Our lab is a city dog, and we do lots of walking in parks and city sidewalks. Like a good gun dog, she's obsessed with birds - anytime we come across a group of sparrows or pigeons on the sidewalk within 10-15 feet, she freezes, locks on point, then pounces/lunges toward them. She is pretty good about "leave it" in other tempting situations - passing a bike or a jogger - but with birds, she doesn't even hear me; I can't even get her to turn her head once she's seen them. It's annoying and it takes a lot of strength to hold her back which will only get worse as she gets bigger. The dang birds are everywhere.
I feel bad for her, because I know she's a bird dog, and these are positive instinctive behaviors! But in the city it's a pain. Is there some was to work WITH her instincts? How to people train pointers to "point" but not "flush?" In other words, I guess I don't mind if she stops to point at the birds, if we could eliminate the lunging/chasing.
I also try to let her chase birds free in the park/grassy areas, but she's only 5 mos, so I'm reluctant to let let her off leash.
Thanks for any advice/strategies!
So - sometimes it's OK to chase birds and other times it's not? How does she know that?
Try teaching her to watch you when you walk together and treat her for watching you. If she is focussed on you she won't be so easily distracted.
Sharon, Blaise and Diesel.
Good point Sharon about confusing to chase sometimes and not other times. A trainer suggested I let her chase birds when possible to "get it out of her system and show her that she'll never catch them anyway, and eventually she would realize it's not worth the effort." But I definitely see the point you're making. For me, it would be easier if she could be taught never to run after birds or cooperate when I tell her not to. But I'm trying to be sensitive to the fact that she's a retriever and these are inborn traits, so I don't want to be asking the impossible. I guess "steadiness" is what I'm looking for - the ability to leave it and walk on when I tell her to. I realize that's probably unrealistic self-control for a 5 month old, but I'd like to be training in that direction so when she she's older and bigger, she'll comply, rather than keep yanking toward birds. I like your suggestion of watching me while we walk, I'll work on that.
Peanut has caught birds, and Baloo's been awful close, I wouldn't bet on her not catching them. And then if she does good luck breaking the behaviour after THAT!
My two will give chase if off-leash in some scenarios, but not on-leash. I would intercept her before the lunge and distract with yummy treats, (REALLY) high value.
Baloo - 5 year old black lab
Peanut - 7 year old minpin
Monster - 3-ish year old frenchie/jack, rescue
My dogs have caught both birds and squirrels. Don't assume she won't keep trying.
I think that you can eventually have her differentiate which scenario/environment is OK for a certain behavior. But - she is a little young for that expectation at 5 months. Work on basic stuff (like watching you, recall, heeling, learning some self control).
Sharon, Blaise and Diesel.
Thank you Sharon and Kate, I really appreciate your comments; you've given me some good actionable pointers.