My philosophy is that my gundog is my best friend and should be treated and trained accordingly. Thus I have spent the last 10 of my 40 dog-training years developing protocols for the positive training of gundogs. These practices and protocols represent a huge break from the traditional training culture in which I operated for some 30 years. They also make dog training much more fun.
Positive Duckdog Training
1. Early development of learning process - Pup should learn early that he can "buy" rewards (treats) by offering behavior. He should sit to get every meal. You should teach other behaviors with treat reward. Some examples might be: stay, crawl, jump up on platform, roll over, etc. The more behaviors a young puppy learns, the more skillful he will be at learning and the easier will be his later training.
2. Get steady early - every unrestrained retrieve trains pup to break. As soon as pup is retrieving eagerly, you should begin restraining him for a gradually increasing time period before releasing for the retrieve. My milepost is a 30 ft retrieve, with pup restrained 30 seconds and confident enough to hunt after release for 30 seconds for the dummy. I typically have 16 week-old puppies steady without restraint.
3. More dummies; less birds - Establish the behaviors of retrieving and delivery to hand using dummies. After the behaviors are well established and habits are strong, use some birds. Used too early in pup's training, birds tend to create problems, such as running off to the bushes with the bird, mouth problems, and unsteadiness. Birds are a giant leap in distraction level.
4. More Blinds; Less marks - The primary value of a marked (seen) retrieve should be as a reward for sitting quietly during and after the fall. Beyond that, marked (seen) retrieves have a negative value with respect to teaching pup to stop on the whistle and take a cast. Every marked retrieve that pup completes trains him a little more to find the prey without help from the handler. The goal of hand signals is to train pup to take directional casts from the handler toward the prey.
5. Whistle stopping and hand signals. Get it established close. Then get it established close with high distraction. Establishing the whistle stopping and casting behaviors close to you allows you to deliver reward effectively. Exposing to high distraction levels while still close to you prepares the dog for the distraction level offered by distance.