Fixing a rescued Lab
(writen for new trainers)
When our rescued chocolate Lab Molly came home a few years ago, I started the usual field training routine I had always done with other Labs. She retreived for fun but as soon as "hold" and "fetch" were added she would not retrieve, seemed afraid of the bumpers and even the idea of sitting in heel made her shutter. After a month of ramping up pressure, (she'll have to give sometime) I gave up. I've trained with several NFC winning trainers and countless legendary amatures. I have a ton of hours with those folks learning and some success at the line. I thought these methods would work with her. Molly was 3-4 yrs old and it was 3 years ago. The old force techniques did not work on her. She would nearly have a seizure if I tried them, shoving her head through my legs or rolling on her back, she was very good at derailing the session. It made me angry and put me in no condition to train. So, Molly would just be a pet and an annoying one at that.
One day when we were training Lucy, our 4 year old, fetch crazy Lab at a pond, Molly went off to the other end of the pond. We kept an eye on where she was but were concentrating on Lucy. In the mean time Molly was Hoover-ing all the sticks out of the pond and putting them on the shore. I figured out that someone had force fetched her badly on land but never made it to water. Ideally you want full compliance on land so by the time you get to water the dog is away from you and conditioned to respond to your voice, hand and whistle commands. I still didnít work with her very much other then to take her to DockDogs where she was wild and jumping 20' but Iíd lost interest in forcing her to do something she did not want to do, only playing fetch with her a couple times a month--maybe.
I started thinking about training Molly again when I took her to a pond a month ago, just as our ice was clearing out. She was really interested in some ducks and she was doing ok on thrown bumpers now. I tried a sight blind; several bumpers placed where she could see them, and sent her walking her through each step, baiting the pile with a thrown bumper a few times then turning and walking back 20 yards. Blinds are not as exciting to dogs because they are not moving, just sitting there, static. We backed up so her retrieves were 25, 40 and 50 yards. I said "back" and she left somewhat slowly but gained speed as she realized where she was going, returning holding the bumper perfectly, came to heel position, sat and delivered to hand.
There is something very rewarding about pulling out buried desire. I think the lesson is that the dogs train us to train them. If something you learned to train does not work, watch closely to see what motivates the dog. They are telling you how to train them; we just have to learn to the language. http:// www.alaskadognews.com