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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My wife and I rescued a lab from the local animal facility about a month ago and I'm trying to get him to play fetch.. He's roughly 2.5-3 years old; history is unknown as he was a stray.

Generally, there's too much else to be interested in. My back yard isn't that big, so I've got to go up to the beach or over to a local baseball field that's being used as a dog park.

Getting the ball isn't the problem. Hardy usually dives after the ball with tons of energy, maybe even rolls a couple of times in the process.

Now he has the ball and he either drops it where he is or tries to play keep away. It's usually the former. He'll mostly just sniff everything he can find.

Is this just an unfamiliarity with his surroundings or a short attention span or just a game he doesn't know? How can I get him to bring the ball back to me without playing keep away? I've tried treats. He'll just drop the ball and come running for the treat. then he just sits and waits for a treat, even if i try to throw the ball.

Also, we're going away for two weeks in march and we'd like to take him with us. We need to fly him in a crate...

any suggestions for airline approved crates? are there any pointers for approaching the travel day? i assume i should get him used to the crate prior to getting to the airport..

here he is begging for a treart after re-learning "down":

8,472 Posts
Thanks and congratulations on your rescue!

Below (in purple) is a copy of a post I've previously made on teaching retrieve; while it's written in terms of a puppy, it's equally true for grown Labs.

For help in training other things, I'll offer 3 more suggestions.

1) Read and follow a copy of Jean Donaldson's "Culture Clash" (see customer reviews in Amazon)

2) Search online for NILIF dog training (Nothing in Life is Free) -- very efficient and fast.

3) Pre-measure and bag each meal in advance. Take and use kibble from it for all treats/rewards in your training. That avoids overfeeding. Just a few pieces of small (raisin size) pieces of kibble are sufficient as a reward.

Below is a copy of a post I've often made.
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.


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 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.

(Hint: tennis balls can get mighty sloppy with dog saliva. You might consider a vinyl training dummy (2" x 12") from online sources such as www.gundogsupply.com We use the "Lucky Dog" brand. You can sling them pretty far if needed by the attached lanyard and it's usually spit free. They're about $11 (+S&H) for 3. But don't let the dog chew on them -- use them only for fetching.)
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