FF or Back Off?

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FF or Back Off?

Postby rgw06001 » Sat Sep 21, 2013 3:53 pm

Newbie here. I'm new to the forum and new to dog training. I got a black lab back in January, so he's about 9 months old. We have been training him informally since we got him--here, sit, fetch--and he is decent with these commands. He's definitely not rock solid but a good foundation.

At about 6.5 months, I bought 10-minute Retriever by the Dahls. I know I waited too long to start formal gun dog training, but anywhere, here I am. I'm following the book's guidelines pretty closely and began to make some great progress. Mac was retrieving very enthusiastically on a scented bumper, using his nose to find hidden bumpers, retrieving from a pond near my house, etc. I had him do doubles and triples some and he was good to go.

One day, his enthusiasm just dropped off. He would run at the dummy, sniff it, look at me, then timidly walk a few steps away, then run back to me as if he had the thing in his mouth. I had been using a pretty regimented approach--making him wait on leash until I gave him the command to retrieve, making him drop it at my feet on command, etc.

He still heels well, sits on command, and follows very simply commands easily. Did I push him too fast with the formal training? The book I'm using emphasizing not pushing the dog beyond his stress limits and keeping things "playful" at first. Or, on the other hand, is he willfully rejecting my commands? If so, does that mean it's time for FF? I'm leaning towards the too-much-stress answer. I've been simplifying our training sessions (1-2x a day, 10 min at a time) and trying to keep things playful, and he's responding pretty well.

I searched several forums before asking--sorry if this a super common question and I've missed some obvious answers. Like I said, I'm new to this. I know that waiting so long to follow a consistent training pattern has surely set us back, but I'm looking for advice on how to move forward.
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Re: FF or Back Off?

Postby gomezmk » Sat Sep 21, 2013 5:43 pm

I'm an amateur also with my 10 month old black lab and I have a good friend who has trained duck hunting dogs in the past and he said the #1 rule with retrieving is to make it fun as much as you can. I always try to get my dog all crazy and goofy before I throw the dummy to build up his drive. My pup did also perk up some more when i threw a couple pigeons in the mix during a retrieve. I didn't get to crazy with FF but I did work a little bit with the HOLD command because she had a habit of dropping the dummy halfway during the retreive. Hope it helps.
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Re: FF or Back Off?

Postby rgw06001 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 7:38 am

I'm glad to hear you say that. Playful settings are seeming to help my dog already, but I have a friend who is really hounding me that the solution is force fetch. I haven't started on much FF stuff but I'm new, so I'm constantly looking for advice.

How ready is your 10-month lab for hunting? My friends are like, "Oh, 9 months, he's ready to hunt," but I'm just not sure we're there yet.
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Re: FF or Back Off?

Postby swampbilly 1980 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 9:22 am

rgw06001 wrote:One day, his enthusiasm just dropped off. He would run at the dummy, sniff it, look at me, then timidly walk a few steps away, then run back to me as if he had the thing in his mouth. I had been using a pretty regimented approach--making him wait on leash until I gave him the command to retrieve, making him drop it at my feet on command, etc.

When you ran marks before with your dog how many were you doing everyday?

Did I push him too fast with the formal training?

If you incorporated heavily structured Obedience lessons with retrieving instead of doing it separately from the git go, then you can suck the drive/enthusiasm right out of the dog. Lay the foundation first and bring 'em together later.

The book I'm using emphasizing not pushing the dog beyond his stress limits and keeping things "playful" at first. Or, on the other hand, is he willfully rejecting my commands?

It's possible- particularly if you're running a TON of meaningless marks everyday. The dog can get bored out of his mind.

If so, does that mean it's time for FF?

No not neccessarily.
FF' just doesn't re-program "retrieving desires" in a dog.
It could mean you need to re-enforce commands, and don't give a command if you can't re-enforce it.


I'm leaning towards the too-much-stress answer.

Only you would know if you've put too much stress on your dog...

..and-

I've been simplifying our training sessions (1-2x a day, 10 min at a time) and trying to keep things playful, and he's responding pretty well.

That's what you're doing now.
However, if you were doing a TON of marks before with all of this huge amount of structure with premature retrieving expectations you could've zapped your dogs' confidence.

I searched several forums before asking--sorry if this a super common question and I've missed some obvious answers. Like I said, I'm new to this. I know that waiting so long to follow a consistent training pattern has surely set us back, but I'm looking for advice on how to move forward.

You mentioned "one day" suddenly it was all gone. So how long ago was that "one day", and what have you been doing since that "one day".(?) And what is it that you can think of that would've caused your dog "that one day" to dink 'ya.

Don't want this to come across to be a "fix", but it sure sounds like perhaps your dog could use a heavy dose of some live birds.

rgw06001 wrote: My friends are like, "Oh, 9 months, he's ready to hunt," but I'm just not sure we're there yet.

:clapping: I'd keep that mindset! Those same "friends" are going to be awfully upset when/if you have to spend a half an hour trying to encourage your dog to pick up a bird while other ducks are wanting to decoy with all that commotion going on. :wink:
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Re: FF or Back Off?

