved them. Mine were in a movable, bottomless pen, so they couldn't mess up any one area too much. I had to rinse & refill their water tubs every day.


They're a pain in the butt to work. My older dog looked like it was torture to work ducks. My young dog will work anything, and he took right to them. I have no idea why people start on ducks. Sheep are much easier. Ducks seem to believe if their head fits, so will the rest of them, and they get stuck in things trying to run away. I'd never put a barely started dog on ducks- sounds like a recipe for disaster.


Your best bet is going to be to find a mentor/trainer who has stock.


Now, if you want ducks to have ducks, go for it :) They're goofy little things. They can be LOUD- I had an old Khaki Campbell who was super friendly and would quack VERY LOUDLY whenever she saw a person. Also, if you don't have the heart to put them in your freezer, ducks live a loooooooong time. My noisy old Khaki is almost 10 and is still going strong (I no longer have the ducks). The eggs are huge, and great for baking. If the ducks have access to a dirty pond, though, the eggs taste like mud. Some people find the flavor too strong, and I know a couple of folks who are allergic to duck eggs. OTOH, I used to trade my farrier duck eggs for horse shoeing- she couldn't get enough of them!

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Well it sounds like we'd be better off just doing lessons a few times a month.


Maybe I can start a bit sooner though, or at least see if he has any interest.


Gloria- I see you're in northern NV and when I was looking at upcoming trials saw your name on one for the one in Yerington(I want to go and check it out, but not sure if I can get work off or not). Maybe you could suggest some trainers in west, Northern NV or anywhere within a couple hours of Mammoth?

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I have Indian Runners and have worked my dogs on them.


I agree with all comments above. I would never put a pup on ducks. Ducks can be a messy pain to keep. Ducks also tend to try to hide when worked in an area that allows them to do so. They will take cover in bushes, crawl under decks, or smash themselves into corners. They require the dog to work in very close, which, depending on the dog, might not be a good thing. Sometimes they will decide to not move for the dog. This puts the dog in the position of either "losing" to the ducks, or getting more assertive ( which means biting) Dog bites to ducks may render the duck " single use".


On the other hand.


When I had to travel to work sheep, I found having ducks to work at home invaluable. Now the dog was more than started when I purchased the ducks, and the dog was a damn good dog so that helped :). When I lost my small duck flock unexpectedly I initially thought it was for the best. I then went to a trial and realized duck work not only helped my dog, but it helped me keep well practiced in handling. (I was still working sheep at least weekly) Now I still have duck even though I have sheep.


A great training aid is to pen ducks in a vari kennel. Quite an exercise.


Ducks don't get dog broke.


Female Indian runners can fly when stressed. I have had them reach altitudes of about 30 feet with a distance of about 100 yards.


As mentioned the balance point on ducks is very small and rapidly changes. This can be good if your dog needs this kind of work.


I had a young dog, just starting, who would get crazy when with the sheep. Crazy dog makes crazy sheep so dog can't settle down. Unintended circumstance put the crazy young dog in with the ducks. Since the ducks ( runners) can't move very fast ( compared to panicked sheep) the young dog slowed down and got its' brain together. After a couple of duck sessions, we were ready to begin real training on sheep. I wouldn't have thought of that, but it worked.


So my take is don't get ducks for a young dog, until you have a pretty good handle on it. Depending on the dog, if you don't have sheep at home, ducks can help fill in the gaps. Ducks are never a subsitute for sheep ( or goat or cattle) work. Think of them as more as a supplement. You should like keeping ducks if you are going to have them. In other words, get ducks for YOU, and the dog, not the other way around.

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drakes are quieter than hens. And I prefer heavy ducks over runners or call ducks. As others have said, not all dogs notice ducks as something to work.

Working ducks too often may take a bit of the push out of the pup. But work on bigger stock should work on that. There was a fellow from OK many years ago who lived in town, kept ducks and went tot he school yard and parks to train during the week and worked cattle and sheep when he could on the weekends and he won many trials, so it is possible.

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