Photo of Duck Hunter at Sunset courtesy of Larry Hindman - Wildlife & Heritage Service

Retriever Dog Training Permit

River, photo courtesy of Larry HindmanThe owner or custodian of a retriever dog must obtain a permit from the Department of Natural Resources before the owner or custodian may shoot artificially reared game birds for the purposes of training the dog. Only the trainer of a retriever dog and not an assistant to the trainer is required to obtain a permit. The annual fee for the Retriever Dog Training Permit is $5.00.

A permit holder, while training a retriever dog, may possess and shoot with a shotgun any artificially-reared game bird that has been liberated by hand and tagged before its use with an identification band. All birds shall be banded, or similarly marked, prior to release. The permit allows the owner or custodian of a retriever dog to train the dog at any time of the year.

For the purposes of retriever training, a person may possess bobwhite quail, chukar partridge, ring-necked pheasant, and mallard ducks after obtaining a retriever training permit. If the birds are held for more than 72 hours or a call-back pen is used, a Game Husbandry Permit is also required. The permittee or anyone assisting in the training by shooting a firearm loaded with shotshell ammunition shall possess a valid hunting license or hunter safety certificate while training. When shooting captive-raised mallard ducks for dog training the trainer or trainer’s assistant is required to use non-toxic shot pursuant to 50 Code of Federal Regulations Part 21.13.

The permit is not required in order to shoot game birds during an open season or on a licensed Regulated Shooting Area.


A retriever training permit will expire July 31 of each year after the date of issuance and may be revoked at any time for noncompliance with the license's terms and conditions.


A Game Husbandry Permit/License is required if birds are held in possession for more than 48 hours, or if you are using quail or chukar partridge and calling them back to a pen. A person may only possess pen-reared quail or chukar partridge for the purpose of training dogs with call-back pens if that person first obtains a Game Husbandry Permit/License.

The trainer or anyone assisting in the training shall possess a valid hunting license while training.

Captive-raised birds released during the training process shall be marked in such a way as to identify the birds as captive-raised birds. The markers must remain attached to the birds until the birds are disposed of, and the markers must be destroyed after they are removed.

No one is allowed to use a call-back pen on State owned or controlled lands.


An owner of a dog may run or train the owner's dog on woodcock, pheasants, ruffed grouse, rabbit, hare, and quail at any time of year if an attendant accompanies the dog.

The permit holder may carry and discharge a device known as a starter's pistol while training dogs. The starter's pistol shall have been manufactured in such a manner as to prohibit the firing of a projectile or shot charge which could be projected through the barrel.

An attendant of the dog may not carry firearms of any description, except a handgun, or permit the dog, while being trained, to kill any game birds or mammals except during the open season for the game. Each attendant shall possess a valid hunting license while training the dog.

A person may not willfully allow any dog belonging to the person to destroy the eggs or nest of any game bird or mammal. Any person harboring a dog shall be deemed its lawful owner.

Any Natural Resources police officer or any law enforcement officer may kill any dog, which does not bear a license, found destroying game birds or mammals or the nest or eggs of any game bird or mammal.

Before training a dog on state owned or controlled properties, you must first obtain permission from the area land manager.


Retriever Training Permits are now issued through our new COMPASS online portal, 7 am to 7 pm call center, at any of our Sports License Agents and the Department's 7 Regional Service Centers. All convenience fees have been eliminated. License prices are the same regardless of how or when you obtain your license.

Click here to download the hunting license application (this is now the retriever training application), check off the box marked “Retriever Training Permit”, enclose your check for $5 and mail to one of the Service Center Locations.

Mail in applications may only be sent to DNR Licensing and Service Centers. The following link will provide a list of DNR Licensing and Service Centers and vendors if you chose to apply in person:

Related Permits

Game Husbandry Permit/License

Request by E-mail:
(include US Mailing Address)

Request by Phone:
(410) 260-8540
Toll-free in Maryland:
1-877-620-8DNR [8367], Extension 8540
TTY: Maryland Relay via 1-800-735-2258 or 711

Request by Mail:
Wildlife Permit Coordinator
MD DNR- Wildlife and Heritage Service
580 Taylor Ave., E-1
Annapolis MD 21401