Whether you plan to take your lab hunting with you or only run him in hunting tests, he should have exposure to various types of equipment used in hunting situations. These include; decoys (both land and water), duck calls, bird bags, blinds, boats, stools, camouflage netting, and shotguns.
Start exposing your pup to decoys eatly. Place a group of goose or suck decoys in your backyard and throw a bumper (a dead bird or shackled bird is better) in the midd;e of the decoys. If your dog picks up a decoy. tell him "No". Expect him to sniff and check out the decoys, but don't let him pick one up. After a few sessions, you shouldn't have a problem (in your backyard). Next step is to place decoys in a pond. Set out half a dozen decoys in a group and throw a bumper to the side of the decoys. Do not throw the bumper amongst of behind the decoys to start out. If your dog is going straigt to the bumper and ignoring the decoys, start throwing the bumper closer to the decoys, then behind the decoys so that the dog must swim through the decoys to get the bumper. Use decoys on a regular basis in your training. Note: if your dog retrieves a decoy in a hunting test, he is OUT. In a real hunting situation, he will end up losing his mark by messing around with decoys, besides decoys do not cook up very well! For land decoys, follow the same process as with water decoys.
Duck (pheasant, grouse, goose too) calls are used frequently in hunting tests and in real hunting situations. Start using a call on the line (standing next to your dog) and out in the field (by your throwers) early on in your training. Most dogs really perk up when they hear calls, and it works well in getting their attention. Have your throwers use calls(rather than yelling "Hey, hey") on a regular basis. Your dog needs to key into the call as a cue that a bird is coming.
Whether it's bird bags from other hunters or a bird box next to gunners at a test, your dog needs to be accostomed to seeing and smelling birds in the field that are not the object of his retrieve. Have your thrower set a bag or box of birds on the ground next to him when throwing. Expect your dog to investigate at least a few times before he ignores them and goes straight to his mark. To start out with, keep the marks simple enough so that the dog will not become discouraged at not being able to find his bird and insist on going to the bird box. Your thrower should be ready to help the dog if necessary the first few times. This is an important lesson; you do not want your dog stuck on the bird box at a hunt test just because he has never seen one before.
Use of blinds, boats and stools should be incorporated at some point in your training program. For boat training, start off by leading the dog in and out of a boat on dry land. Move to water when your dog is completely comfortable with you thowing marks in the water with him in the boat at the shoreline. Most dogs get used to boats pretty quickly, but some will require more patience and work. Don't frighten your dog by forcing an issue, back up and proceed slowly.
Perhaps the most important equipment for a hunter (or hunt test entrant) is the shotgun. Introduce your dog to guns by having him in the general area (250 yards or more) of where guns are being fired. The next step is to have your thrower fire as he throws the bird. Most digs get excited when they hear a gun fired because it cues them that a bird is coming. The last step ( and the most important if you are going to be hunting with your dog) is to shoot with your dog at your side. Most dogs get used to this quickly, and again, associate it with the fact that a bird is on the way. Best advice is to go slowly, pay attention to your dog's reaction, and don't rush it.