Postby gomezmk » Sun Sep 22, 2013 11:02 am

At 10 months, I'm still working on having her OB rock solid because I'm screwed if she decides to screw off in the blind and embarrasses me at a refuge.
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Re: FF or Back Off?

Postby rgw06001 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 12:01 pm

Thanks for the advice swampbilly--you've hit the nail on the head. I couldn't give a number, but often around 8-10 marks a day, usually in 2 sessions. Since the lack of enthusiasm has started, I'm doing 2 or 3, twice a day. And his drive is definitely returning.

I want to introduce live birds but am having a really hard time finding any (SE Arkansas). I intro'd teal wings not long after the "one day". He was more into them than the dummies but I think still shocked from too much stress. I'm waiting to bring them back out until he's feeling confident again.

I think that "one day" he was just finally over-stressed. It was like two weeks ago. I was super happy about how obediently he was running these marks (which might have been too complicated for him, in reality) and so I probably ran too many, and he reached a tipping point. His age and late start on formal training were making me anxious. I have slowed things down and am framing everything as very fun. Also, I have been interrrupting retrieves with heel work and just chasing me around for fun. And, some days we don't even retrieve, we just work on heel and sit and come here.

I think we're back on the right track. I'm happy to hear you guys think so, too. I didn't think FF was the answer (because it seems like MORE stress) but, as I've mentioned, I'm inexperienced. Those friends--they're dangerous. I haven't actually hunted with their dogs, and I think they forget that my dude had a later start than their dogs.

Lovin this form, thanks for the advice everyone. I appreciate it and I know the pup does too!
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Re: FF or Back Off?

Postby Edge » Sun Sep 22, 2013 12:03 pm

gomezmk wrote:At 10 months, I'm still working on having her OB rock solid because I'm screwed if she decides to screw off in the blind and embarrasses me at a refuge.




That is a good lookin female.
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Re: FF or Back Off?

Postby Boatman » Sun Sep 22, 2013 12:06 pm

They can get bored. Change it up if you notice this happening. Any change can respark them. Different training spot,reverse yard,new bumper,ect. When I get a real duck out of the freezer my dog runs out and back like a bullet. Have fun keep it interesting for them.
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Re: FF or Back Off?

Postby rgw06001 » Sun Sep 22, 2013 1:00 pm

Any Arkansans got tips on finding pigeons around here? I haven't ever saved ducks (it's my first dog) and I hate to use chicks because I keep chickens and don't wanna entice the dog to get after them (anymore than he already is ha).
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Re: FF or Back Off?

Postby swampbilly 1980 » Mon Sep 23, 2013 4:54 am

rgw06001 wrote:Thanks for the advice swampbilly--you've hit the nail on the head. I couldn't give a number, but often around 8-10 marks a day, usually in 2 sessions. Since the lack of enthusiasm has started, I'm doing 2 or 3, twice a day. And his drive is definitely returning.

Hey you're welcome, hope it does help! :beer:
Know I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer around here, but do get lucky every now and then :lol3:

Don't want to come across as to NOT consider FF' either. Just believe it's a good idea for a trainer to troubleshoot what IS presently causing problems before anything else is considered.
In other words-
You could FF' the dog, (and yes, you'd see a difference), but the thing is , is that you can still suck the eagerness and drive out of a FF'd, collar trained dog too, by making the same mistakes one made before the dog was ever FF'd.
If it were me, I'd want my decision to FF' be more based off of goals that I've set for the future instead of an imminent problem, (that can be fixed), that I've "self inflicted" upon myself and the dog.

To tell you the truth- 8-10 marks during the course of a day split up isn't that bad. It's not what I'd consider a "TON of meaning less marks". But if you make it the doldrums for the dog with a lot of corrections, over and over again and the same 'ole, same' 'ole marks in the same place each session, pup could very well start losing confidence.
You want to keep pup successful, and end on success.
Lots of praise for success.
Challenge your dog with marks that are within' his level in training. For example tossing marks just inside some easy cover, let pup dig it out. Get the dog running over obstacles that you know your dog can navigate over .
Short-n-sweet-n---->successful.
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Re: FF or Back Off?

Postby OmegaRed » Mon Sep 23, 2013 12:54 pm

rgw06001 wrote:Any Arkansans got tips on finding pigeons around here? I haven't ever saved ducks (it's my first dog) and I hate to use chicks because I keep chickens and don't wanna entice the dog to get after them (anymore than he already is ha).

http://mumtazticloft.com/pigeonbreeders.asp

craigslist

or trap them. i just built a trap, look through my old posts.

if you are getting them off a breeder, usually it's a good idea to not say you are using them for dog training as most pigeons are pets to these ppl. i would also start getting ahold of clubs etc. as they usually do big bulk buys and are happy to help folks out if you train there. also a good chance to hoookup with some ppl that know more than you (always a good thing - even if you don't know if at the time)
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