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Discussion Starter #1
Some background -- Misty is now 18 1/2 weeks old, a yellow lab. I hope to have her be a good pheasant/quail/grouse dog someday -- but I have never trained a dog before, and I am trying to learn HOW to train, while trying to train her, all at the same time.

I have been working with her and a "bumper," hoping to teach her to retrieve. I really don't know what I'm doing, but just trying to bring out her retrieving instict, while utilizing some of the basic commands I've taught her.

I started by just throwing the bumper, to see if she would chase it. She did. So, for the past month or so, I just worked with her to get used to going to get it when I threw it, and then (ideally) returning to me and giving it back. She does great with the retrieve -- lots of energy and enthusiasm to "go get it," but not so good with bringing it back. About 1/2 the time, she would simply sit down after getting the bumper and chew on it! ::) The other half of the time, she would run back toward me, but then veer off and lay down 5 or 10 feet from me and chew it. If I approached her, she would get up and run off another few feet. I would have to REALLY coax her to get her to me, and then to get her to let go of the bumper to do another retrieve.

With time, I found that clapping and making a big fuss when she got to the bumper, and then getting down on my knees and saying "good girl, good girl," could get her to run back to me with enthusiasm (as opposed simply grabbing the bumper and sitting right down to chew it) about 80 to 90 percent of the time. However, she STILL won't return right to me; she will still plop down a few feet from me to chew the bumper.

Today, I tried something different. I decided to incorporate more of what we'd already learned (basic commands) into this training, and see if it helped. I decided that instead of throwing the bumper and letting her immediately take off, I'd make her sit, and put her in a sit-stay, WHILE I threw the bumper. The first time, she took off and broke the stay. However, after a correction on that, the next time she was able to continue her sit-stay until I released her -- and then she took off full bore to the bumper. After a couple of retrieves, we had this down pat (I was so proud of her!). I could get her to sit for several seconds, after the bumper had rolled to a complete stop, just waiting for me give her her release command. I then tried to, when she ran back to my "vicinity," to have her sit, with the bumper in her mouth, and allow me to approach her without her running away. If she didn't run, and let me take the bumper from her, I gave her a treat.

We only had marginal success with this. She often would get a few feet from me and then plop down to chew -- and thus I couldn't even utilize the "sit" command (she was already laying). I tried to get her to "stay" while I approached; for the most part she would not. Other times, when she was not laying down yet, I would use the sit command, but she was too excited and ignored it.

So, my question -- is this a common issue when training retrieves? And also, what should I do to encourage her to come back to me, drop the bumper in my hand or at my foot, and then sit at my side waiting for the next retrieve?

Thanks,

Steve
 

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Take baby steps with Misty, she still is very young and has a very short attention span. I found it very useful to get young pups solid with the basic single commands. Sit,Stay,Down,Heel etc. I find it easier to train other things once they begin to understand the idea of training. Pups want to please their owners,learning is the vehicle for them to please you. I keep everything as simple as possible in the early stages.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
labs4life --

It would probably be good to get her a bit more solid on the basic single commands. She does well with sit, stay, down, etc. in the house -- but not always when she is excited or there are "distractions." So I could spend more time focusing on just those things and improving her obedience in other environments.

I guess I just worry that MY learning (how to train her) is taking so much time that I am wasting time I should be spending teaching her. Just yesterday, I saw here where someone posted a picture of their 4-month old lab with a duck in its mouth, and I said "uh, oh." I also ran into some guys training hunting labs at a pond a few weeks ago, and I told them I was interested in starting to train my lab to hunt. They asked how old she was, and I told them. Their response was "you are late." Finally, I am reading a book by Wolters -- "Game Dog," and this book would also suggest that I am "late." I guess that's part of what's driving me.

Steve
 

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I've come to believe that it is never too late to train. I know a few folks who've had great success with labs 1 to 1.5 years old who never retrieved a stick let alone a bird.

Is there a hunting club in you area? If you can join a club that has experience with field training, you could really accelerate yours and Gingers learning.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Not sure about a hunting club -- but I think those guys I ran into at that pond are a part of an informal "club." Not sure how formal they are, but they clearly seem to know what they are doing. There were about 5 of them, and they each had their dogs. One by one, they would bring them out of the kennels and let them train -- multiple retrieves, across water, with blank guns...a bunch of stuff I'd never seen done in person before, but boy was it amazing to see.

For now, I think I'm on my own, but I hope that's not TOO much of a hindrance...

Steve
 

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You're not even close to "late".

It sounds like you will use her for an upland type dog.......get her out in the woods, finding birds. Don't worry about what she does, just get her on birds. Don't worry about the retrieving. Get her on birds.

Here and there when you have some free time, do the traditional lab things........retrieving is the least important thing when you are hunting upland.

