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Thread: Lab in a training rut

  1. #1

    Default Lab in a training rut

    We're in a training rut. He is easily distracted, and after about 5-10 minutes loses interest in retrieving dummies. For the first few minutes, he does well, responding to directional commands "over" to the left and right, short blind retrieves, and does well not breaking. But, then out of nowhere he decides to go off on his own program. Am I overestimating his attention span? He is about a year and half old yellow lab, neutered as well.

    Do we need to get back to basics? I know this is a broad question, just looking for some advice. Thanks.

  2. #2


    Has the dog been Force Fetched?
    "It's the journey that's important, with experience and knowledge to be gained along the way, in the company of our faithful dogs and our good friends."
    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007


    LFL asks a good question about force fetching. In addition, think about this. To me it sounds as if, based on what you note about the dog, that you may be doing too much control work. Control, when used too often, takes the edge off, especially when you may not have a really driven dog, or have built up the fun factors in retrieving.
    Blind work can be done without force fetching. So can marks. But when the dog does not perform, you have nothing to fall back to. You have not built a way into your program to make the dog finish the task. The dog learns that it can quit.
    Tell us a bit more about the basics you have done such as force fetch, marking drills, wagon wheel, "t" patterns, etc. Have there been any other issues? And how "crazy" is the dog about retrieving. Compare him now to back when he was 6 or 8 months old.

  4. #4


    Good points mentioned before. But before force fetch.....How solid is your basics? If your dog won't go, stop and come then your dog isn't ready for drill work. These are taught during basics.
    Also how experienced is this dog in running marks. What have you done to develop a good working attitude? What have you done to build momentum? These are things to develop that working attitude. When you start doing drill work you also need to have a balance in your training. You can't run drill after drill without (words of Rex Carr) leaving something in it for the dog. Somethings are as simple as a fun bumper .... that is needed to boost the attitude. Remember also to talk to your dog. Say "good boy" when they do well.
    But at the same time your corrections when they do wrong needs to be fair. If you come across too hard you will make a dog afraid to do the work for fear of failure. The dog will have no confidence at all if you come down tooo hard.

    From what you are some pointers.
    * Try the "good dog" trick. Maybe you just need to communicate to your dog more to boost his confidence when he is doing good.
    * Try ending the lesson well before you know that the dog will quit on you.
    * Use a long line on the dog. You then can enforce compliance. He can't go no where but back to you.
    *Work on your basics more. Go, stop and come.

  5. #5
    New member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Kink Alaska surrounded by sled dog kennels, a fabulous view and lots of hunting.

    Default Balance

    When I trained with Dan DeVos -Canadian FT pro - NCFC winner he emphasized balance.
    There had to be an equal number of controled blinds to marks as WL said to keep the momentum. He did the same with drills. Push the drill just before the dog starts to loose interest or get stressed then give them a happy bumper off to the side. He could work the drill longer embedding a response and end in a happy state of mind.

    I'm realizing that with Molly. Though she does not walk away, she weaves through my legs to get away from pressure, a happy bumper brings her back to do the "back" to a pile with more enthusiasm.

    My dogs are teaching me something every day rather then the other way around I think.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2007


    sounds like he's simply bored..are you doing the same thing in the same place on a daily basis? Since he does well the first 5-10 minutes, start conditioning his work ethic by working for 5 minutes and put him up wanting more. Gradually add some time as his attitude allows, until he's working a full session. Gotta keep it fun for the young ones.

  7. #7


    Thanks for the replies.

    LFL, no he has not been force fetched.

    Akriverrat, he is still pretty enthusiastic about retrieving. I can throw a dummy into water for a long time and he never quits, just swims slower.
    After we walk back to the house, if I flip his rawhide down the hall or his football he goes crazy after it, even after "working" with training dummies in the field behind the house for a while.

    Our training routine generally involves the following:

    We walk for a little bit to warm up and get him used to the heel position for working.

    I do some basic retrieves, throw the dummy out, and send him after it. He does very well not breaking, though you can see his anticipation and eagerness to be turned loose after it. He holds still, focused, and poised.

    I command "sit", walk out in front of him, throw a dummy to his left and one to his right, and one behind him, and then give him a directional arm signal and the command "over". He does well with this.

    We'll do blind retrieves, I use a pile of dummies. Throw one into the pile, send him after it, and then continue to send him to the pile for a dummy.

    On the way back him, we work on sit, stay, heel, lay down, from a distance using hand signals.

    WR, thanks for the advice on basics. I try to do those during every training session. Also, quitting on a good note is a good idea. I've started to do that and it seems to be working. Shorter training sessions, yes, but we are both happy at the end. I think dogs can sense when you are dissappointed and frustrated, and they definitely don't respond positively to training when they know you are frustrated with them.

