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SSSTaxidermy

Need HELP. Dogs attitude changed?

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SSSTaxidermy

Okay, I have 14 month old black lab female. Up until the youth hunt she seemed to be progressing fine in retrieving training. This will be her first waterfowl season. Just a little background.... I've had her along for 2 early goose hunts this year. One on water and one on land. The water was the first time, I folded a bird and I sent her after it, she swam right to it, swam around it and then looked at me. I instructed her to "fetch" and got the confused look. So I called her back in, reset her and tried again. Same result, she swam right to it and turned around with confusion. This was her first encounter of a "live" (actually dead) goose. I didn't get discouraged and once the hunt was over I tossed the goose out there for her to get it...She was enthusiastic and jetting on wanting to retrieve it, as if I was using a dummy. But when I tossed it, she would just smell and lick it, not bring it back. I've previously trained with the goose scented deadfowl and misc wings. So what I did was, chopped the wings off and used these for the next few days. Wings only. Then attached the wings to the deadfowl. Everything was going great. The next time she was in a encounter with a goose was at a friends place. His dog is a lab mix, good dog and loves to retrieve birds (other than geese). She is very small dog and the snout on her is very short so picking up the large birds appears to be difficult for her. So both of us were working with our dogs in a training session with a couple of dead geese and mine finally figured it out immediately. The level of competition present, brought the best out in her. She carried it back with no troubles, obeying all commands. So I figured she was on the right path. His dog is force fetched and the only way she would get it is, he brought the dog to the goose, put the bird in her mouth with a "hold" command, then she would walk back with him I thought I would introduce the force fetch command to my dog in the near future. Up until now, she had no problem getting something I tossed and bringing it back, except for the goose, those few times but that appeared to be a non-issue now. I was confident that ducks wouldn't be a problem for the youth hunt. While setting some deks up for my buddies boys, my lab was swimming around, enjoying the water, the boys, etc. If you recall it was a cold morning. My dog sleeps inside our house. Once we got set up, tucked away in the blind, my dog was shivering like no tomorrow. I had a vest on her too. But she seemed to be so cold she didn't want anything to do with being in that blind. We downed birds even. I couldn't get her to do anything. So I removed her and tried to warm her up. No birds retrieved for my dog during youth hunt, which I was looking forward to for a very long time. It was my hunting partners son's and nephews first hunt too. OK..So that next day, I decided to introduce force fetching. The week leading up to this, I previously had her on the platform to get her accustomed to it, so it wouldn't be her first time on this platform then right into force fetching training. So once I thought she appeared to be relaxed, I started the training. I made a wooden dumbbell and was using that, I opened up her mouth and, closed it and commanded "hold". Then grabbed it from her with a "give". When I put the dumbbell in her mouth I would say "fetch". She wasn't very fond of me opening her mouth and making her hold it. So the next few days here, I continued to do the same exercises and hadn't seen any improvement. I've actually seen a decrease in enthusiasm from her or maybe more so, willingness to bring anything back to me with tossing a dummy or tennis ball in the yard. She will bolt out after it, but then stand over it, looking at me..Or in water cases, swim up to it and appear to play with it. Not picking it up right away like she did in the past. The only way, she will grab it immediately is if I tease and tease and tease her with it. But that takes quite a bit, huge change within a couple days here..Another thing is she wants to now is drop it at my feet rather than heeling, sitting and letting be grab it like the past. I resorted back to basics, decided to stop force fetching and look to bring the fun back or something? I have been following Wolters Water Dog video. I need some serious help. Like I said, up until now, I've encountered minimal issues. She gets lots of praise. Is her confidence down? Now weeks before waterfowl season, it appears I've taken some steps backwards. Any ideas from you pro's out there?

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tealitup

You know it might be smart to work with her all week and head to a game farm for some light bird action on land.

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LABS4ME

O.K.

She definitley has some serious confidence issues. The 1st problem you are dealing with is her 1st exposure to birds was in a hunting situation... that should've been taken care of over the summer. Even now I recommend you go buy some game farm ducks or even a farm goose and keep it in your freezer and train with that for the next few weeks. Put the dummy away! Dogs need lots of exposure to birds! I use frozen birds for 2/3rds of my training. The scent in a bottle does little to mimic a real bird and wings are so-so.

Next if you are not going to go through the full force program, I'm not sure I would start on it now. It sounds like you had (have) your dog where you wanted or needed her. The only draw back is this: she was retrieving for 'her' not for 'you'. This is where the full force would've shined. Some of the luster has been taken off "her" retrieveing game and she is deciding she doesn't want to do it anymore. Had she been through the force program, you could've reverted to demanding that she complete each retrieve. But doing that now will only dig your hole deeper. Having her retrieve right now for "her" and not for you, is better than no retrieve at all.

So now here we are, a week+ away from duck opener and you're frantically trying to figure out what you're going to do...

