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How much excitement is too much when it comes to hunting labs and retrieving?

I have a 4 month old lab and I'm following Bill Hillmann's program. Welp her excitement and desire to retrieve is through the roof, doesn't bring to hand yet but does return to the left side pretty well. Already learning "hold" well. Her sit in command is a bit shotty but her sit stay is very good for her age I think and her heel is coming by very slowly but is getting there even though she's still young.

Now I'm having trouble calming her down in the presence of a bumper. She jumps constantly on me or my bag when on walks and ALL her attention is on the bumper or on me, waiting to see one. I know I have to work on her OB according to Hillmann to balance her out but does that mean I shouldn't throw bumpers? She squeals and cries when doing her sits and heel when there isn't any retrieving involved and full out goes demon dog mode on the leash growling and playing tug of war with herself when we're walking at the park because she thinks a bumper will magically appear and she can retrieve.

clearly the retrieving isn't an issue but I live in the city and I need her to be able to focus on LIFE and obedience a little more instead of just the bumpers. She will stare at me constantly at the park and ignores anything and everything around her. Any opinions on this?
 

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So what are you long-term goals for this little girl? I think at 4 months Bill had a better grip on his pup's basic obedience and he was even carrying a bumper under his arm at some point. (It's been a while since I watched the puppy series so I'm a little vague on it.)
 

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I would stop following the video. Take what you can learn from the video and be thankful for it but try something else.
 

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Lobita,

I read your post. Four short paragraphs. There is always more that needs to be seen and needs to be known. But given your short description, I'll offer an opinion.

I would not be concerned about too much excitement or too much desire. I would be very happy about it! This is what we want. This is what we breed for. This is what we nurture and work hard to build and develop in a puppy.

You are following Hillmann. Hillmann's directive to you is to begin every training session by getting the dog excited. This is because your objective is to teach the pup "how to be" when she is excited.

The alternative is to constantly suppress the excitement; avoid the excitement; attempt to drive the spirit and desire out of your puppy and then teach her how to be when she is not excited. If you take this approach, you better figure out how to prevent her from being high-spirited, happy and excited when you are hunting or at a hunt test or at a field trial, etc. I do not recommend this approach.

Instead, I think you should stick with Hillmann's approach, which is to embrace the desire and the excitement that is so beautiful to see in a puppy. Face it head on. Every training session you should purposefully take your pup through multiple cycles of eliciting this excitement and then carefully and gently guide and shape her behavior while she is excited. Then do it again and again; only asking her to do what she is capable of doing successfully. At the beginning, this isn't much at all ... maybe only requiring her to Sit for a second or two. Then get her excited again followed by another Sit. This time you may be able to require her to Sit for a second or two longer than the last time. This is teaching her "how to be" when she is excited. Get her excited and then briefly teach her ... again and again and again.

This is Hillmann's approach for creating any behavior that you desire. You must elicit the excitement. You must start at a simple form of the behavior where the pup can be consistently successful. It may hardly resemble the final behavior you are seeking, but you must begin at a point where you can achieve and reward success almost every repetition. Then gradually add the slightest bit of complexity in the direction toward the objective, just a little bit at a time. Make sure the repetitions are always successful. If you find yourself making a correction, then you have progressed too quickly. Back up, create success and reinforce it with praise and excitement.

Using this formula, you now have to devise and finesse a plan for applying it to the specific problems that you have identified. If your dog will sit and stare at you at the park in the face of other distracting activities, I say "fantastic"! You have a young dog that is capable of focus. You also have a dog that is HIGHLY MOTIVATED by bumpers. This means that bumpers are powerful rewards, a very powerful reinforcer. This is good because you have this powerful reinforcer always available to you in the field to immediately reinforce good behaviors. But it also means that you must be extremely precise about how you use bumpers so that you don't inadvertently reinforce undesired behaviors.

Do not discontinue the retrieves. But only give them to reward behavior that you want to reinforce. Develop a means of communicating with your pup so that you can cue the release from a behavior (Sit, for example) that signals she is allowed to explode with excitement for the reward of the chase of the bumper as you produce it and throw it. Michael Ellis explains a very effective communication system of verbal markers here.

If the bumper is too distracting, keep it out of sight in a pocket or in your shirt until you "mark" a behavior that you want to reinforce, release the pup and produce the bumper as the reward of a retrieve or a fetch from your hand.

Drop the bumper on the ground and walk away from it with your pup on lead. Finesse the walk on lead the way Hillmann teaches. In order to earn the bumper, the pup is required to do what you want, not what she wants. If you are clear and consistent on this principle, your pup will quickly make the connection that her behavior is what gives her access to the bumper. If your pup's behavior is unruly, move further away from the bumper, making your "presence" greater and the bumper's "presence" lesser. Reward good behavior ... even if it is only a slight improvement. You must communicate to your dog what you want by clearly associating the reward of what she wants with her improvement. With this improvement, you can progress to increase the level of the distraction of the bumper, provided that she continues to be successful. Gradually, your pup will learn to handle the distracting influence of the bumper better and better.