    Thanks for the advice I'm knew at this so I welcome any suggestions.

  8. #8


    Hmmm........It's kinda hard to give you advice without really seeing where you are in training with your dog.
    Sounds like you have some good training already started. Some where along the way though you aren't communicating properly or have taken your lesson too far and lost the dogs interest.
    As a rule I try to keep things short. Think ahead and plan your lesson.
    Don't try to teach too many things during a session. Don't work on whistle sits and lining drills at the same time as an example.
    It would be helpful if you have a syllabus to follow. By that way you aren't skipping steps that will leave voids in your foundation to build from. If you don't have good basics it will show up as you try to progress your dog on more advanced training. It will come back and bite you in the keester.
    I think it's great you have him steady. Lining to a pile and the casting directions sound good as well. But have you taught him to sit to a whistle? Is he collar conditioned? Used properly the collar is just another tool for the trainer to have available. It definitely is a great tool for having control at a distance. Dogs learn so much quicker and with less stress as compared to old methods.
    If you are local maybe we can hook up. I have training groups getting together on a regular basis.

  9. #9


    Thanks for the advice. Ya know, sometimes I do wonder if I am going too fast or trying to do too much. He is only a year and a half old, and I was out of town for about 7 months of that so it was just him and the wife feeding him table scraps. I was mindful that I had to start slow when I got back, but maybe I've tried to progress too fast.

    What do you mean by collar conditioned?

    At the moment I am working on sitting to a whistle. I give him the command "sit", accompanied by a short whistle blast. Then praise him of course. He was starting to come around and sit on the whistle only, then I had to leave town for a few weeks.

    I'm not in Alaska at the moment, but thanks for the invite. Training groups are definitely something I'm interested in. Who knows, maybe I have a great dog who is right where he should be except for his inexperienced trainer with too high expectations

    Thanks again

  10. #10


    So what is your expectation? Now that you have brought that up. Where do you want him to be in training. Do you have a goal in mind?
    Collar the use of an electronic collar to reinforce known commands. Such as "Go, Stop and Come" as I mentioned earlier.
    Don't worry about your time frame and his age. Just remember where you left off. Keep in mind you may have to back track a little in order to gain back what was lost while you were gone. Of course they can learn quicker when there is a more consistent basis of training.
    I'd still like to meet with you and see where you are with your dog. There may be such things as your timing on commands and or corrections that will make you and your dog sharper. Or a little different technique that will make more sense to you and maybe easier for your dog to learn a task you are trying to accomplish.

  11. #11


    As far as expectations, here's what I'd like to see in him by this fall:

    1. Sit still with me in the duck blind.

    2. Swim for ducks so I don't have to. He did well as a young dog last fall (2007, 6 months old). Though he was easily everything...he did well swimming for ducks. I gave him the command to retrieve and he got real excited but kind of confused since I didn't throw anything, anyway, I coaxed him into the water and threw a rock out to the duck. Once he saw the splash, he was able to mark and he went right after the duck. After that first one and for the remainder of the season, he did very well as long as I helped him with the mark by throwing a small rock in the vicinity of the duck. I think retrieving is not rocket science for him, that he does well, it's the marking I think he needs work on.

    3. The basics. I really dislike saying commands more than once (heel, sit). Interestingly enough, he stays very well, but we do a lot of work with it.

    4. Blind retrieves, I want him to go when I command regardless if he sees a duck fall or not. I guess this is a trust issue, so I use the pile of dummies to teach this.

    I will be back in Alaska for good this winter. I will definitely get together with you for some pointers on "Wrangell", that's his name.

    Thanks for the help.

  12. #12
    New member
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Kink Alaska surrounded by sled dog kennels, a fabulous view and lots of hunting.

    Default Repeating commands

    "I really dislike saying commands more than once (heel, sit). Interestingly enough, he stays very well, but we do a lot of work with it. "

    Me too,
    but I've learned something else in the last few years. Of course, demand sit the first time it's said but prolong the commmand with "Good, Sit" , " Good heel", "Good Stay". It's maintaining the behavior. I still say "stay" as a reenforcement, learned it in ring obedience so you can step away from the dog and its clear they should not "Heel" but I use it to reenforce the Sit.

    I think marker training is interesting too. The only problem I have is training myself for competion and not talking to the dog until the judge gives the release. Then "Good, sit,(reenforcing the dog did it right) "mark it " or "dead bird".

    Now, If anyone can come up with a good way to train everyone else in the house ......
    "Lucy, Lucy, Lucy" means nothing. "oh she knows what I want!" Really.


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