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Very talented dog but absolutely loses it at tests. Any suggestions?
 

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Don't enter tests until you correct the behavior.

Use holding blinds in training and try to find a large group, or maybe a pro, to train with. Go from the holding blind to the line and back, possibly go from holding blind to honor. Send the dog for very few marks and only if its manners are perfect from the blind to the mat and as the marks are thrown. That may mean the dog does not get sent on any marks for a while.

You could also run a blind first after the dog behaves perfectly as the marks are thrown.
(The idea being that the dog starts to anticipate the more disciplined behavior of a blind rather than a mark, don't over do this as it may negatively affect marking. JMO)
 
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Here are 6 potential checks in a holding blind routine that may help.

Check#1.
Silently step back with a traffic cop signal when the working dog is coming back with the last bird.
Here sit means sit...no movement by the dog including rear end and feet.
I think this helps as the handler is in control and the dog must wait for several minutes with
canine-to-human eye contact. This is the first check of control.

Check#2
With the traffic cop hand signal, in training and at an event, next
announce "Dog Number X" as part of the routine, while the lab waits.
In training have someone at the line yell "Guns Up!""Dog to the Line" etc.
This is the second check of control and handler or judges voice is not an
excuse to break the sit in the holding blind.

Check#3
Next silently use a hand signal for the dog to come to at the heel position,
with momentum away from the line. At this point, the lab sits in the heel position
with focus out in the field. Once again sit with no movement.
I then silently move my right foot forward in a stepping motion a few times.
The lab must remain seated. This is a third check that I am in control, as the
lab has been trained that right foot movement means no dog movement.
Once again, sit means sit...no movement by the dog including rear end and feet.

Check#4
Is the dog going to work with you?
Moving the left foot as a cue to begin heeling, go through a 360- heeling drill
routine pushing the dog to 9 o'clock, 6 o'clock, 3 o'clock (with the mat or line at 12 o'clock).
Then heeling drill pulling the dog to 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock, 9 o'clock (with the mat or line at 12 o'clock).

Check#5
Then very small silent steps begin heeling to the line...the smaller the step the better;
because the dog wants to rush to the action.
If the lab surges forwards silently move backwards as a fifth check of control.
The dog must move with you whenever you step backwards (silent backwards heeling).

Check#6
Because the dog wants to rush to the action, counter that on your way to the line.
Silently stop halfway to the line, the dog should stop and automatically sit focused on the field.
Stop silently just before the mat, the dog should stop and sit at that location and not rush to sit on the mat in front.

Lots of reps if a check fails, and hopefully the dog learns a routine necessary to earn the right to retrieve.
My preference is mostly silence instead of Heel, HEEL, HEEL!!!
 

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You need to replicate the test the best you can. .You can start with him just sitting in the blind. Then when he is relaxed for a few sessions. set out wingers or gunners 20 yards or so from holding blind. start with quacking. Correct for movement.when he relaxed with that Then add gun. then same thing. Then put both together. He doesn't get to come out until he can relax. Your clubs training days are very valuable. You cab also force a down and make him lay in the HB. Pull up a chair and a book. Best to do at a club training day. Or there is an easier way but it is not recognized by the retriever world.so I will not go into it
Pete
 

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Ditto with MissSkeeter.
Put tests on hold for a while and iron out this situation. I too have a dog that can't wait for the green light to go. During training, when we are in the holding blind, I have rocket man facing me instead of the back side of the holding blind. This helps with jittery nerves and enables us to maintain eye contact and I can give QUIET verbal commands. When we are ready to leave the holding blind, we make eye contact so that I confirm that I'm in charge. A silent HEEL hand signal, he comes to heel, sits with butt on ground. Here he has the chance to survey the field all the while with butt planted. I give him time to settle and myself a count down to 10 and give verbal command "Let's go." If he has the slightest surging, it's back to the holding blind and we try again. With numerous trials and errors we finally got it right.
I
 

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A very common problem especially with new handlers. Not laughing at you but as a former judge, I used to smile inwardly at these holding blind battles. To me the TEST STARTS IMMEDIATELY when you "invite" the dog out of its crate or dog box. Break the test down into sections. Dog is now out of crate and must SIT. The lead is now on and the dog MUST HEEL and not pull you to the HB. I face the dog looking out from the blind, especially the young dogs. While they should be sitting many want to look under, around and even jump up on the HB. When called to the line remove the lead and tell the dog to SIT as you walk out of the blind and away a few feet. Again, "invite" the dog to now join you by saying HEEL. Keeping a high OB standard is easier to maintain if you start with the dog coming out to the dog going back into the kennel.

Condition your companion on each of these sections until their perfect - then rinse and repeat as needed throughout the dogs life - maintain that standard.
 

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A very common problem especially with new handlers. Not laughing at you but as a former judge, I used to smile inwardly at these holding blind battles. To me the TEST STARTS IMMEDIATELY when you "invite" the dog out of its crate or dog box. Break the test down into sections. Dog is now out of crate and must SIT. The lead is now on and the dog MUST HEEL and not pull you to the HB. I face the dog looking out from the blind, especially the young dogs. While they should be sitting many want to look under, around and even jump up on the HB. When called to the line remove the lead and tell the dog to SIT as you walk out of the blind and away a few feet. Again, "invite" the dog to now join you by saying HEEL. Keeping a high OB standard is easier to maintain if you start with the dog coming out to the dog going back into the kennel.

Condition your companion on each of these sections until their perfect - then rinse and repeat as needed throughout the dogs life - maintain that standard.
This is good as are the other suggestions. I have been there as have most. You will not correct this problem if you dont get into a training group and replicate a test. I train with a group on average one time a week in the spring and summer. I always run my dog last so he is wound up tighter then a clock when its his turn. SLOWLY walk up to the blind with a tight heel. On average for every 3 steps forward I will take one or two steps back. I never want him to assume we are only going forward. If you give him an inch in any of this you can bet your next paycheck he will take a BIG mile. Stop running all trials and tests until this is fixed or it may get to the point where you can no longer fix it. Look at your long term goals which will make not running now much easier.
 
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