Labs that won't retrieve
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Thread: Labs that won't retrieve

  1. #1
    labluvR13 is offline Junior Member
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    DefaultLabs that won't retrieve

    I am meeting a rescued male Lab, about 3 years old, to consider him for adoption. I was told he has no interest in retrieving. This is new to me. We trained a black lab to be my daughter's service dog, and retrieving is most of what she does in an average day. Although this dog is not for service training, I had intended to train in a similar way to almost the same level. They think the dog might have been raised in an apartment and never got a chance to chase and retrieve. How can I check out the interest in learning to retrieve, or if that isn't possible, start the training to get him to retrieve. I did have a book that went into detail about teaching Take it and rewarding for the dog holding in it's mouth, then building up the time and the distance, by rewarding with praise and treats. Would it just be a patient process of repetition and praise/rewards or are there labs who simply won't retrieve. I think my husband misses handing something to my daughter's lab and telling her to take it to me, having someone to go get the paper, etc. I am not sure what a lab would be like, if it didn't like doing those things.
    Any advice would be welcomed. As I said, we trained extensively, and with professionals to help along the way. I don't mind taking the time, but with a 3 year old, is it too late?
    Thanks

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  3. #2
    imported_BigBrownDog is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Labs that won't retrieve



    No, 3 is not too late - but some dogs just don't have much drive to chase/retrieve. They might get the object once or twice and just watch you throw it the 3rd time.

    If the dog would not retreive - it could still do lots of obedience type of activity or just be a companion couch potato.

    Sharon

  4. #3
    Trickster's Avatar
    Trickster is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Labs that won't retrieve

    Many, many rescue dogs don't know how to play fetch. As you said yourself, the majority have never been given the opportunity and therefore don't know how.

    I would give him a few weeks to settle in first, then start training the retrieve. If he has no desire to retrieve at all, you will have to take it in baby steps. Does he like food? what I would do is pair something he really likes (being a Lab, I'll go ahead and assume that he likes to eat!), such as food, with the retrieve. Fetching alone isn't positive for him right now, so in his mind it is not worth doing. I would purchase any treat dispensing ball, stick a few small food rewards in there, let the dog sniff it and then get down on the floor and roll it around. What you could do is roll it between two people, so the dog is watching the movement of the ball and trying to catch it in order to get his reward. Do this for a week or two until the dog associates the movement and the catching of the ball with a positive consequence.

    You can then progress from rolling the toy indoors to outdoors. Same principal as before. After he is chasing the ball reliably, you can try him with a real ball, but only rewarding him after he brings it back.

    If you are consistant, with luck, you should be able to get him retrieving within a few weeks. He might not be crazy for it but you get certainly get most dogs retrieving reliably.

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  6. #4
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Labs that won't retrieve

    With most learning , e.g., people learning to speak a foreign language, the earlier in life it's done, then the more expert the end result will be;people who learn very young can be indistinguishable from native speakers. BUT people can also learn languages as adults and become effective communicators although they'll keep an obvious accent.

    In some other learning areas, e.g., dogs learning to be sociable and friendly and playful with other dogs, this does need to be learned and have much practice within the first 25 weeks of life or it may be forever grossly deficient. But regardless of the dog's age, you can teach 'older dogs many new tricks.'

    My first Lab, Bess, didn't retrieve for a few months. She'd run after things thrown but not bring them back. Once she learned, she was insatiable in wanting to fetch and retrieving was easily #1 on her all-time favorite things to do, even far preferred to eating food (and she was an absolute glutton).

    My second Lab, Puff, was never that interested in retrieving (or in food, either). We began her training when she was about 3 months old and it was always just before meal times when food would have its maximum effect as a reward. I made sure to keep the training short so it was fun and not work.

    The results are good enough. She'll pick up what I point to and bring it to me. She retrieves a Training Dummy 20-30X every morning on our 60 minute, 2 mile/3.2 km walk. Never with Bess's 100% speed and devotion but good enough to keep both of us trim.

    Almost all Labs ARE trainable.

    Approaching it as you would if training anything, you can train retrieving to almost any Lab. You may be surprised at the eventual result -- perhaps the retrieving instinct will awaken (if it's been asleep) and you'll end up helping your Lab discover its greatest joy. Or you may find that you've learned how to train a Lab not interested in fetching how to become a more proper Lab.
    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

  7. #5
    TheLimpShrimp is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Labs that won't retrieve

    I don't think there's any way to be sure, but it's quite likely he could discover the instinct. I got Honey at three months, and we immediately tested her retrieving desire. She would run after it, and even bring it part way back, but more likely get distracted and wander off. We attempted to train her, which went only so-so, and after a bit we gave up, although we still threw stuff for her to chase. A few years later, and when I went to try and train her again, she'd become a natural-born retriever, and now has a much stronger desire to retrieve than as a puppy.

  8. #6
    Tundra Aries Guest

    DefaultRe: Labs that won't retrieve

    Quote Originally Posted by Trickster
    Many, many rescue dogs don't know how to play fetch. As you said yourself, the majority have never been given the opportunity and therefore don't know how.

