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Playing chase instead of retrieving

We have a 4 month old black lab that is doing very well with a whistle command. He is also doing blind retrieves with real ducks. The problem is that he brings the duck back to you and about 3 feet from you he wants to play chase or will not give it to you. We do not know what to do. Do you have any suggestions? Also, how old do you reccomend a puppy be before taking them to the duck blind? He has been exposed to gun shots and water but I still think he is just too young to go even to watch. What do you think?



I am always amazed at how young people want their dog to start working. When I used to train police dogs, you wouldn't even look at a dog under 12-18 months of age.

It is perfectly normal and acceptable for a four month old pup to want to play with the bird. You are actually making the problem worse by using real birds at such a young age. The real bird is very exciting to a young dog and he will naturally want to keep it rather than give it up.

I assume from your question that this dog will be a hunting dog and not a hunt test/field trial prospect. Many hunting dog owners tend to rush the dog into the field way before he's ready. There is an awful lot of ground work that should be properly laid before you can take a retriever afield and expect any kind of respectable work.

I would recommend the following:

  1. Forget about taking him to the blind this season, you will only compound your problems.

  2. Continue to expose the dog to gunfire and water that is a reasonable temperature. These are excellent socialization areas for a pup.

  3. Use a plastic or vinyl retrieving bumper and make fetching it a real game with lots of praise for returning it to you.

  4. Look into a retriever club or pro trainer that will help you force fetch the dog at the appropriate age (6-8 months). This will ensure a reliable delivery to hand on every retrieve. See my answers to the force fetch questions on

  5. Let your pup be a puppy and enjoy him. There is plenty of time left in his life for training, teaching and hunting. Don't be in a hurry, your dog will be the one who suffers from it.

Best of Luck

Bill Corcoran
Highland Retriever Kennel
Highland Retriever Kennel

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