Dog retrieves everything but birds
My Choc. Lab is just now 4 yrs. When she was young pretty much her first year all we did was train. I started her out in the hall way and then in the yard with short retrieves and in the summer to a little pond by house. Then Hunting season came and I was really excited about how well the training went.
Fist time out the ducks come in. I pull one out of the flock and it lands in the pond I was hunting. Sage (her name) does not break stays right there waiting for me to tell her to fetch. I give the command and off she goes then she stops ten yards into it and comes back like, you want me to what with that thing? it looks nothing like my dummy.
I figure that she is just young and does not really get the idea yet.
Well here we are 3 years later and still the same problem. She will not retrieve birds. I have tried having her retrieve dead birds. I have tried having her retrieve dummies with the wings of dead birds attached.
What are some other things that I can do to get this dog to retrieve birds?
Do I have a lame dog? My brother took his 1 yr old lab out with just some basic training and his dog is bringing back birds for other hunters that are not even in the group.
force fetch or pray
Those are about the only 2 options that I know of. She has learned that there is no requirement to retrieve and no repercussions if she does not. Like many people, you are now in the position of having to break a habit and build a new one. Hind site is wonderful, but doesn't help a bit now.
From what I can tell in your writings, she will not pick up anything that looks, feels, or tastes like a duck. What about other birds? Is she eager? A hard charger? Afraid of her shadow?
If she is hard going and not afraid, but you do not want to force fetch, then buy some pigeons and/or banty roosters and start teasing her with live birds. Don't let her grab them if and when she decides to put her mouth on them, just keep teasing. Maybe let her mouth it once in a while. Keep building on her desire to please.
If she doesn't do it, then you must force fetch to be able to move ahead and have a dog that you can hunt over.
It may be your approach
How much prey drive does she have?
Does she use her nose to sniff game? Not just her bumper.
Every dog that comes here I kick in there prey drive. The dog goes on a long line and is introduced to shackled birds. Some may be shy of them at first but you can actually watch them start to become interested. Some, even puppies will stalk or try to pounce. I have them onalong line so they don't actually get to grab one.
Giving her too much retrieving can make it boring for her.
Starve her for a while on retrieving for about a week.
I would go back to the wings on a bumper then just go absolutley nuts with it. Make this thing the most wonderful thing. It's ok for a grown man to talk baby talk to his dog. Heck, it's what may get her motivated and into it. You have to in your body language and your tone let her know that picking it up is what you want. Have her retrieving only this bumper. The hopefully a bit later you can progress to birds.
I don't know what kind of bird exposure she had before you took her hunting. Sounds like you were hoping she would teach herself. She saw it as an unpleasant experience. That is now engrained in her head. You have to undo that now. She just needs to be conditioned to handling birds and introduced the proper way. So hopefully she won't continue turning her nose up.
If this won't work. Then force fetch is your only option.
I have heard about force fetching and I really wanted to stay away from it. However I did just some short research on it and it may be the way I have to go. I am going to try with live birds as suggested above first if that does not work then I will go to the force fetch. Will this work or will I just be reenforcing bad habits already set in?
Introducing live birds as a tease will not reinforce the habit she already has. This is something new and different. But keep up the tease. Make it her only play time. Pigeons are cheap and easy to keep and tough birds also. Banty roosters make a lot of noise and that may really turn a dog on. But then we do not know your dog, so if she is timid, don't use roosters.
You should think about teaching her to hold. I use a variety of objects, and often do it while sitting in the house or garage. You can make a game out of it and keep it low pressure. It will help later if she knows the hold command. Do not work on hold outside while you are trying to get her pumped up on birds. Make sure the 2 training periods are separate.
WL and I both ask for feedback on your dogs attitude, demeanor, drive, etc. It really helps us to know if the dog is a wall flower or a Ferrari. It also helps to know a bit about you, your background, and your expectations.
Why would you not want to force fetch? It does take time and patience, but the results reach far beyond just pick and tote. I would suggest you reconsider it.
My dogs deminor is very mellow I would not call her a wall-flower but she is not 120mph all the time either. She is very obiedant and a joy to train she picks things up very quickly.
When it comes time for training with the dummy she is totally ampped. It is just around birds that she balks. These have all be dead birds though. I am going to try and get some pigeons (do you now where I can get some?)and see how she does. hopefully she will become more birdie.
I know that the dog has desire to hunt. While sitting in the blind she will start to whine at the earliest sound of geese. I just don't know how to get her to make the assosiation between the dummy and the bird and that she is supposed to bring them both back.
From what you say I believe your problem is the proper introduction to birds. She just needs confidence in knowing what to do.
Another question I must ask. Is your dog fully used to the gun? She may be flaring the bird because she is relating the big bad boom to it. Then you have two cans of worms to try and fix. Gunshyness and reluctance to take birds. Which both corrolate together.
As far as birds. My kennel is just north of Palmer. PM if you wish to get together.
money well spent
Fisherman, if you did not know how to fix your car, would you seek professional help? Do you work on your own teeth? I see people year after year struggle on their own, or spend time with other trainers who mean well but may not have the depth and background to really be an asset.
There are pros in AK, at least one of which is active on this site. Think about using those services the same as any other professional you might need.
Her being mellow means we may not be able to push as fast as we might like, but that's ok as long as we recognize her limitations and work them to our advantage. Years ago I would have said force fetch or go home. That was before I got so old and only moderately smarter. We have offered several options that make sense. Just be sure that wherever you start, start with a plan and keep working on it. No shortcuts, and no being in a hurry. There are many good trainers in and around Anchor town, but I think a drive to Palmer area would be just the ticket.
gunshy she is not. As a matter of fact she responds really well to the sound. as soon as the gun goes off she is looking in the direction of I am aiming. I think that you are correct that she just needs to be properly introduce to birds and learn that the association between my gun going off means that there should be something for her to fetch. I will send you a p.m on birds.