I recently received a message on Facebook from someone I didn’t know. We had a mutual friend and that person suggested he contact me for advice about his duck dog.

His basic message was that his 3.5-year-old Lab was guarding shot ducks from other dogs. While he had never displayed this behavior in the past, the dog was now growling at other dogs – sending a clear message that he wasn’t messing around. His duck-hunting partner laughs at the encounters, but he didn’t think it was as funny.

Here’s what I told him:

_You’re right, it’s not funny. It’ll soon escalate and at best you’ll have a torn up duck and worst-case scenario, a couple of torn up dogs. While I don’t know the exact scenario, I don’t really blame your dog. He’s guarding a highly coveted resource, a bird he’s been bred to lust after. As long as he’s not growling at you and he delivers the birds, I think you’re okay.

The real problem is the other dogs. If you’re going to run multiple dogs they all have to be under control at all times. If one is and another isn’t, you’ll get a dog that gets conflicted; he’s listening to you, carrying out his job and the other dog is causing problems, interfering and trying to steal his prize.

ALL the dogs need to be under control and should take turns making the retrieves. If your dog goes out and is coming back with a duck and another dog breaks in an attempt to steal the bird, that dog should be reprimanded and put back on sit. The dogs should work independent of each other and not be allowed to compete for retrieves; that’s just asking for more trouble.
Also, after the ducks are retrieved, don’t leave them lying around in the blind where the dogs will be tempted to pick them up again and/or get possessive of them. The birds ultimately belong to you, not them, but it’s just much easier to keep the birds and dogs separated, as well as give each dog their own space._

Has anyone else run into a similar problem? If so, did you correct it or did a fight eventually break out? How do you usually run multiple dogs?