4 year old lab
Got a dog who is mine now, who is 4 years old. Chocolate Lab on the small side (averages 55 lbs). He listens fairly well although his attention span seems pretty short. He's never been hunted, but loves the water and I've had some pretty good success teaching him to heel. Anyhow I want to make him a hunting dog - is 4 years old too old? If he isn't I was wondering if anyone could point me to a good book to teach us, or alternately I would also be looking for someone who would maybe want to help me. I don't have enough money to pay for someone to teach him but I think it would be fun and good for us both. He loves being with me, and is with me almost everywhere I go. I haven't fired a weapon around him, and the one time I took him rabbit hunting he mostly just tore around scaring everything away for miles, we didn't mind too much - just turned a hunting trip into an armed hike.
Oh and I don't think I'm interested in hurting him to teach him anything.
There are a lot of great resources out there dvds, books and even some videos on youtube. As far as a dvd a good one that covers the basics is called "duck dog basics" by Chris Akin which you can purchase locally at sportsmans. You can also buy some dvds by Evan Graham which I also recommend. If you don't go that route go to youtube and play around you'll find that there are a lot of good informative videos. Search for "dog training at the line" this will produce some good short clips. Also a location will help if you're looking for a partner.
hope this helps,
I'd suggest that you get in touch with one of the retriever clubs. Midnight Sun Gun Dog club is a good one here in the valley. Also Baron Rea is good with a wide variety of dogs having run a Lab Rescue and also competes in hunt tests and field trials. He's more rounded in his training then a stricly field trial competitor. You don't have to commit to $100's a month to first have the dog assessed for desire. Once that's established you can make a plan for your dog.
Most books and CDs will require force to achieve the goal of a solid retiever. Until you know your dog's level of desire you can do some real damage with force. Most books will start with puppy training. While with an older untrained dog, you do the same thing but you are dealing with a lot of bad habits and a bigger dog to handle. Starting with basic obedience and a solid recall is a first step. Play fetch in short intervials in a small space with lots of reward.
I've had a "project" dog for about 4 years and just got her back to retrieving on land at 7 yrs of age. Someone had ruined her with lots of force. Probably a dog who did not have a lot of drive to begin with and did not fit into someones training plan, then thrown away. She is a fanatic retriever in water but Hold and Fetch are bad words in her mind. A perfect example of the result of a limited understanding of force on the part of the trainer.
One thing Im doing more is cross training to build a better relationship and its helping the attention span. Even just a few different activities like agility skills, jumps, tunnels, boardwalk using all positive feedback is getting the dog to look at me for fun even on a blind. Building a working partnership in all things. We are harnessing up for jogs, bike rides , and even a little weight pulling as well. I made all my yard equipment out of junk and PVC. Got harnesses and lines at musher swap meets all pretty cheaply plus they help you figure out how to hook them up. Mine don't really pull for long but we all get exercise and work together.
If the dog looses interest in any activity it's very hard to get them going so you have to be realistic about your expectations and creative to find their specific talents. He may never make a top retriever but you can know what you end up with you made yourself. It's very rewarding.
Clubs are listed in http://www.alaskadognews.com "club listing and calendar" link on the web site or in a print copy found at a variety of locations in the Valley and Anchorage.
Thanks guys I'll look into it! In the Anchorage area, live right by Taku lake as a matter of fact.
Get the book Water Dog by Walters plus what everyone else has said and no four years old isnt to old.