Let me get some opinions


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By Alex Hilburn - 8/8/2012 9:12:01 AM
I'm working with a young black lab, and I've run into a bit of a wall.  She doesn't want to retrieve a bumper at all.  I'll have her lined up at heel, toss the bumper, give her the release command (her name), and then she just ducks behind me and puts her head between my legs.  She acts like she's afraid.  A couple weeks ago this dog was nailing everything.  She was hitting long marks with no problems at all, and now I can't get her to pick up a bumper ten feet from me. 

I've tried taking the structure away, and just tossing a fun bumper for her, to get her excited.  She'll bounce around a little bit, and she'll run out to it when I throw it, but once she gets there she'll just turn around and come back, no bumper.

I've tried different training tools such as an Avery ATB or even a dead mallard.  She won't pick up the ATB and she acts afraid of the mallard. 

To see what she'd do, I brought her to heel, tossed my hat a couple yards out, and sent her just like you would with a bumper.  She did exactly what she was supposed to do...run out, pick it up, return to heel.  It was a perfect retrieve, but just not with a proper target.

I've been trying to think of a time where I may have gone wrong with her, but for the life of me I can't think of it.  There has been very minimal punishment involved with this dog, if any, and there certainly hasn't been any when it comes to retrieving.

Anyway, I'm a bit stumped and would appreciate some input.  Thanks in advance.
By Honker-Konker - 8/8/2012 10:30:16 AM
Take some time off. You might be over doing the retrieves and the dog has become bored with it. My lab was doing great for a few months and then one out of the blue he wouldn't retrieve. I could have started force fetching but I took a week or two off before giving him more retrieves and he was right back running as hard as he could to bring those dummies back to me. 

You might try taking a break or start force fetching if you haven't already started it.
By flannel - 8/8/2012 10:40:37 AM
Honker-Konker (8/8/2012)
Take some time off. You might be over doing the retrieves and the dog has become bored with it. My lab was doing great for a few months and then one out of the blue he wouldn't retrieve. I could have started force fetching but I took a week or two off before giving him more retrieves and he was right back running as hard as he could to bring those dummies back to me. 

You might try taking a break or start force fetching if you haven't already started it.


Agreed^^ Also, you didn't mention the exact age of your pup, is there a chance your pup is teething? Teething can certainly put a halt on a pup's desire to retrieve (especially hard, plastic bumpers which may be why your hat was no problem).
By Tim Price - 8/8/2012 1:35:46 PM
As some have indicated, we need more info.

Exactly how old is the dog? What training program are you following and in what exact stage of training or you at with the dog? Define "long marks".

Could be the teeething thing if the age is right. Could be the dog ran out to grab a mark and got stung by a bee and has a negative association with picking up stuff. Those are the 2 most logical guesses at this time as those situations cause dogs to shut off retrieving. There are solutions to both of those so relax, give us more info and we'll see what we can do.
By Alex Hilburn - 8/8/2012 5:47:57 PM
She's 5 months old.  I was under the impression she was 6, going on 7, but was told wrong.  Teething could be an issue, she was taken to the vet a couple of days ago and get K-9's have come in completely already, but he does have a couple of baby teeth still in her mouth.  

The program I'm using is the old water dog program, with a few modifications from Chris Akins duck dog basics.  I've had a lot of success in the past with previous dogs with it, so I thought I'd continue on.

I can't really say what stage I'm at, because as soon as I think she's ready for the next piece, she regresses and I start over.  IMO shes a bit young for any structured training, but I can't ask for more when it comes to obedience.  Heeling, sit, stay, here, whistles...she's got that down real well.

When I say long, I just mean as long as I can throw them.  I've not used any other method to extend her marking yet, but for her age I feel she has exceptional marking abilities.

I picked up a couple of softer bumpers today, and she seems a bit more interested in them.  We'll see.

