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Thread: I need help getting my lab puppy to play fetch

  1. #1
    Junior Member Houston82's Avatar
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    Default I need help getting my lab puppy to play fetch

    Good day! I'm completely new to retriever training, and need some help getting my lab puppy to love retrieving a dummy.

    She is a chocolate labrador, American/field-type, whelped in early Dec 2013. So, she's about 9.5 weeks old at the time of this posting. We've had her since 49 days old. I want to get her to LOVE playing fetch while she's young, before it's too late. If possible, I'd prefer never to use punishment/e-collar methods if avoidable, and ideally want to "get it right the first time."

    Goal: To get the pup to love playing fetch (with a canvas dummy) so much that she'll play nonstop for 60+ minutes.


    I have been reading Richard Wolters' book "Game Dog" which tells me to get the pup excited by twirling the dummy, throwing it, not holding the dummy long between throws, and basically get the pup to love fetch more than any other activity (e.g. more than tug-of-war, keep-away, catch & shake, etc.). Then, once she loves fetch, we can build on that foundation with retrieving dead birds, retrieving clipped birds, etc.

    Problem is: She's already been introduced to a number of squeaky toys, which have taken her interest more than when I try to play fetch with her.

    The first week we had her, she was fetching for a bit (10X in a row at a distance of ~3 yards), and bringing to hand, but lately she's shown less and less interest. I have been giving her 1 tiny kibble as a treat (plus lots of praise) after each retrieve. Sometimes, after a retrieve, she'll want to tug with the canvas dummy instead of give it (or take it another direction away from me). Other times, she just watches the dummy fall and doesn't go after it.


    Pup is still very young, so I feel like we are still in that "magic window" of youth where the pup can still learn to love retrieving/fetching more than other activities in life. But the window is closing and I welcome any advice you can offer. I feel like if I can just get her on track to loving the game of fetch, the rest of Wolters' training will follow naturally and be easier for us. Also, I just bought Wildrose's book on Amazon and am waiting for it to arrive.

    Working in our favor:
    - responsive to her name
    - eager to please, and has energy to play
    - responds pretty well to "sit" and "come" commands
    - (sort of) enjoys playing fetch with a canvas dummy (sometimes, and only for short periods)
    - comes from good hunting/field lines
    - still young, under 10 weeks old

    Working against us:
    - prefers to bite/shake squeaky toys more than playing fetch
    - likes to bite/tug shoelaces, pants, blankets, plants, etc. (she's teething currently)
    - can lose interest in fetching a dummy after anywhere from 2-8 retrieves
    - when playing fetch, easily distracted by strangers or trying to eat mulch

    Limiting factors:
    - I'm a rookie at retriever training (and puppy training overall); I'm fairly clueless
    - not a lot of time for training, ~20 min in AM & PM each; I work a 9-5 job with no lunch hour
    - no backyard, and only a small front yard area (with plenty of distractions); a few parks nearby
    - cold weather (northern VA) seems to limit her interest in her outdoor play, especially at dusk
    - hired dogwalker (2X on weekdays) won't necessarily reinforce good behavior/ stop bad behavior
    - canvas dummy (3" standard size) is a bit big for her mouth to get around right now

    Some questions (but please give unsolicited advice, too, since I may not know what I'm missing):
    - Better to train her in the morning? After work? Both times of day?
    - Better to train before giving the dog a full meal, or after, or no difference?
    - Do you train using treats/kibble? Praise-only with no treats? Third option?
    - Should I box up all the squeaky toys and get rid of them?
    - Do you allow the dog to tug/pull the dummy a bit after a retrieve to hand? Or, do we need to stop that behavior from day 1?
    - Do you prefer Wolters, Wildrose, or another training method?
    - Basically, how do I get her to love playing fetch?
    - Anything else I'm missing?

    I'll be checking back in on this thread for a couple weeks, but feel free to reply directly to my Google mail address "palmtreegolfer"

    Cheers,
    Houston

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    First of all welcome to the forum and congratulations on your new pup. I am not going to comment on everything in your post except to say that your goal is unrealistic, counterproductive, and will most likely hinder not enhance the desire in your pup. Play for 60 mins should be out of the question. Throw 2-3 fun retrieves and put the pup up wanting more. That is the way to develop desire.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Evan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Marshall View Post
    First of all welcome to the forum and congratulations on your new pup. I am not going to comment on everything in your post except to say that your goal is unrealistic, counterproductive, and will most likely hinder not enhance the desire in your pup. Play for 60 mins should be out of the question. Throw 2-3 fun retrieves and put the pup up wanting more. That is the way to develop desire.
    That is correct. Leave your pup eagerly wanting more. Imprint the desire for more. Boredom is a poor formula for that.

