Need help with soft/sensitive lab
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Thread: Need help with soft/sensitive lab

  1. #1

    Question Need help with soft/sensitive lab

    Need some advice and wisdom. Have a 7 month old black lab (male). My plan is for him to be a hunting buddy and pet. Not currently planning on doing field/hunt trials but not out of question. Am very busy at work and I know that is a conflict but am trying to make the best of it. I got him from a great local breeder/trainer with good bloodlines. Not necessarily all titled in his lineage but does have some and both parents are trained and great retrievers. He is a great dog has great natural retrieving instincts and is as sweet of a dog as i have ever seen. Loves retrieving the bumper and brings it back drops it and sits right by my side without me really teaching him that. Have been trying to work mainly on basic obedience. He has a lot of energy and has trouble with stay but we are working on it. He's classic lab and getting into and chewing everything and when i tell him no sternly or have to get on him hard he just cowers and is as soft as I have seen. He's my second lab (had one growing up, she's passed away but was just a pet) and currently also have a boxer. my current lab (bubba) is my first dog that I plan on training as a retriever. Ive gotten Sound beginnings and am starting that. I know I am behind on time but the plan was for the breeder who is also a great trainer to do most of his training but he had some health issues come up and that has been put on hold/delayed. He was with the trainer for about 2-3 weeks and he ran into the same problems as I have with him being very soft and sensitive and said lets hold off and let him mature a little more and try again to as not break him or anything. Im really struggling with what and how to help him because he has to listen and have discipline but I feel like when I get onto him sometimes i am just making it worse. Any of y'all with dogs like him or have trained dogs like him have any advice or wisdom? He will honestly be a phenomenal duck dog I think because of drive and natural instincts but reeling him in and focusing him and training him with his soft/sensitive nature is giving me all kinds of trouble. Any help on directions to move forward or advice would be greatly appreciated as I am admittedly very green. Thanks

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  3. #2
    Senior Member bamajeff's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015


    Look into Hillmann's training approach. Get a copy of his Training a Retriever Puppy DVD. His approach works really good with softer dogs. Lardy's program can work with softer dogs as well due to corrections always being fair and clear to the dog what they are being corrected for. I would seek out an AKC/HRC club in your area and attend a training day. Try to develop some contacts there to help accelerate your learning curve in training. Good luck
    HRCH Laney's Chocolate Roux MH QAA
    HRCH Full Steam Coaltrain RIP

  4. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2010


    Haven’t been on for a while, just saw your post. As long as we’re talking about a soft dog, and not a fearful, insecure dog, the following should apply. I trained retrievers for a living many years ago. I always found a soft dog with great bird desire was the easiest and quickest to train, plus they retained their training better than other dogs. That’s the wisdom part. The advice part is, since your primary goal is for a companion and hunting dog, the calendar isn’t important. Your breeder’s advice about holding off formal training is good advice. I don’t know what formal training program you plan to follow, but you can’t go wrong by doing a lot of marks now, using as many real birds as you possibly can in training. Live flyers and dead birds for marks will provide a solid foundation and help develop more confidence in your dog. The attitude and desire of the dog should tell you when it makes sense to start formal training. I don’t know what you did specifically when you said the dog “cowered” when you got on him ”hard”. You don’t want to do that ever with this dog, believe what you see. Soft dogs will do well on a FF/e-collar program, but they will not need much pressure along the way to advance through the program, and will do so very quickly. Teach first, then reinforce gently and infrequently. When dog is confused, simplify, use attrition and repeat. Don’t try and force your way through.

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  6. #4
    Senior Member Tobias's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2015


    Quote Originally Posted by minnducker View Post
    Don't try and force your way through.

    Last sentence says it all.

    Find the level of correction that works best for him.. soft 'no' might be all he needs.
    The way I look at it, every dog is an opportunity to be a better trainer, and every day is a new day to be a better trainer to the same dog we trained yesterday.

  7. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    New Haven, CT


    Is the dog soft or do you train in fear?
    Gentle in what you do. Firm in how you do it.

    WESTWIND WHISPERING COVE (LARRY son of Murray) WDQ MH, QAA2 8/5/05-3/20/18
    WESTWIND WHISPERING COVE JAY QAA, MH (Larry's son and Murray's grandson)

  8. #6
    Senior Member rmilner's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2005


    If the dog is too soft for correction, then don't train with correction.
    Here is a book: Don't Shoot the Dog, ​by Karen Pryor
    Robert Milner

    "When he stood up to speak, battalions of words issued forth from his mouth and scoured the countryside in search of an idea, and when they found one, they swiftly and thoroughly beat it to death." ---- -Anonymous

  9. #7
    Senior Member DarrinGreene's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Souf Joisy


    Respectfully - the dog isn't too soft. You're too hard. The "pro" you gave him to either doesn't have the time or knowledge to modulate his approach properly. Need a new/different trainer.

    You need to learn to teach, keep your emotions out of things and correct in a way the dog understands, but that doesn't crush him.

    He's cowering because he doesn't really understand you and you're WAY over his big scary human threshold.

    A whisper and a mild leash correction would probably have solved whatever you had to "get on him" for. He can't chew if he's on a leash. He cant misbehave unless you give him too much freedom. He needs more guidance, patience and thoughtfulness from you.

    If you PM me your location, I may have someone in your area who can guide you better than an internet forum or online/DVD content.
    Darrin Greene

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