Work on your OB and get that tightened up in the next couple months, I don't start formal OB on the power bar until 6 months or so. Good OB is your structure to fall back on as you move up in your training.

Get her on birds.....did I mention that yet?

Labrador shooting dog is an excellent source for training an upland lab.

ps-get her on birds.

you want a bird dog.......you need birds.

have fun.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
gundogpa --

Do you think I might need to get her on birds? ;)

I'm glad to hear you don't think I'm "late." That's encouraging.

What exactly do you mean by "get her out in the woods and find birds"? (She likes to chase robins, does that count? :) ) Anyway, I live in central Oklahoma; the only game birds in the woods, right here, would be perhaps a quail or two, and lots of turkeys. The pheasant hunting I plan to do is a couple of hours north of here; the quail hunting will be 3-4 hours west of here -- up in the panhandle. Grouse hunting would only be done if I can get her back closer to home, in the Appalachians, at some point. Anyway, with it not being hunting season, and with the quail and pheasants a couple of hours at least from here, what exactly would you suggest? I know that the guys I ran into training their labs (they were training them for duck hunting) said to get her some live pigeons with the wings clipped -- but to be honest, I wasn't sure what the purpose of that was (I'm not planning to hunt pigeons!!). I wouldn't even know what to do if I HAD a live pigeon. Can you please fill me in here, as I am pretty clueless, as you can see. I am a life-long grouse/pheasant hunter, but have never hunted with dogs (until this past fall, when my neighbor who has english setters took me quail hunting with his dogs).

I will continue to tighten up our OB (presume you mean basic obedience). I would think in a couple of months, she will have the basics down quite well. Now, what do you mean "power bar?" I see that it is a training tool discussed in the book you recommended (Labrador Shooting Dog -- which I have added to my "to buy" list).

Anyway, any elaboration you can give regarding the "get her on birds" advice would be helpful.

Thanks!

Steve

P.S. what part of PA are you from? I grew up near Pittsburgh...
 

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Just yesterday, I saw here where someone posted a picture of their 4-month old lab with a duck in its mouth, and I said "uh, oh." I also ran into some guys training hunting labs at a pond a few weeks ago, and I told them I was interested in starting to train my lab to hunt. They asked how old she was, and I told them. Their response was "you are late." Finally, I am reading a book by Wolters -- "Game Dog," and this book would also suggest that I am "late." I guess that's part of what's driving me.
Ok -- I'll start by saying that we train VERY differently in this country, however at 18 weeks old she is FAR from being "late". We get dogs that are 2-3 years old starting at our training classes. Some don't do well (just as some puppies don't do well -- many simply don't have 'it', and therefore age is not a factor) and others make fantastic working dogs.

I think what you are doing is fine. I also think for her age you are expecting too much in terms of reliability. She is 18 weeks old. She won't be steady or have a reliable retrieve for some time yet. It takes a lot of work to achieve both of those things, especially the steady part.

However, she STILL won't return right to me; she will still plop down a few feet from me to chew the bumper.
This is a common problem. As soon as the dog is coming towards you with the retrieve, walk/jog away in the opposite direction. A dogs natural instinct is to follow so it would be very unlikely if she sat and chewed while you run off. Keep walking/jogging until the dog is trotting at heel with you. Then AS SOON AS she is at your side while in motion take hold of the dummy while it is in her mouth, give the 'HOLD' command, then make her 'SIT', then give the realease command. Praise like mad and repeat.
 

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I understand your problems with finding birds. But.....there is no way around it. if you want a bird dog, you need birds. You don't teach your dogs how to find birds in your back yard, she needs to get out in nature and scratch them up. Get in the woods and get her to explore, learn the sights and smells, learn about fences, learn the difference between a pheasant and a turkey. learn how the wind works, let her learn about grass and trees and how to find water. Teach her to stay "hooked up" to you no matter her range. She needs to learn that when she puts up a bird, it might get shot and might not....and she needs to know the difference. She needs to learn how to carry a cock pheasant and not get spurred. She needs to gain confidence in the woods......you get that by doing it.

If you think about it you are looking for very different things than a duck hunter. You want the dog to find the bird.....handle it for the gun, decide which bird to follow.......(what if it's a covey of quail, it's chaos there for a second.) Then she needs to mark, maybe trail and retrieve to hand.

In a blind they need different skills, marking for sure, Steady etc. but most of the time the bird is already dead when they are sent. You could probably teach a pretty good duck dog using dead birds only.......although she would have to learn about cripples for sure.

Throwing marks does not teach your dog to hunt.........know what I mean.

One thing you can do is play bumper hunt. Get yourself a half dozen canvas bumpers and some grouse scent. plant them. then influence her to them so she can find them. Now remember she can smell your tracks so really fling them as far as possible. Don't let her watch you do it. You can do things like that IN BETWEEN times when you're finding birds. I don't care if you have to drive a couple hours or not. You want a shure 'nuf bird dog........you need to find birds for her.

