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8 month old retriever, what now?

I have two questions, the first one is on retrieving. I am wondering on how to continue the training with him. He is currently an 8-month-old lab. At about 6 months, I had him retrieving virtually perfectly. He would only go fetch when released and he would deliver to my hand about 90% of the time. I then had him neutered, and after some complications from the surgery, we would out of training for about a month. He was put on cage rest and other things for this time. But, after we started training he no longer wanted to retrieve it back to me, and sometimes not even pick it up. Well I have been working with him for probably three weeks since he was allowed to have exercise again. And in this time we went through him wanting to play chase and everything else, so I started training him from the beginning. I ended up using a check cord on him to get him to retrieve back to me. But I have not forced to only fetch after released yet. After a lot of patience I can now get him to retrieve about 5-10 times without the check cord, then he decides he wants to drop it about 5-10 feet in front of me. I have been trying to command him "Pick it Up", he is learning that, and some times after that he will come to me but sometimes he will run from me. No matter what I do it takes a lot of work to get him to bring it to me after that. He has just learned all my tricks I think. I play fetch with him about three times a day. Do you think it would help to not use the check cord and just throw it about 5 times at each session (3 per day). Or should I use the check cord with a short rope play for a longer time. My worry with using check cords is trying to get him to eventually listen with out it. Do you also think I should start requiring him to be released to fetch, he will do it, but I thought I should make sure he fetches well first. Should I start that now or later (the requiring release to fetch).

The second question is concerning quartering a field or working in woods. It seems to me to be a personal preference whether or not you need to train the quartering or allow them to work their own pattern. Will all dogs develop their own pattern while hunting or do I need to train the quartering? I take him on walks through the woods, but he does not go in the woods very much, he usually stays on the trail. Is their anything I can do to start getting him to try flushing birds, or at least going off the trail while on the walks. Do I need to train the quatering.

Thanks for the Help, Sorry so long.

Your young dog sounds like he is enthusiastic and energetic pup. He either does not know what you expect of him or more likely does not feel compelled to meet your expectations.

I noted a few of observations while reading your description.

First, you are training this pup a lot. He starts to get sloppy after 5-10 retrieves and you train several times a day. Even my advanced senior and master dogs rarely get that many retrieves in a day. I would cut way back on your retrieving. You are boring the poor pup and he has taken to making his own game out of it. For example, I am currently running a young 10 month old pup in senior stakes that never got more than one or two retrieves per session for seven months. This keeps the dog hot for the game.

Second, you have not forced the dog to retrieve. I would recommend that you research the forced retrieve. I have written articles on this panel as have other trainers regarding the advantages of a trained retrieve. I won't re-hash the details here but I will tell you that without a trained and disciplined forced retrieve, quality retriever work is nearly impossible to achieve.

Third, the dog is running from you during training. A large part of retrieving is the dog coming back to you, otherwise you have a de-triever. You must break the training into small parts. Teach a reliable recall without the bumper. You may use food or some other technique but make sure the dog will reliably come when called, then put the bumper back in the picture after the force fetch is complete.

Fourth, you are trying to require the dog to be steady until released for the bumper. This is premature. I like to see the pup crazy about retrieving and finished on the force fetch before I ever start to steady the pup. Too much pressure to steady a pup too early will kill his desire to retrieve and it may explain why he does not want to come back to you.

Here is the formula I use:
  1. Build drive and desire for the bumper and birds. No control, just a fun bumper or two per session, then put him up.
  2. Teach a reliable recall away from retrieving.
  3. A structured and disciplined force fetch program.
  4. Begin marking with pup under restraint, leash, collar or held in arms.
  5. Demand clean delivery to hand.
  6. Begin steadying process
  7. Begin multiple marks

An approach like this will assure that you balance drive and control so that you will have and enthusiastic retriever that is under your control.

Quartering is a personal choice, but you should know that if you do not require some discipline, you will have trouble with range and control.

Best of Luck

Bill Corcoran
Highland Retrievers
Highland Retriever

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