I got my Labrador from a lady who was considering sending him to the shelter cos she couldn't handle him. He was very poorly socialized, basically left to himself in a kennel since puppy-hood. He came to me at 17 months as a 100 pound package of excitement and unruliness, his idea of greeting was nipping at your hand and shoving his whole body into you when you knelt down to pet him, jumping, snatching stuff out of hands, body slamming, running away off leash, obnoxious and very exuberant with other dogs, you name it. Worst was he had no idea how to communicate with humans, so commands were absolutely alien to him. Luckily he wasn't abused so he loves people and attention. He is just skittish around new objects and sounds, and doesn't take your word for it, he needs to convince himself that anything new is not dangerous to him. I guess tats cos he grew up basically looking after himself.
Anyways, I just got him because of his killer handsome looks, but turns out his dad was a junior hunter and was a great guide dog at a local pheasant club. I had no idea about gun dog training but just on a hunch and a lot of reading, I started out on obedience training, focusing strictly on positive reinforcement and gentle handling but it wasn't all that bad cos he is real smart and catches on very fast as long as you can control his excitement. He's at a point now where he knows sit, stay, heel, whistle commands, an average recall and is even doing double retrieves in the yard, great marker and never gives up searching for bumpers even in heavy cover. I have been able to use force and discipline on him in the last month since we have bonded quite well (cuddles up next to me for the night) and there is a fair amount of trust.
I introduced him to pigeons but the problem was he would absolutely maul them and never want to give birds up, I didn't want to play chase with him so I let him kill a couple of birds or he left them near dead when he got bored. But earlier this week, I changed up my approach and put him on a 30 ft training leash before throwing out a clip wing and insisted on a steady heel before sending him. I had to reel him in and take the bird the first couple of times, but he started to give it up easier after that, and about the 8th retreive he came back and heeled with the bird all by himself, no chewing or mouthing, just waiting for me to take it and throw it out again, I was beyond pleased. So I gave him few fun throws and ended the awesome session on a happy note.
But what happened after that has me thrilled to bits, he went nuts over the remaining birds in the cage. He looked like he was possessed. This is a video of the same crazy birdiness display, I shot it he 4th time it happened!
YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt84SaiPgks
I am absolutely over the moon because this means he's got tons of motivation if we choose to advance. I would like to force fetch him at this point so that his retrieves are solid and I can start putting an electric collar on him but mainly so he understands that this is serious business. I feel the force breaking might help with his obedience because he tends to break rules when he is too distracted, especially on the recall, its also tough to keep him at 100% attention on some days (I never bore him out, my sessions are always 5 - 15 mins, I stop right away if he looks or acts uninterested). I would love your opinions on where you think he stands in terms of readiness for force fetching or if it is too early in the game. He is going to be my only dog for the next decade, so if I ruin him, that means neither him nor me hunt, so I don't want take any chances. I know going to a trainer is a common suggestion but I'm kinda addicted to the gun dog training hobby and don't really trust this kind of dog with a trainer who might mess him up with even a little extra pressure.