    I would give him a few weeks to settle in first, then start training the retrieve. If he has no desire to retrieve at all, you will have to take it in baby steps. Does he like food? what I would do is pair something he really likes (being a Lab, I'll go ahead and assume that he likes to eat!), such as food, with the retrieve. Fetching alone isn't positive for him right now, so in his mind it is not worth doing. I would purchase any treat dispensing ball, stick a few small food rewards in there, let the dog sniff it and then get down on the floor and roll it around. What you could do is roll it between two people, so the dog is watching the movement of the ball and trying to catch it in order to get his reward. Do this for a week or two until the dog associates the movement and the catching of the ball with a positive consequence.

    You can then progress from rolling the toy indoors to outdoors. Same principal as before. After he is chasing the ball reliably, you can try him with a real ball, but only rewarding him after he brings it back.

    If you are consistant, with luck, you should be able to get him retrieving within a few weeks. He might not be crazy for it but you get certainly get most dogs retrieving reliably.
    Good advice!!

  9. #7
    Scrolls01 Guest

    DefaultRe: Labs that won't retrieve

    Quote Originally Posted by TheLimpShrimp
    I don't think there's any way to be sure, but it's quite likely he could discover the instinct. I got Honey at three months, and we immediately tested her retrieving desire. She would run after it, and even bring it part way back, but more likely get distracted and wander off. We attempted to train her, which went only so-so, and after a bit we gave up, although we still threw stuff for her to chase. A few years later, and when I went to try and train her again, she'd become a natural-born retriever, and now has a much stronger desire to retrieve than as a puppy.
    Is that the same if they are rescue dogs who have never been trained to do such things? I'm glad I saw this post, cuz I also have the same problem with the Luckster, and I think it's also because he's never been taught to fetch or anything else. The reason I say this, is because the people who had him before never had time for him, so they took him to the pound, and that was how I got him. Since I've had him, I play with him, wrestle with him, throw him to the ground when we're playing, and so forth. Eventually, I would like to see his retriever instincts kick in, but feel they might not come in for another year or so.

  10. #8
    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Labs that won't retrieve

    Tom, below is a copy of a post I've often made. While it's written in terms of puppies, it
    applies as well to adult dogs. Be sure to keep it fun.

    ================================================== ==============
    Teaching to retrieve --

    For a puppy, if you have a blind hallway, you can start by rolling a ball or toy down the hall toward the blind end. The pup will run after it and has no choice but to come back to you. At that time, praise, and exchange a treat or a bit of kibble for the ball/toy along with more praise.

    Repeat 2-3 times. Always quit while it's still fun and interesting to your pup/dog.

    I didn't have a blind hallway and we used a 25 foot/8 m. kite string tied to a rubber toy dumbbell.

    We went out in the front yard and I'd throw it in first one direction, holding on to the bitter end (i.e., the non-toy end) of the line. Puff went after it and when she picked up the toy, I reeled back both Puff and the toy she was holding, praised her, and gave a treat in exchange for the toy. You might also say, "__(name)__, Give!" at the time you're offering the treat and getting the toy delivered to your hand. Then you'll be teaching another useful command: ("Give!").

    I threw it in a different direction next time. Repeated as above
    .

    You do need to vary the directions you throw it and the locations you use because young dogs can easily (too easily) become site-specific in their learning.

    E.g., a woman 5-6 years ago on JL complained that her Lab would retrieve when she sat in a particular chair in her living room and threw a toy from there but would not retrieve any place else. When you vary the locations and directions it helps them easily learn to generalize.

    ALWAYS KEEP THE RETRIEVING FUN, NEVER WORK.

    If your pup's enthusiasm starts lagging after 5 trials, drop to 3 or 4 the next time you try it. If it lags after 3 trials, drop to one for awhile until the interest and enthusiasm builds up.

    If you train just before normal feeding time, your pup's motivation for food will be higher and have greater reward effect.

    As your pup learns to retrieve and enjoys it, you can increase the # of trials.

    Many people assume that a Lab should retrieve automatically, without training.

    While SOME Labs may, probably the majority need some training to retrieve.

    Chasing after a moving object is native and instinctual for almost all dogs but bringing it back to someone else and giving it up is not and that part often needs training.

    However, for many Labs, once they learn to retrieve, it's often the thing they enjoy most in life and have an endurance for fetching greater than the arm endurance of the person throwing the object.

    That's not bad because most Labs need a lot of daily vigorous exercise to be docile and civil. "Fetch" is a wonderful way of meeting most of those needs.

    But a few Labs become too obsessed with retrieving and need to have limits imposed.

    And a very few get EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse) and become weak and shaky; this seems to be a genetic fault of a few Labs and is under investigation at a consortium of US & Canadian Vet colleges. The Labrador Retriever Club's website has a section on this.
    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

  11. #9
    imported_MilesMom is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Labs that won't retrieve

    Excellent post from Bob Pr. I have seen people teach corgis and other non-retrieving breeds to retrieve. The thing is you have to take baby steps (first get them used to holding the object). You have to make it seem like this "thing" is the greatest thing in the world and going to get it is like christmas morning. Then quit after only one or two retrieves.
    <br /><br />Grand River Run Genaration &quot;Miles&quot;&nbsp; CGC RN, RL1, RL2, RA, CW-SR, C-OB1, RL1X, RL3, RE

  12. #10
    my_black_lab_toby is offline Junior Member
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    DefaultRe: Labs that won't retrieve

    hmm...some labs are just "labrador racivers" not retrivers. dont force it. they are how they are

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