I say she needs lots of birds and carrying around those feathers every night. You may need to make it a game to get her to start retrieving with enthusiasm again. I would refrain from any modified version of force. Sometimes that is an avenue needed to get a dog retrieving, but it sounds like yours is/was already there. Plus even a 'modified' force regimen will take longer than the 10 days we have till duck opener. Once she is reliably bringing back birds that you are giving and throwing for her, set up a full duck hunt in your yard. Boat, decoys, calls, starter pistol, birds etc. She was plain overwhelmed... too much, too quick. It is not in the dogs instinct to understand 'the hunt', and all that goes with it. That is all conditioned training. The more she is exposed to the various aspects of hunting throughout her young life, the less she needs to figure out when that day arrives.

If you want to go the full force fetch route, she may not be able to duck hunt this year. It is a 4-6 week regimen and retrieving and hunting are not a part of it. Forcing her after the season would be the better route. (and probably mine at this point) Get her 'high' on birds and the whole hunt routine and then work in the force fetch after the season. It is easily done in the garage or basement at 1st and can be moved out to the drive afterwards.

Her shaking in the blind, was probably less caused by the air temp than nerves. She was already in that predictament a few weeks back goose hunting and it wasn't neccasarily a positive experience. I highly doubt that even an inside dog w/o a vest would've had problems with those temps. But an inside or outside dog with a vest, should've remained comfortable. Taking her away from that hunt was probably a good thing to have happened.

So I guess, I'd do what it takes to salvage your season. Lots of 'fun' and positive reinforcement over the next 2 weeks. Let her carry around those birds a lot! Take her for walks. let her carry them a hundred yards at a time before you have her deliver them to you. Let her know that she is "good"! Get her excited to see them. Buy some pigeons or chuckars and get her used to picking up live birds. Break a wing and leg and get her used to retrieving a live cripple too. That will be the next hurdle she will need to deal with when out hunting. Throw some birds in the water for her also, so she can start to relate birds and water together... lots to do and only a little time, but stay focused and work every day (twice would even be better) and don't get frustrated along the way if things don't go real smooth in the blind. Keep working with her and make it all positive. SHe will start to put it all together. It should get a little better each outing.

Good Luck!

Ken

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Surface Tension

I started to reply but then Ken it nailed.

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Ufatz

The first sentence in your post tells me a great deal. Your dog is "...14 months old." A lot has happened to him in a relatively short time. It does not appear you are doing anything wrong. The guys are giving good advice. Skip the FF for now (I do not use it anyway but won't argue about it) and just keep on working the dog. More birds the best idea. More hunting even better. Patience. Come back and talk to us next year at this time. Have fun with your pal. He'll "snap out" of it and you'll be delighted that you are such a gread dog trainer!! grin.gif

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SSSTaxidermy

Thanks for the advice...I appreciate it...Well just an update on what happened so far. When I got home from work that night after writing the post. It seamed like my pup had a hole new "bounce" in her step, when I got out of the truck. Something I hadn't seen in a few days. My wife is home during the day so our dog isn't kenneled all that much during normal working hours, and she stated she felt the pup was laying around more the past days. Sleeping in "her spot" more and stuff like that. Nothing that would raise a red flag, because she would still "come" when called, obeyed simple obedience commands, ate fine, stools were good...But it could be a possibility, which I'm not sure, she might have been sick/run-down or something? I don't know. I have a vet check up scheduled for her next week. But whatever it was, seemed to pass. Like I said, when I arrived home and I seen the excitement again. And I'm sure you lab owners out there know exactly what I am talking about, the tail-a-waggin' feverishly, the legs prancing and that look of "hurry, hurry, hurry, I need some attention". So, I said to myself, let my grab the deadfowl dummy and see what happens. BANG..It was like the last 4-5 days didn't exist. I'm still taking it very slow, just in case. I've purchased real birds and have been waking up extra early before work to train with her, and spending a great deal of time with her in the evening. Keeping the sessions very short, but having a number of them. I try to leave each session with her wanting more. Training sessions only happen with birds, no more scented dummies. She's reacted very well to the live birds and if what she going through was confidence issues, this is definatly helping. Granted still a work in process and willing to take it slow, but me as a dog owner wanting to one day, spend every stinkin chance I can, out hunting with her. And what I experianced the past few days, made me stressed out and feeling sick to the stomach as well. Maybe I was the one with the confidance issues and she was feeding off that. I maybe need to let her natual instinct ablilies take contol, I can guide her, but learn to trust and have confidance in that. I don't know, its all food for thought for me. Just wanted to say thanks again.

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LABS4ME

Sounds like you two are on the right track! Nothing is 'overnight' when training a gun dog. Keep up the training and all will turn out well. Keep us posted on how her next hunt goes...

Good Luck!

Ken

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