    Evan
    "Prepare your dog in such a manner that the work he is normally called upon to do under-whelms him, not overwhelms him." ~ Evan Graham

    “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”

    ― George Bernard Shaw


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  4. #4
    Senior Member Wayne Nutt's Avatar
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    I agree with Tony. Retrieving toys at this point is what you want to do. Do it inside down a hallway where the pup has no choice to run in any direction but back toward you for only a couple of times. 10 retrieves at this point is a no-no. The pup will get bored and stop retrieving.
    It has been a long time since I have read Richard Wolters but I remember him cautioning against this.

    I would suggest strongly that you buy a copy of a dvd, Sound Beginnings by Jackie Mertens. It is relatively inexpensive and available through many places but I use YBS media.

    Hope this helps and good luck with you pup.
    Last edited by Wayne Nutt; 02-11-2014 at 09:27 AM.
    Wayne Nutt
    Go Nutts with dog training

    HRCH Patton's Parker Co. Shadow "Shadow"
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    HRCH Marks a Lot Midnight Hudson, SH "Hudson"-retired
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  5. #5

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    Relax. There is no rush. You are probably doing too much too soon. Many of the other people made good comments. Some pups are slow to turn on and later have become nationally recognized as incredible dogs. Keep retrieves to just a couple at 9 1/2 weeks even if pup enthusiastic. . Don't expect big dog behaviors. At that age pups sleep a great deal. If you bought a pup with genetics that are filled with dogs that love retrieving ----- yours will also. Work on simple things like the pup not biting you. Be patient and positive. Explore some other books to read besides Wolters and Wild-Rose . Write me at my direct personal email (below) and I can give you some references. I don't look at PMs much or scan RTF more than once in a while.

    Happy Retrieving

    Marilyn

    Marilyn J Fender, PhD
    Windstorm Retrievers - Wisconsin and Georgia
    Home of 1996 NFC FC AFC Storm’s Riptide Star and birthplace to QAA of 2000 CNAFC CFC CAFC Quik Windstorm
    mf96nfc@centurytel.net and nfcrascal@centurytel.net

  6. #6
    Senior Member KwickLabs's Avatar
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    "Working against us:
    - prefers to bite/shake squeaky toys more than playing fetch
    - likes to bite/tug shoelaces, pants, blankets, plants, etc. (she's teething currently)
    - can lose interest in fetching a dummy after anywhere from 2-8 retrieves
    - when playing fetch, easily distracted by strangers or trying to eat mulch"


    Those are not "working against us".....they are VERY normal.

    This might give you a few ideas to focus on.

    "In the Moment" (link)
    Jim Boyer www.kwicklabs.com
    MPR UH HRCH Kwick Taffey of Joemac's MH
    HR Kwick Daisy's Spirit Keeper SH
    Kwick Kooly Dew It Allstar SH
    HR Kwick Draw McGraw SH (June, 2007 - May, 2014)

  7. #7

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    Love your links KwickLabs!

  8. #8
    Senior Member Gun_Dog2002's Avatar
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    Well Houston, it great your excited about the new pup. Might be the longest post i've seen about a 9 week puppy. Puppies have the attention span of about half a second. Throw a few fun toys every so often for him/her and whatever happens happens. let the pup be a pup. All you want is to enhance the retrieve they obtained from the parents. Enjoy the youngster, plenty of time for formal training later on.

    /Paul
    Paul Cantrell
    Black Ice Retrievers
    Marcola OR

    Too many dogs to list (By some Bitch)

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    "Helping Hunters Train Their Dogs"

  9. #9
    Junior Member Houston82's Avatar
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    All,
    THANK YOU all for the great advice. You've helped immensely to give me some context and help me get my bearings. I'll take it slow with the training, exercise more patience, letting the pup be a pup. I'll also look into that DVD with Jack Mertens.

    Cheers,
    Houston

  10. #10
    Senior Member Moose Mtn's Avatar
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    Have FUN is the goal at this point! a few short retrieves is enough.. Use what your pup is comfortable with at this point in its life.. Does not necessarilly need to be a canvas bumper...a couple of fun throws, with full on Puppy Parties when she returns in your general vacinity with what was thrown.. I dont take it out of their mouths immediatley.. as I dont want them to avoid bringing it to me because it would be taken away... Rather, we have a puppy party when she returns and if she drops it in the middle of the excitement, then I grab it, and throw one or two more times!
    Brian & Jennifer Tucker
    Bennett, Colorado

    Marks-A-Lot Babyface (2003 HR CH Marks A Lot Gangster QAA MNH CD WCX x Marks-A-Lot Call Me Cathy)

    Marks-A-Lot Gangster's Midnite Star SH (2012 HR CH Marks A Lot Gangster QAA MNH CD WCX X Crabby Patty JH)

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