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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
 

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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.
 

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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.
That is correct. Leave your pup eagerly wanting more. Imprint the desire for more. Boredom is a poor formula for that.

Evan
 

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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.
 

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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
[email protected] and [email protected]
 

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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)
 

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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
 

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Discussion Starter #9
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
 

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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!
 

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Im going to jump in here and throw out my two cents, although I'm just starting the journey of training my own first lab, maybe more senior members can correct me if I'm wrong. My pup is just past 13 weeks, and up until a couple of weeks ago, I was in your camp. I was stressed about making sure I gave the pup a proper foundation, I became even more stressed when I didn't see the results I thought I should be getting. I was trying to do way too much. More than a few people recommended Bill Hillmans puppy DVD and it has really helped the pup and myself. I've seen more drive to retrieve, more adherence to the sit command, and more focus. I've resolved myself to follow this program to start, and believe it will provide that solid foundation for me and the pup when we expand training later.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Anyone know where I can get a used copy of Hillman's puppy DVD? I'm sure $129 is worth it, but I'm not ready to spend that much yet.
 

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Anyone know where I can get a used copy of Hillman's puppy DVD? I'm sure $129 is worth it, but I'm not ready to spend that much yet.
As you can see by my handle, I am not too far removed from your questions. I agree that $129 sounds expensive, but relative to what you will spend on the dog for its lifetime its a mere pittance.

It's much better to get it as right as you can get it the first time through. From personal experience, I can tell you having to go back and patch holes is no fun.

Good luck with your pup.
 

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Chasing (and occasionally catching) a white pigeon wing strung with 6 feet of line off a fishing rod would be a much more productive game for you right now.

The dog's desire isn't to retrieve but rather to chase and catch things. Bring them back to you just gets them another chance to chase...
 

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Houston82 - if you can wait a few days I'm almost done with my copy of Bill Hillmann's DVD and will sell it to you if you want.
 

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I'm sure $129 is worth it, but I'm not ready to spend that much yet.
I said the same thing, but in the course of a week I spent close to $400 on training DVDs. All of them used but "like new" and discounted. I tried hard to find that "does it all" program, but it doesn't seem like that's possible.
 

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I'm a fan of the ideology that the one object you use to retrieve with is only brought out for one purpose, then used sparingly and then put away. Always keep 'em wanting more! It's also worth remembering your pup has literally hundreds of years of genetics that will tell him/her to retrieve. Trust those genes. That's why you spend the money on a quality pup. Let a youngster be a youngster and don't force it.
 
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