Thanks.
By Honker-Konker - 8/8/2012 10:45:13 PM
With her only being 5 months old I wouldn't worry to much. She will probably be having some teething issues and every pup is gonna test your dominance every now and again. My 7 1/2 month old lab will just flat out ignore sometimes even though he knows exactly what to do. Pups are just like kids, they know what to do but try to get away with anything they can if you let them. Her obedience sounds good as well. I think you are on the right track. 
By Swamper - 8/9/2012 4:32:16 PM
Sage is 7 -3/4 months and ignoring me is not an option.

hmmmm.   must be those swamp collies are a more intelligent breed...  :)
By flannel - 8/9/2012 8:07:24 PM
Swamper (8/9/2012)
Sage is 7 -3/4 months and ignoring me is not an option.

hmmmm.   must be those swamp collies are a more intelligent breed...  :)


Right! If commands are not reinforced, don't bother with them in the first place; good call.
By Honker-Konker - 8/9/2012 10:33:22 PM
Swamper (8/9/2012)
Sage is 7 -3/4 months and ignoring me is not an option.

hmmmm.   must be those swamp collies are a more intelligent breed...  :)


I'm not saying let them ignore you. But as we all know we will give a command to our dogs and they will just act like they didn't hear you, even though in fact they heard you. Of course don't let them get by with it. 
By Alex Hilburn - 8/9/2012 10:42:38 PM
Swamp, she doesn't ignore me, when I tell her to do something, she does it, and of she doesn't, I don't let her get away with it.

This dog belongs to my dad, and neither he nor I let her get away with anything.  

It's just when I throw a bumper and try to release her with her name, she'll turn and duck her head between my legs.  Anything else she'll retrieve perfectly.
By Alex Hilburn - 8/11/2012 12:40:25 PM
I took her out this morning, and she did great.  Retrieved like a champ.  Thanks for any input guys...
By flannel - 8/11/2012 4:43:00 PM
Alex Hilburn (8/11/2012)
I took her out this morning, and she did great.  Retrieved like a champ.  Thanks for any input guys...


Not sure if I was any help, but you're welcome anyway! Good luck, Alex!
By Pit Boss - 8/12/2012 9:51:59 AM
Honker-Konker (8/8/2012)
My lab was doing great for a few months and then one out of the blue he wouldn't retrieve. I could have started force fetching but I took a week or two off before giving him more retrieves and he was right back running as hard as he could to bring those dummies back to me...
You also said
...your 7 1/2 month old will flat out ignore sometimes when he knows exactly what to do


Honker-Konker
You mentioned that you could have started FF but you took a week off before giving him more retrieves. Then you said that he didn't want to retrieve and then he decided he wanted to retrieve? You also stated that your 7 1/2 month old will flat out ignore you sometimes even though he knows what to do? So if I understand you correctly, he is deciding when he will work and when he will not? What are your training plans and goals with this dog? You may be a very knowledgable trainer, and for some reason (immaturity perhaps) elected to wait on FF'ing your dog. The reason I ask is that someone that is new or a less experienced trainer might read your post and think that they can avoid the problem by throwing more fun bumpers. Things are not always going to be rosy on the road to training a finished retriever. There will be some times when a dog will not want to get through the difficult issues. Trainers will not be doing their dog any favors by taking shortcuts in their training. Like I said earlier that you know your dog and good trainers are good at reading dogs and know when to advance them and when not to, and you may have a good reason for delaying FF.  I just would hate for someone to read your post and think that throwing marks and letting the dog decide when he will work is the answer.
By flannel - 8/12/2012 10:25:45 AM
Pit Boss (8/12/2012)
Honker-Konker (8/8/2012)
My lab was doing great for a few months and then one out of the blue he wouldn't retrieve. I could have started force fetching but I took a week or two off before giving him more retrieves and he was right back running as hard as he could to bring those dummies back to me...
You also said
...your 7 1/2 month old will flat out ignore sometimes when he knows exactly what to do


Honker-Konker
You mentioned that you could have started FF but you took a week off before giving him more retrieves. Then you said that he didn't want to retrieve and then he decided he wanted to retrieve? You also stated that your 7 1/2 month old will flat out ignore you sometimes even though he knows what to do? So if I understand you correctly, he is deciding when he will work and when he will not? What are your training plans and goals with this dog? You may be a very knowledgable trainer, and for some reason (immaturity perhaps) elected to wait on FF'ing your dog. The reason I ask is that someone that is new or a less experienced trainer might read your post and think that they can avoid the problem by throwing more fun bumpers. Things are not always going to be rosy on the road to training a finished retriever. There will be some times when a dog will not want to get through the difficult issues. Trainers will not be doing their dog any favors by taking shortcuts in their training. Like I said earlier that you know your dog and good trainers are good at reading dogs and know when to advance them and when not to, and you may have a good reason for delaying FF.  I just would hate for someone to read your post and think that throwing marks and letting the dog decide when he will work is the answer.


