Sam will be two in Sept. by the vet's guess. I've had him since last Sept. We are in Basic obedience II. He knows sit, stay, heel, wait, watch me, down, pretty much the basics. He is a calm good natured dog, no problem in the house, I take him with me everywhere I can, he's socialized etc. We've been working hard on come in the back yard with a long line attached. I can put him in a sit/stay, walk away (15-20 ft), wait, then call and he comes. I don't think we are at the point where he would come if there were serious other distractions, but we continue to work on it. We also use the NILIF system. I believe I am the pack leader in his eyes. he doesn't get on the furniture, or sleep in my bed. He waits for his food, and for me to go out doors first. All the above is background so you have an idea of where he is, discipline wise.
But here comes the question: He has a high prey drive and likes nothing better than to chase anything that you throw. I have screwed up this past year, because at the time I had no idea I might be interested in hunt tests, didn't even know what they were. And when we played ball I didn't care if he brought it right back to me or not. I was playing so that he would get exercise and run, and I thought if he was doing victory laps with the ball, that was running. So since last Sept. he's been allowed to chase the ball, run around with it, and bring it back when he was ready.
Now I've gotten interested in the hunt test stuff, and am working with a woman who also does that. I'm trying to undo the bad stuff I've taught him about frisking around with whatever he's gone to retrieve.
Here's what happens: I put the long line on him, we go in the back yard, we heel about 1/2 way down it so that he will be blocked by the back fence. I put him in a sit, tell him mark, wait several seconds, throw the bumper. He remains in the sit until I tell him to go get it. All very well up to this point.
He dashes out to get it, picks it up. I call him, and try to get the end of the line, which may be anywhere by then because he's begun the frisking. He lashes the bumper by its rope, sometimes picks up and lashes the line, and frisks around. I'm reeling him in, and he's playing/resisting all the way. I get him to me, and basically haul him around into the heel position, and it's all just a STRUGGLE. He may give me the bumper at that point, or he may resist. I read somewhere to use a long hall in order to restrict their movement, but I don't have one. We work on this twice a day for about 15 minutes at a time. We're on our third week of it now. I suppose maybe we've made a tiny bit of progress. I guess my question is to ask for suggestions/corrections about how I can do this better, and also to ask for a ball park guesstimate (and I know it depends on the trainer and the dog) as to how long it takes to unteach a bad habit I've let him get into.
Please be "gentle" with your answers. I am a complete novice at this as you can tell, but I'm reading lots of retriever training books, and watching videos, and working with someone who knows something about it. I'm trying!
Re: Question re fetching (x-posted to hunting forum)
The main thing is that Sam doesn't know what you really want from him. The rules of the game have changed. You need to step back to the very beginning and give Sam a chance to learn the new behavior.
I would start by keeping him on a very short line... maybe even your six foot leash. I wouldn't throw the ball or bumper out, but instead tell Sam to sit/stay or down/stay (you can practice doing both) and then you walk out six feet, set his ball/bumper on the ground, go back to him, release him from his sit/stay and have him "heel" beside you (get into position beside your leg). Then tell him to "take it" and hold the leash and go out there WITH him, point to it as tell him "take it, good boy!!" when he does and then you run backward toward the spot you started the exercise from... having him trot right in front of you so that when you stop he is in position. Tell him to "sit" and then "give it".
I hope I've made this simple to understand for you. Don't set Sam up to fail at this point. He needs to learn the game. You need to make the game easy for him to understand. Take it in baby steps. Do the above exercise for at least a week... a couple time per day if you can. Then add a little more distance to it but you STILL set the bumper out there, don't throw it yet. Really let him understand that once he has the bumper he needs to bring it back to you. Only then will he get his reward (the best food you can give him... I'm talking HIGH VALUE reward here).
When you are confident he is understanding, then gently toss the bumper out six feet, but you STILL go with him to retrieve it and still run backwards with him as he "brings it to you" with lots and lots of praise.
These are the "baby steps" of training. He will soon understand what you require of him and will soon be bring the bumper back to you on longer and longer retrieves.
Re: Question re fetching (x-posted to hunting forum)
I just wanted to add.... you certain can still "play" ball with Sam. During your play sessions let him be a fool and just play. But when you set him up in a "work" situation, be sure that he understands it is now time to focus and work on the task at hand. That's why, in the beginning, you will need to go with him to the bumper as he takes it and return to the "line" with him facing you.
I always seperate play from work with my dogs. I use play as reward. I will have Ruger do some work (heeling, agility, retrieve to hand) and the reward will be a toss of the ball... but he understands the difference now so I can do this.
You will need to step back, take things slow for awhile. Don't worry that by going out there and "helping" Sam to retrieve that you are killing his "prey" drive. Trust me. Once they see those ducks and hear the guns... the prey drive is at 100%. You just need to do your homework to get him "under control and focused".