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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a lab that is just under a year old. I took her on several hunts this fall and she made a couple dozen retrieves on downed birds. I have been training with her since I got her. She has her obedience down and is great at retrieving bumpers in the back yard. Whenever I get the bumper out she goes nuts. At night in the house she brings me toys to throw for her, until I'm sick of it. I'm pretty sure she has the retrieving drive.

There is a horse pasture (~10 acres) right behind my place that is occasionally occupied with 2 horses. It has open grass as well as thick brush along a river. . . perfect for training. I have been taking her there almost daily since day 1, getting her used to the environment. She has the backyard routine down and I want to start extending her with more challenging retrieves. The problem is that when we get into the field she is so into checking everything out that she couldn't give a darn about the bumper. Some days are better and I have tried to be patient with her on this but I expected her to be over the "newness" by now. Also, when I take her to the city park she is not as distracted and will make retrieves when I get excited and act like an idiot. My thinking is that there are too many smells in the field. Has anyone had this before? I know I'm going to have to force fetch her, but I am trying to keep the retrieving a game so that I don't kill her drive. Maybe it is time for the force. Any thoughts?
 

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If done properly, the Force Fetch will not kill her drive. As a matter of fact, or I guess really opinion, it increases the drive of a dog.

But for the scenario you describe, it is more than just the force fetch. It is environmental and to a lesser extent obedience. Force fetching will help, but you want the dog to not care much about all the new smells, have her be 'used' to new stuff.

Just my opinion...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Steve,

Thanks for your response. Just for edification she is well socialized. Since I got her I have taken her everywhere dogs are allowed. . . the park, school, company picnics, Sportsman's Warehouse, Pet Co., around town, friends houses, skiing, long road trips, you name it and she has probably been there. There isn't too much she hasn't seen.

For some reason when she gets in the field, or where other animals have been, her nose is glued to the ground. I don't know how much more "used to" things I can get her. Like I said before, we've been going to this same field almost daily since May. I have her walk in front of me to sort of simulate hunting. I've even gotten her to quarter to hand signals. Maybe I'll take her out there for a few hours and just let her sniff until there is nothing left to sniff. I'm not convinced this will work though. She went through this kind of thing in the back yard when she was really little, but got over it. I was expecting the same with the field as she got older. I'm stumped.
 

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Since you have been taking her there since she was little I don't think it is an enviromental problem. She retrieves dummys in the back yard and she retrieves ducks but she won't fetch in the field? Sounds like she does not know what is expected of her. I would suggest that you for the next week or two (or however long it takes) work on obidience and retrieves only in that field. I would let her do whatever she wants for the first 15 minutes, let her blow the nervous energy off then make her sit and stay (my guess is she'll try to break) while you walk around or just stand there. Make her heel (off lead) and walk around the field, if she breaks sit her down and start again. When she starts paying attention to you ( which probably is going to take some work from the sounds of it) then you can work on your retrieves. Frankly I think the dog is just not paying attention to you and untill you accomplish that everything else will just be when the dog feels like it. By the way, if you can stand your dog in a field with 50 other dogs and the dog keeps their eyes on you, waiting for your commands, you'll know you're making progress.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Bruce,

I'll give that a try, thanks. I feel like she is pretty good at obedience and usually listens pretty well, but at times gets distracted so she could definately be better. I'm pretty sure that she wouldn't do too well in a field with 50 other dogs. I'll work with her on the obedience more. On occassion she makes retreives in the field now, but commonly gets distracted by other things on the way back or won't even pick up the bumper because something catches her eye or nose. I'll try this approach for the next few weeks.

Thanks,
Matt
 

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Matt,

Sorry I didn't catch that in your original post. You clearly stated it, I just got hung up on that field. That, and I try to find reasons to tell people NOT to force fetch their dog, just so I'm not a broken record.

Some people would tell you that your dog doesn't have drive, but perhaps FOCUS or WORK ETHIC are better words. The stuff in the house is play versus retrieves. Perhaps even the work you do in your yard is more 'play' to HER? Did she remain focused during your time hunting? Maybe you could try NOT doing all of the 'fun' retrieves and save everything for the 'field'. Perhaps at that point she will be somewhat starved for some action and will give you more attention. Take a look at how she acts when you are working with her. There should be a clear line between work and play, and she should be able to distinguish between the two. If the line is too blurred between the two then you need to do whatever you can to clear things up for her. You said you have tried to make retrieving a game, maybe that is what it is to her. Now you are expecting more, but you need to demonstrate that to her.

That is the touchy feely approach. If you've always intended to force fetch your dog, I would go ahead with it. Season is over, so now is a good time. The force fetch will teach her that retrieving is not an option. It is a short cut to end results you desire. Just make sure it is done right. That and the e-collar will get your dog to the point where it will pay attention to you in a field with 50 other dogs. Neither make you mean or make it less fun for the dog. The dog will still have 'fun' on the retrieves, it just won't be a 'game' anymore. You'll be in control of when the 'games' are played.

Just my second opinion....

:mrgreen:
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
An update:

I worked on obedience with her in the field for the past week and a half (no retrieves). I brought the bumper out yesterday and today. The first couple of retrieves were not great, but I kept hammering on her obedience, making her come back even if she dropped the bumper. Then I would send her out to get it where she left it until she finally brought it to me. This happened a couple times yesterday. Finally she began to catch on that nothing else would happen until I had the bumper again. Today she made retreives and brought the bumper right back to me every time. Your suggestions worked!! Thanks for your help.

Steve, the heeling stick was a great suggestion.

Thanks again guys!
 

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harvey1b said:
I have a lab that is just under a year old. ...
it sounds like you are getting the results you are looking for. however, albeit late, i would like to add a couple of things to the great advice you have already received.

first, the part of your original post that i quoted above is one of the most important things to consider. this sounds to me a lot like immaturity in your dog. (not an insult) all puppies are curious about the new world around them. that being said, it seems more like this is an obedience issue. imo, there are good dogs and then there are great dogs. good dogs do what you want them to when they want to. great dogs do what you want them to when they don't. my guess is that she doesn't take you as seriously in the "field" as she does the backyard or duck blind. i can assure you, dog's are like kids, they will get away with whatever they can whenever they can. you may have (inadvertently) given the dog a reason to believe that she has more freedom in that field than the other locations. the dog needs to respond to your commands regardless of time/place/reason.

my advice, put the dog on a lead. even if it's nothing more than a nylon string or parachute cord. use single commands and plenty of reps to get the dog to do exactly what you want. don't give an inch with this. make it sit/stay/heel/etc and when the dog can do everything without any tension on the lead at all, then pull it off and go through the same drills. good luck...
 
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