Well said, Pit. ;)
By Honker-Konker - 8/13/2012 12:32:14 AM
Pit Boss (8/12/2012)
Honker-Konker (8/8/2012)
My lab was doing great for a few months and then one out of the blue he wouldn't retrieve. I could have started force fetching but I took a week or two off before giving him more retrieves and he was right back running as hard as he could to bring those dummies back to me...
You also said
...your 7 1/2 month old will flat out ignore sometimes when he knows exactly what to do


Honker-Konker
You mentioned that you could have started FF but you took a week off before giving him more retrieves. Then you said that he didn't want to retrieve and then he decided he wanted to retrieve? You also stated that your 7 1/2 month old will flat out ignore you sometimes even though he knows what to do? So if I understand you correctly, he is deciding when he will work and when he will not? What are your training plans and goals with this dog? You may be a very knowledgable trainer, and for some reason (immaturity perhaps) elected to wait on FF'ing your dog. The reason I ask is that someone that is new or a less experienced trainer might read your post and think that they can avoid the problem by throwing more fun bumpers. Things are not always going to be rosy on the road to training a finished retriever. There will be some times when a dog will not want to get through the difficult issues. Trainers will not be doing their dog any favors by taking shortcuts in their training. Like I said earlier that you know your dog and good trainers are good at reading dogs and know when to advance them and when not to, and you may have a good reason for delaying FF.  I just would hate for someone to read your post and think that throwing marks and letting the dog decide when he will work is the answer.


Alright I'm no expert trainer by any means but let me try to clear things up a little. I in no way advocate letting your dog decide when he retrieves or anything else for that matter. What I meant was that there will be days when your pup will be too distracted because it is so young that it will ignore you. The pup knows what you're saying but it's mind is just too young to care sometimes. The days when your pup is having a hard time listening to you are bad days to train because it will only frustrate you and make you upset with the pup. That's when I suggest hanging it up for the day and trying tomorrow. When you feel yourself getting hot just stop before it becomes a battle of wills between you and the pup. Sometimes the pup will lose it's drive to retrieve because it has become stagnant and boring to them. That is when I suggest putting the bumpers up for a week or so and working on obedience training. Sure you could start force fetching at this point but I would prefer to have my pup retrieve because it wants to not because it has to. And I know that last line and the following paragraph will have some people trying to burn me at the stake while very few will agree with me.

I'm not actually going to force fetch the pup I have now. Force fetching works, it's proven and many pups need it, but with my current pup I personally don't think he needs to be force fetched. I may regret it later down the road, but as of right now I'm not force fetching. My reasoning is, besides that one week when he had zero retrieving drive, he has had no problem retrieving what so ever. For me it's hard to explain exactly what I mean because all pups are different of course, but if you watched my pup retrieve you'd think he had been force fetched already. I started retrieving training on day one that I brought my pup home. Sure it was just 3 or 4 retrieves a day for awhile but I wanted to jump start his little brain and I really think it has paid off. I wanted my pup to know that retrieving is fun and not work so I've worked with him in a fun environment instead of a work environment. 

Also I'm not a fun of fun bumpers. Having your pup make tons of wild retrieves is only going to make steadying your pup harder. Before every retrieve my pup will heel or lay in his blind before the bumper is tossed and I make sure he is steady before I release him. Sure he will break and run before I send him on his name occasionally, but the next retrieve steadiness is reinforced a little more sternly. Every retrieve needs to have a purpose.