I'll challenge you here.......You expect your dog to learn everything right. You expect her to come to work everyday and get it done. You expect her to have a good attitude and put 100% effort in to what you're doing.

Hold yourself to the same standard.

You need to show her this is important to you.........if it's just a silly parlor trick to you, it will be for her as well. Drive 2 hours if you need to, knock on doors and get permission to run her close to home. Stop the car and let her jump in a new pond, show her grass....mountains, rivers, streams, thickets, big woods, swamps and farmland. Learn about birds yourself, what do they eat? Why did you find them in a certain spot? Why did they fly in that direction? You can bet she is uploading all that info into her brain each time it happens......you need to as well.

Have fun with it, but remember your commitment will probably be your success.....or failure.

Sorry for rambling.
 

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Steve,

As others have said, it is never too late especially at 18weeks. LOL!!
At this point I would not worry a whole lot about steadiness, especially if there is any question as to her desire. Either way I would put her on a long check cord. Use the cord to reel her back in enforcing your "here" command. Try not to give her any commands that you can't reinforce.
As well, get on a good training program. I would start with Amy and John Dahl's "10 Minute Retriever" available at most book stores.
Good luck,
Mike
 

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Mike Bons reminded me of the book "10 Minute Retriever" I bought a copy a few years ago when travelling and I find it very valuable regardless of what you want your Lab to do. It is chuck full of good, simple advice. I had purchased my copy at a Bass Pro Shop but I have seen copies in most outdoor stores.
 

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10 minute retriever is a good book for sure.......but the problem with most of the books on retrieving is.........they're about retrieving. :)

You won't see anything (or much) about actually finding birds. In the grouse woods or the pheasant field, retrieving is the least important skill they need. That's not to say you should ignore that part of your training......but is not enough to learn to retrieve doubles or blinds or handling even.

They need to learn their bird craft.

You have a friend with a setter.......does he throw bumper after bumper? I doubt it........keep that in mind as your training....what are you training for? What skill am I adding and will I ever use it in the kind of hunting I do.


I hunt strictly upland myself and have made birds my dogs manna. As they got older we train more for the traditional lab skills. They can run doubles and quads, easy blinds etc.......We do it because it's fun......it sure impresses folks sometimes and the 1 or 2 times I go out duck hunting it comes in handy. You're a grouse hunter.......what's the longest retrieve you ever saw......probably less that 100 yards. Ever get a double? I never have.....had a few chances but not many.

Think about this.......an upland lab has a different skill set than a duck dog.......sure they overlap. That's the cool thing about a lab, they can do it all. If you get a book.......there are a bunch of good ones, and you follow it completely you'll end up with a dandy retriever.....is that what you want?
 

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Well, you are not anything close to "late". In fact, it sounds like you are putting too much pressure on her at this stage. She's way too young for you to expect her to be steady and to come to heel and deliver to hand. Be careful or you will take all of the fun out of this for her.

Put her on a long line, throw a bird (a real one if you can), then let her go after it while it is in the air. You want to encourage her to go, go, go at this point. If you are making her wait until released you run the risk of her deciding this is really not so much fun after all. She's just a baby. When she picks up her bird, call "come" in a fun voice, and give her a tug on the long line to get her started in your direction. Try running backwards to encourage her to come on in to you. Don't "reel her in", just use the rope for corrective tugs as needed. When she comes to you just take the bird and make a big fuss over her. Lots of praise at this stage is what you want. Make it fun and keep it happy. Don't expect her to act like she is a grown dog.

The fastest way to ruin a retriever is to put too much pressure on them too early. I've seen a quote somewhere that says "you can put pressure on but you can't take it back". Very true.
 

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IMO [and many others!] this is Exactly what's wrong with Wolters ideas!
''correcting'' a tiny puppy because the owner feels pressure that ''it's too late'' is just sad.
let's just use common sense for a moment: your 5-year-old child LOOOVES to spell, can't get enough of it, always wants you to spell with him. you are proud as punch, and foresee a bright future for the bright little guy.
you encourage him to become a better, more enthusiastic, and always accurate speller by making him spell until he's bored & exhausted by it, smack him when he gets something wrong, and generally make it exactly like hard, worrisome work.........sound like a good idea????
as someone once said, use the Wolters books for coasters or something, go get yourself an up-to-date, Sensible training book! [i believe the actual suggestion was, that piled-up, they make a nice end table!]
 
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When I first got started, I bought the "Waterdog" book. I almost washed my dog out because she wasn't fitting into the unfair program. The best thing I ever done was throw away that book ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Holy cow --

Thanks everyone for all the great info. Need some time to absorb it, as I have been going/thinking in one direction, and am getting lots of advice which is conflicting with my current way of doing things. But, this is GOOD -- and it's why I posted the question. I want advice.

