Hey all, I'm new to the forum and I'm wanting any and all advice I can get on waterfowl training my new year old chocolate, Annabelle. First I know to get real intelligent advice I must give some background on her and myself and the experience I've had with labs. Annabelle is not my first lab. I had a black (Pepper) for a solid 15 years before we decided to euthanize her in the summer of 08 due to severe arthritic pain. Anyways, after years without a companion I was ready for a new one and on thanksgiving day the opportunity was given to me. A friend had posted a pic on fb of a chocolate female that he had found wandering in his neighborhood and had seemed to have been released from the owner. I immediately responded and went to get her. She was clean with a collar but no tag which convinced me even more she had been "let go." I took her home and carefully watched her to get a feel for what kind of personality she had. She responded well to basic commands and took to her new home with ease. So after a few weeks of getting to know her I knew this was going to be a lab I could turn into an excellent bird dog. I started her on a Pedigree diet and had her spayed and began working with her. I was new to the formal training game at this depth so I read all I could before writing my game plan. I concluded that eventually I will use an electronic collar but it couldn't hurt to try a clicker to see what I could accomplish with that. After all she is approximately a year old and I wasn't sure if she had any formal training prior. I worked with her on basic commands, "heel" to come and "bit" to follow at my side. Shortly after I bought a decoy and began retriever training, using commands like "duck" and "fetch it up." She took to that with ease just as you would think. I can say "where's your duck" or simply "duck duck" and she will immediately get excited and find it. After that I introduced her to the water which I was scared to do being almost positive she had never seen a pond or open water before. I have a private 2 acre pond and she eased herself into it. She was even able to retrieve a dead fish floating nearby. Unfortunately my next move proved to be a mistake, I let off 1 shot from my 12 ga. and I knew right then this was going to be a challenge. She was very frightened even though I managed to get her to heel. As of today I can't even bring out a BB gun without her cowering and shaking violently. At this point I'm kinda stuck but I am looking forward to the summer when I can spend more time with her in the water and overcome this and any other problems I might encounter. Now that you can get a feel with my situation I would really appreciate any and all advice for a 23 year old newbie to gun dog training.
I don't know where you are from but are there any labrador clubs in your area? If you can find a club, AKC, NAHRA, HRC in your area, you can get with some experienced folks that can help you with Annabelle. Good luck.
Hello and welcome to the forum!
It sounds like she is gun shy now based on her reaction. Gun shyness can be fixed but it takes a lot of time. I know we are all anxious to get our dogs out in the field getting ducks and such but it takes months and months of training to make sure that experience is a fun one for both you and your pup.
Joining a hunting retriever club in your area can definitely help. There are also lots of great dvds and books available that will help you train your retriever. Smartworks by Evan Graham & Total Retreiver Training by Mike Lardy are two of the main retriever training programs most people are using. I would check into either of those and just start at the very beginning. Even though your pup is a year old I'd treat her as if she was just a young pup and start at the beginning.
Put the BB gun & shot gun away for a few months. Keep working on the basic obedience and building that retrieving desire. Get the dog so interested in retrieving that no matter what is going on around her she is focussed on the bird/object you are asking her to go get. Once she is so wild to retrieve you can start to associate that to the sound of the gun.
Depending on how bad the reaction was to the gun you may want to do retreiving only for a month or two before beginning introduction. Google gun introduction for retrievers and read the various articles that pop up.
I am in no way an expert but this is what I would do if your dog were mine. Once the dog is absolutely crazy about retrieving get an assistant. Take her out in the yard and have your helper drop a book on the ground the moment you release the throw. If she reacts in anyway at all increase the distance between you and the book dropper. Basically you want the thud of the book dropping(scarey thing) to be associated with the throw of the bumper(fun thing). As the dog starts to have a non-reaction you can move the book closer. Just do this a few times a day and gradually decrease the distance. Once you can drop the book a few feet from the dog and she has no reaction what so ever to it and is totally focussed on the bumper then you can up the anti. Basically you are training the dog that the sound that was once scarey really means a fun thing is about to happen.
Go to a gun club and park several miles away. Get her out and see if she reacts at all to any of the shots being fired in the distance. If you see so much as a flinch then get her out of there. If there is non-reaction do a few fun retrieves or obedience drills and just make sure that non-reaction continues. This whole process can take weeks or MONTHS it is really dependent on the dog.
Eventually you will want to work up to getting her in a field. Then have an assistant fire a gun as you launch a bumper. You may need to be 500 yards or further away at first and then over days/weeks work your way closer. Again go back a step if you see any type of reaction and only decrease distance when you see non-reaction repeatedly.
The concept behind this is that the sound of the gun needs to be associated to the ultimate reward, retrieving. Right now your dog does not know the gun means retrieving and for her it is a really loud hurtful noise that scared her silly. Even though you did not intend to, you trained her to be scared of the gun and/or loud noises in general.
Also she may be scared of the gun itself and not just the firing of it. If that is the case you may need to de-synthesize her to the presence of the gun as well.
Labs are extremely intelligent dogs and unfortunately we are often not as smart as they are! When it comes to gun dogs we often spend more time "untraining" things we trained unintentionally then we do teaching the dog new skills. Just be patient and have fun with her.
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