It's so much easier to have someone with you so you can show them and explain exactly what you mean. Things can get so confusing when written on here because they aren't always written in chronological order or I might know what I'm saying but it's confusing for others. But to wrap things up, don't let your pup tell you what it's going to do because it will only make bad habits harder to break as it grows older, your pup is going to have good days and bad days, enjoy the good days and forget the bad, training a pup is fun and frustrating so take it in stride and one step at a time. Hope this helped clear things up a little or it may have made things harder to understand. 
By Pit Boss - 8/13/2012 7:57:44 PM
Honker-Konker (8/13/2012)
[quote][b]
Alright I'm no expert trainer by any means but let me try to clear things up a little. I in no way advocate letting your dog decide when he retrieves or anything else for that matter. What I meant was that there will be days when your pup will be too distracted because it is so young that it will ignore you. The pup knows what you're saying but it's mind is just too young to care sometimes. The days when your pup is having a hard time listening to you are bad days to train because it will only frustrate you and make you upset with the pup... 
I am going to break your post down and answer segments of it. First off let me say that I am no expert either HK, so we are in the same boat. In fact it would be nice if some more knowledgable lurkers would share their training thoughts. 
Do not underestimate your pup's learning abilities, At his age he is a sponge. Do not confuse him ignoring you with confusion or being tired. The dog should be kenneled for two hours before training so you get 100% of his mind and body in training. You should not get mad at a pup because he doesn't understand what you are teaching. If your teachers in school got mad at you and screamed at you because you didn't understand something, would you have wanted to go to school? How much would you have learned if the teachers decided to quit for a week every time the students didn't understand something? If the pup doesn't understand, the answer is not to quit, but rather to simplify. I cannot afford to spend money on gas to drive training, only to have my dog decide he doesn't want to work that day, and then drive home with nothing accomplished. 
I think the main difference between an experienced trainer and an inexperienced trainer is that rather than avoid the issues they will look at difficult times as a great training opportunity. 
By Pit Boss - 8/13/2012 8:25:05 PM
Honker-Konker (8/13/2012)
[quote][b] Sometimes the pup will lose it's drive to retrieve because it has become stagnant and boring to them. That is when I suggest putting the bumpers up for a week or so and working on obedience training. Sure you could start force fetching at this point but I would prefer to have my pup retrieve because it wants to not because it has to. And I know that last line and the following paragraph will have some people trying to burn me at the stake while very few will agree with me.
 
Perhaps if training is getting stagnant you should try challenging your pup more? 
Withholding marks because he doesn't want to retrieve shouldn't be the answer and IMO marks should be the reward for your obedience training. 
My dogs all retrieved because they loved to not because they were force fetched. In fact, if a dog doesn't love to retrieve and you FF you will still end up with a pig. 
Your dog sounds like he has desire. What FF does besides teaching great mouth habits and giving you the tools to correct bad mouth habits and conditioning for pressure, it also enables you to maintain momentum. Not desire, momentum. Momentum is when he decides he doesn't want to do something but knows that he has to. He is compelled to keep going. With desire alone, he will quit. Desire is doing what he wants to do, momentum is doing what he doesn't want to do but does it anyway and with style.
Trust me when I say, we all would love to skip FF. I would love to skip many steps in training. FF has nothing at all to do with you preferring that your pup retrieves because he wants to.
By Pit Boss - 8/13/2012 8:40:05 PM
Honker-Konker (8/13/2012)
[quote][b]
I'm not actually going to force fetch the pup I have now. Force fetching works, it's proven and many pups need it, but with my current pup I personally don't think he needs to be force fetched. I may regret it later down the road, but as of right now I'm not force fetching. My reasoning is, besides that one week when he had zero retrieving drive, he has had no problem retrieving what so ever. For me it's hard to explain exactly what I mean because all pups are different of course, but if you watched my pup retrieve you'd think he had been force fetched already. I started retrieving training on day one that I brought my pup home. Sure it was just 3 or 4 retrieves a day for awhile but I wanted to jump start his little brain and I really think it has paid off. I wanted my pup to know that retrieving is fun and not work so I've worked with him in a fun environment instead of a work environment. 
 