There is lots of common sense in these posts, which I appreciate. Clearly, asking my pup to sit-stay, and then throwing her a dummy (just because I say someone else do it that way) might not make sense, unless my ultimate goal was to duck hunt (it is not.) As gundogpa said -- throwing marks does not teach my dog to hunt. Guess I never really thought about it. I am trying to teach her things, but clearly I've been too focused on teaching "things," as opposed to being focused instead on what exactly it is I want her to DO! I feel like such a moron -- I should know better than that. I guess I'll chalk it up to inexperience, having never HAD (let alone TRAINED) a dog before.

So let me see here...

If I still lived in PA, my primary hunting would be Ruffed Grouse, followed at a distant second by Pheasant (I hunted TONS of grouse, pheasants on occasion when I lived there).

But, here in central Oklahoma, my hunting will be primarily quail (since that is what my neighbor/only local hunting buddy hunts), followed by Pheasant (unless I find a Pheasant hunting partner -- and then I would likely do equal amounts of pheasant and quail hunting).

Having said that -- I have only quail hunted once, so knowing what my dog needs to know for this task is uncertain, to some degree.

Basically, my neighbors dogs (the setters) run WAY WAY out ahead -- a couple hundred yards or more. But, when they get on a covey of birds, they will freeze and point, and not flush the birds until we catch up and get in shooting range. My neighbor says that in his mind, since my dog is not a "pointer," but would tend to be more of a "flusher," letting her run out there with his dogs would not work well. She'd find birds and charge in, whereas his will wait for us. He says that in his mind, my dog would serve us best in her capacity -- which is the retrieve. His dogs are not particularly good at this part of the hunt; he seems to feel that the best strategy would be for his dogs to run ahead and point, while my dog stayed close to me; then, when the point occurs, and the shooting begins, my dog could be "released" for a retrieve.

Now, if he is correct (seems logical to me, after experiencing my first quail hunt), then it would seem that training THIS type of skill into my dog would not be TOO dissimilar to training a duck dog (minus the water). In other words, I'd want her to mark, and then retrieve to hand.

However, what about pheasant hunting? I have never hunted pheasants with dogs; but my experience is generally finding pheasants in corn rows, pushing them to the end of the corn row (as they run ahead), and then they flush at the end of the corn row (where they run out of cover). Obviously, I've also had instances where the birds were holding in some sort of cover, and simply flushed when we got close (more similar to a ruffed grouse type scenario). Now, I'm trying to think (having never hunted pheasants with dogs before, and being far from an experienced pheasant hunter in the first place) about what I would want from my dog as a pheasant dog. I would think I'd want her to work close (maybe not as close as when quail hunting with my neighbor and his pointing dogs, but in gun range.) Then, I'd want her to flush, and then mark, sometimes trail an injured bird, and then retrieve to hand. So, as gundogpa said, the "hunting" portion for her would need to be learned, in ADDITION to the retrieve.

Thus far, is my thinking here on track???

Please let me know, before I continue on.

I'll probably finish the Wolters book -- from the perspective that ANY source of info usually has at least a few good points to it; but then I'll buy some other books. I'll get the 10-minute retriever, as several have recommended it. Though, gundogpa, you seem to imply that this is good for teaching RETRIEVES, but not hunting skills. Do you know of another book, or would you simply combine a book like the 10-minute retriever with lots of time spent with her walking and getting familiar out in the woods/fields/mountains etc.

Thanks so much everyone!

Oh, and gundogpa -- no, I never killed a double grouse hunting. Has anyone EVER done this??? ;) I'm lucky when I shoot a single -- those birds have that uncanny knack of flushing when you least expect it, startling you, and then putting whatever tree/grapevine/hill/whatever between you and them as soon as they flush. ::)

Steve
 

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you'll find a lot of people here that don't like Wolter's (and I'm new at this as well - just got my 7 week old pup) but I don't think its as worthless as a coaster. I also bought 10 minute retriever and think it is probably a better book, but I know guys that have trained excellent labs on Wolters method, and out hunts together have proved that they aren't completely worthless. I think using a combination of reading different sources, including websites like this one is your best method. But I would encourage you to get 10 minute retriever, excellent resource.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Interesting perspective, rahauge. Seems like "how to train a pup," be it for hunting, or basic obedience, or whatever, can evoke some pretty strong opinions in folks! I just try to take what I can from whatever I read (be it a book, or these forums, or whatever) -- knowing that some things will be helpful, and some might not. Having said that, I DO try to read things which others (who have been there, done that) say are helpful. From that perspective, I will be buying 10 minute retriever.

Steve
 
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