That's great -- training her to exchange the toy/training dummy for food -- it sure beats having to wreestle or chase her to get it. You can take some food out of her next measured meal to avoid overfeeding.but she usually only brings it back when i have food (lol), without food its a 50/50 ratio thing...
I think you may be training beyond her maturity to concentrate. Try to keep the training always fun for her. If she get's distracted or whiney, she's telling you "enough of this for now -- let's do something else!!"she's getting alot better on this, but after 10 mins or so she gets ansy or irritated because when you tell her a command, she'll start whining and do the command really slowly, or not at all... and thats with her dogfood as a reward... maybe i just need to get something that she likes more than dog food...
Are you aware of NILIF/Nothing in Life is Free puppy & dog training? It's a way of training at mealtimes. IMO it works great. You might google NILIF dog training -- there are several online descriptions. I used it with my Puff and was impressed with the results.
BTW, with my ♀ puppy, I found that every month or so from when she was about 5-6 months until she was a little over a year, it seemed as if she'd forget her training. My hunch is that it's because of all the hormonal changes going on. So I'd just go back to basics and NILIF and within 4-7 days she was back to a good level.
I'll ETA the protocol I used teaching Puff to retrieve. It emphasizes keeping it fun.
ETA: Below is a copy of a post I've often made.
Many people assume that a Lab should retrieve automatically, without training.
While SOME Labs do, probably the majority need some training to retrieve.
Chasing after a moving object is native and instinctual for almost all dogs but the bringing it back to someone and giving it up is not and that part usually 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.
However, 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 is a genetic fault of a few Labs and was investigated by a consortium of US & Canadian Vet colleges. The Labrador Retriever Club website has a section on this.
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 VERY 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 pieces of kibble exchanged for the toy will have greater reward effect.
As your pup learns to retrieve and enjoys it, you can gradually increase the # of trials.
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