You will not need to FF your dog if you have a crystal ball and know that you will never have any training issues with your dog or if you want to be the guy in the marsh that yells "Back! Back! Back! Sit! Over! Over! Back!" Then finally you walk out and have to pick up a 50 yard retrieve that your dog didn't make. The one the dog does get he will not come back with it or if he is nice enough to come back to you he only returns with 1/2 a duck. You are absolutely right that all dogs are different. Do you think that your dog is better than the dogs Mike Lardy or any other big name pro gets in? How many of those high power, well started pups do you think they say "Hey, I think I will skip FF because the pup retrieves great and it is an inconvenience"? 
I got news for you, training should be fun for the dogs, but it won't always be fun times.  f your dog doesn't have a work ethic, how will he deal with the tough retrieves? Will he just Give up? 
By Pit Boss - 8/13/2012 8:57:02 PM
Honker-Konker (8/13/2012)
[quote][b]
Sure he will break and run before I send him on his name occasionally, but the next retrieve steadiness is reinforced a little more sternly. Every retrieve needs to have a purpose.
If you are steadying there should never be movement on the line. Do you have someone throwing your marks for you? if you do, I would have the helper pick up the bird and not let the breaking dog get it. If he gets to it, all he is learning is that he still gets the reward for breaking. Some dogs can deal with the punishment if they still get the bird. If you withhold the reward (the duck) the dog will soon quit breaking. The way most people teach steadiness, have a heeling stick cocked and ready to use. Have your gunner shoot and throw. If the dog moves, give him the correction and the gunner walks out and picks up the bird. Repeat this as many times as necessary. When the dog finally remains still you let him have the bird. Now you have established a standard and you should always expect 100% compliance and anything less should be dealt with as mentioned.
HK- These posts are meant to be helpful and I am in no way picking on you. I do believe that you have a special dog. Just don't try to take shortcuts in your training and think that you can pick and choose steps. You sound like you have gotten your pup off to a great start. I would hate to see you have regrets. Are you following a training program? If not you should google Mike Lardy Flow Chart. That will take you step by step to a finished retriever that you will be very proud of. 
By Honker-Konker - 8/14/2012 10:40:42 AM
Pit Boss you sure put a lot of work into that for me not making the original post but thanks for trying to help. I'm not using any sort of special program to train him, just my own little program I've came up with. I'd say the only step I've "skipped" but I prefer to say "not used", is force fetching. But I'm not really trying to get my dog to work like the dogs you see on the super retriever series. All I want is for my dog to retrieve when a bird goes down, watch my hand signals, and be my friend. As of right now my pup is doing all 3 of those things right now so I'm pretty happy with him. He will never be a champion in field trials, but he will do more than fine for what I need him for. If I knock a bird down, my dog goes and gets it, and brings it back to me, I'll be happy. 
By Pit Boss - 8/14/2012 9:25:48 PM
Honker-Konker (8/14/2012)
Pit Boss you sure put a lot of work into that for me not making the original post but thanks for trying to help. I'm not using any sort of special program to train him, just my own little program I've came up with. I'd say the only step I've "skipped" but I prefer to say "not used", is force fetching. But I'm not really trying to get my dog to work like the dogs you see on the super retriever series. All I want is for my dog to retrieve when a bird goes down, watch my hand signals, and be my friend. As of right now my pup is doing all 3 of those things right now so I'm pretty happy with him. He will never be a champion in field trials, but he will do more than fine for what I need him for. If I knock a bird down, my dog goes and gets it, and brings it back to me, I'll be happy. 
You are welcome and thanks for taking the time to to respond. I didn't think I would change your mind about force fetching, but I thought someone else may read this and it may help them. You said you are not following a program? You should consider it. If you are going to go out and train 15 minutes a night, why not follow a proven program. This will help you make better use of your time and help prevent getting into some nasty problems that you may create as a first timer? 15 quality minutes is a lot better than 1 hour of unplanned training. 
I wish you the best with your dog.
P.S. We all want our dogs to be our friends. Mine are house dogs and sleep in my room. Force fetching has nothing to do whether the dog is your friend or not.
By Pit Boss - 8/20/2012 6:43:39 AM
Honker-Konker (8/14/2012)
..But I'm not really trying to get my dog to work like the dogs you see on the super retriever series...
The Super Retriever Series use rubber chickens at their trials so we have no idea whether these dogs would be able to retrieve a cripple or if they would be hard mouthed. I know you may think that it is ridiculous that a trial dog or hunt test dog wouldn't pick up a crippled duck, but I have seen this happen on numerous occasions. Also, shooting and throwing a rubber chicken is not nearly as exciting as throwing a live Mallard. While the SRS dogs may be steady on a rubber chicken, we cannot be certain that these same dogs would be steady in actual hunting circumstances?  So HK, if your dog will pick up a rubber bumper, you're dog might be able to compete in SRS or Canadian field trials.:D

By Honker-Konker - 8/20/2012 10:00:08 PM
Pit Boss (8/20/2012)
Honker-Konker (8/14/2012)
..But I'm not really trying to get my dog to work like the dogs you see on the super retriever series...
The Super Retriever Series use rubber chickens at their trials so we have no idea whether these dogs would be able to retrieve a cripple or if they would be hard mouthed. I know you may think that it is ridiculous that a trial dog or hunt test dog wouldn't pick up a crippled duck, but I have seen this happen on numerous occasions. Also, shooting and throwing a rubber chicken is not nearly as exciting as throwing a live Mallard. While the SRS dogs may be steady on a rubber chicken, we cannot be certain that these same dogs would be steady in actual hunting circumstances?  So HK, if your dog will pick up a rubber bumper, you're dog might be able to compete in SRS or Canadian field trials.:D





Haha. Crap I just threw out my last rubber chicken. I had him marking and doing blind retrieves with a real bird this evening so I'm pretty happy with him tonight since I took him over to a buddies house just to play with his dogs. I always love when a surprise training session happens.