Iíve read through most of the threads on this forum and am so impressed by all of your expertise (Iím so glad I found this site!). With that said, Iím hoping you can help me (a novice trainer at best) through the problem Iím having with my 1 Ĺ-year-old male Lab.
Long story short, I just CANíT get him to consistently, reliably retrieve anything in a controlled manner, and itís a huge roadblock for us to move ahead into any other aspect of training.
Donít get me wrong, heís often flawlessóIíll throw the dummy and heíll stay at heel. Then Iíll send him and heíll charge out, grab the bumper smack dab in the middle and race back to my left side, where he spins a 180 and sits, holding the dummy perfectly until I tell him to release it. The exact routine is a learned behavior, and he seems to clearly understand that this is what I want him to do when I say ďfetch.Ē
The problem is that 70 to 80 percent of the time that DOESNíT happen. Often heíll run past me as he returns with the dummy in his mouth, then circle around me a few times. Other times heíll get a foot or two away from me and then drop the dummy and start playing with it. And still other times heíll grab the bumper by the rope and just go crazy, playing with the dummy the entire timeóeven running away with it on rare occasions. The list goes onÖ.
And regardless of the specific misbehaviorís nature, the dog is simply unreachable at those moments. No command, no potential reward and no correction can snap him out of it and reign him back in once heís started.
Iíve tried all the conventional training methods to fix thisóas well as a few unconventional onesóand nothing has worked. And in the process Iím afraid Iíve made the problem worse by confusing the poor guy.
From my admittedly uninformed perspective, it seems like there are a few things at work:
1. Although my dog knows what I want him to do, heís so overcome by the excitement of the dummy and retrieve that heís often unable to help himself. The distraction level of the bumper trumps the command.
2. He doesnít seem to make the connection that if he retrieves properly heíll be rewarded. Partly, Iím guessing thatís because he does it right so rarely in the first place, and so I hardly ever get to reward him. Thus he never sees the pattern.
3. Along those lines, perhaps my reward (usually praise, treat or another retrieve) isnít enough to get him to follow the command???
So where do I go next? I feel like Iím over a barrel here. The more I attempt to fix the problem, the more he ultimately continues to misbehave on retrieves, which I imagine is essentially TRAINING him to misbehave more in the future.
The less I work with him, however, the faster he seems to lose his grasp on what little he knows about making proper retrieves.
Where do I go from here????
Sorry for the long post. Thanks for any advice!