Is it possible to train a duck? You know, like a dog. We delve into the possibilities here at PumpjackPiddlewick

Is it possible to train a duck? You know, like a dog. Or potentially, even a cat. The answer is – yes. And, no. Let me explain.

Types of Ducks

I have pet ducks. Louis, my white call duck, was imported into the flock. And a number of years later some female call ducks (to avoid inbreeding). All the rest were hatched by Maggie. She was my first duck and original matriarch, and imprinted on me.

I mention the above because they all played a part in understanding training. That is, does it matter if they are imprinted, brought into or hatched to the flock? The answer, again, is yes. And, no.

Brain Size

Ducks are smart. Which surprises some people. It has to do with brain size in relation to their body. Amongst birds, crows in fact are considered one of the smartest animals on the planet. So yes, ducks have the ability to learn, and not just what they would normally learn through nature.

It is possible to train a duck, but not the normal way you would anticipate. Not the way you would train a mammal. Ducks can learn beyond nature, eg nurture, through repetition, routine and resonance.

How to Train a Duck

The simplest training to start with is getting them to know their name. Through repetition of using their name, particularly from very young, they do come to understand it and know it refers to them. Like most animals.

We can then progress on to an action. You can train a duck to come to you by calling / asking / commanding. This is ideally done from very young, as a duckling, but it has some success with an older imported in to the flock ducks.

Again, like training most animals it is about consistency of commands. Choose your command words early on and stick with them. For my ducks, they all know the words ‘Come on’ and its meaning. I use this to get them to follow or to come when called, whichever is needed.


But it is not just commands, it is resonance too. That is, how you say something. I could call Maggie to me through saying ‘Come on Maggie’ in a normal voice. But also simply ‘Maggie?’ said loudly and slightly higher in resonance and repeated a few times. (Said once will only get me an ‘I am here’ response.)

When I find worms, the ducks have learned that their name said 3 times ‘Maggie! Maggie! Maggie!’, quickly and at a slightly higher volume with an excited inflection means ‘worm for you!’. And that duck will come running. Yes, sometimes joined by others as they are smart enough to know that another one is being called for worms and there may be a chance to snarf the treat. But guaranteed, the duck leading the pack is the one whose name I used.

Tone of Voice

Ducks are exceptional at recognising tones in voices, from normal to excited to scared. They really pay attention if your voice sounds scared. You will get a faster response, but like ‘The boy who cried wolf’*, it’s not to be used too often, rather only in reality.

They are less inclined to pay attention if you sound mad. Honestly. No duck likes to be told off. When my ducks decided they wish to forage in next door’s garden, a definite no no, and I am on the search for them, calling them, they are known to not answer or come if my tone is angry. And when they know they are doing something they shouldn’t.


I mentioned routine, this is the most important aspect in training a duck. Stick to a routine and ducks will very rarely vary. Want them to go in or to bed at a certain time, come up with a catch phrase that you say each time whilst herding them into their home for the night. (See the video below for a prime example.)

Or even certain sounds. Mine is ‘pa duh pup’ with an up down up syncopation – no idea how that happened, so do plan ahead. Do this each time and after only a few days you will be able to simply say this phrase, and they will start heading to bed. It won’t even matter what time it is.

Ditto on letting them out in the morning. Using a word or phrase to ‘release’ them will soon send them running out and into the garden/enclosure/where ever you normally want them to go.

I Said No

What can’t you train a duck in? Understanding the word ‘no’. This is where they really differ from mammals, especially dogs. In example, ducks don’t have hands, so their beak acts like their hands as well as their mouth. It is what they use to figure out what things are, to play and to explore. And sometimes, particularly when feeling playful, they pull a little too hard.

I remember working with Maggie not to pull my cats whiskers so hard. The cats had learned to turn their heads when Maggie tried to groom them or play with them. I tried to figure out a way for her to learn to not be so rough, never had any success. Saying ‘no’ and trying to show her by pushing her away or holding her beak certainly did not work. I had a tiny bit of success by saying ‘No!’ emphatically, but only in that it gave her pause, before she began pulling again.

Toilet Training

You also can’t toilet train your duck. Something I get asked a lot. There are duck diapers to aid in this area if your duck lives/comes in the house. However, I have learned you can sort of teach them where to do their ‘business’.

Generally ducks do not like to soil their bed. By putting down a towel (preferably red or pink, a duck’s favourite colour) or creating a soft place to snooze, they definitely try harder not to mess it up. Versus, say, a floor. And it helps if you don’t feed them too much before bed time.

Follow the Leader

It is very definitely easier to train a duck when imprinted on you. Young ducks, like people, are easier to train than older. But older ducks, unlike people, are still relatively easy to train if you are certain to stick to routine and repetition.

Adding a duck into your flock, it will learn quite quickly from the others by at first imitating and following them, but within a short time will take it onboard as nature over nurture.

Routine phraseology in action at Gold Shaw Farm:


* The Boy Who Cried Wolf, one of Aesop’s fables, is a must have if you wish to teach children (and ducks) how not to abuse attention seeking. Linked above as US version (and here as UK version) as I am affiliated with (who support independent bookshops), and they can deliver it to your door.

Should you wish to read more about my affiliates, or wish to support my writings, please check out my Nourishing Pumpjack & Piddlewick page.

More Ducks?

I have a selection of duck gifts from My Shop available for you, or those you know, who love ducks. Some vintage, some our own designs, all unique. Here’s a taste:

Simply click on the photo to see more…


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