Jim
 

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You should be thankful for a dog that gives you his undivided attention. Use it to your advantage and start working on more obedience. Hillman believes in balance and obviously this dog is not in balance. You need to remember that what is right for one is not always right for another. I would focus more on obedience in your training sessions and less on retrieving.
deb
 

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Sounds like you are right where you should be.

Watch the ENTIRE Pup DVD at least twice.
Then come back to whatever day you are on.
This will help you see what's coming up.

I have two Hillmann raised pups, as they call them lol
3 and 2 years old. They go berserk when I walk around with a bumper and give them the little ...yip...yip..yip...
But when I say SIT/Whistle Sit. They sit, they sit.....they sit.....and then I can toss a bumper
and they sit.....sit.....and then EXPLODE when I release them. The time they sit is worked out through attrition.
if you can get them to sit when they're THE MOST excited, getting them to sit later on will prove to be even easier.
As an Ammy, I've witnessed this with my own eyes through my own dogs.

When I first saw Bill's dog doing this I thought that is so cool.
Now my dogs look just like the one's he's using in his videos.

Wild/Crazy Hyper, jumping around my face to Retrieve,
but STEADY when commanded.

Listen to T-Pines, he's pretty much inside Bill's Head and
Bill has even said so in the past that T-pines understands his Training Philosophy.

Stick with the Program, you'll see the results.
 

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This was so helpful for me to read all these comments! My 5 month old Chessie is the exact same way and I've been unsure if I've been doing things right. but from what I've read I am going down the right path and I just need to stick with Bills program nad have faith in my abilities as a trainer and my dogs innate skils.
 

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Lobita,

I read your post. Four short paragraphs. There is always more that needs to be seen and needs to be known. But given your short description, I'll offer an opinion.

I would not be concerned about too much excitement or too much desire. I would be very happy about it! This is what we want. This is what we breed for. This is what we nurture and work hard to build and develop in a puppy.

You are following Hillmann. Hillmann's directive to you is to begin every training session by getting the dog excited. This is because your objective is to teach the pup "how to be" when she is excited.

The alternative is to constantly suppress the excitement; avoid the excitement; attempt to drive the spirit and desire out of your puppy and then teach her how to be when she is not excited. If you take this approach, you better figure out how to prevent her from being high-spirited, happy and excited when you are hunting or at a hunt test or at a field trial, etc. I do not recommend this approach.

Instead, I think you should stick with Hillmann's approach, which is to embrace the desire and the excitement that is so beautiful to see in a puppy. Face it head on. Every training session you should purposefully take your pup through multiple cycles of eliciting this excitement and then carefully and gently guide and shape her behavior while she is excited. Then do it again and again; only asking her to do what she is capable of doing successfully. At the beginning, this isn't much at all ... maybe only requiring her to Sit for a second or two. Then get her excited again followed by another Sit. This time you may be able to require her to Sit for a second or two longer than the last time. This is teaching her "how to be" when she is excited. Get her excited and then briefly teach her ... again and again and again.

This is Hillmann's approach for creating any behavior that you desire. You must elicit the excitement. You must start at a simple form of the behavior where the pup can be consistently successful. It may hardly resemble the final behavior you are seeking, but you must begin at a point where you can achieve and reward success almost every repetition. Then gradually add the slightest bit of complexity in the direction toward the objective, just a little bit at a time. Make sure the repetitions are always successful. If you find yourself making a correction, then you have progressed too quickly. Back up, create success and reinforce it with praise and excitement.

Using this formula, you now have to devise and finesse a plan for applying it to the specific problems that you have identified. If your dog will sit and stare at you at the park in the face of other distracting activities, I say "fantastic"! You have a young dog that is capable of focus. You also have a dog that is HIGHLY MOTIVATED by bumpers. This means that bumpers are powerful rewards, a very powerful reinforcer. This is good because you have this powerful reinforcer always available to you in the field to immediately reinforce good behaviors. But it also means that you must be extremely precise about how you use bumpers so that you don't inadvertently reinforce undesired behaviors.

Do not discontinue the retrieves. But only give them to reward behavior that you want to reinforce. Develop a means of communicating with your pup so that you can cue the release from a behavior (Sit, for example) that signals she is allowed to explode with excitement for the reward of the chase of the bumper as you produce it and throw it. Michael Ellis explains a very effective communication system of verbal markers here.

If the bumper is too distracting, keep it out of sight in a pocket or in your shirt until you "mark" a behavior that you want to reinforce, release the pup and produce the bumper as the reward of a retrieve or a fetch from your hand.

Drop the bumper on the ground and walk away from it with your pup on lead. Finesse the walk on lead the way Hillmann teaches. In order to earn the bumper, the pup is required to do what you want, not what she wants. If you are clear and consistent on this principle, your pup will quickly make the connection that her behavior is what gives her access to the bumper. If your pup's behavior is unruly, move further away from the bumper, making your "presence" greater and the bumper's "presence" lesser. Reward good behavior ... even if it is only a slight improvement. You must communicate to your dog what you want by clearly associating the reward of what she wants with her improvement. With this improvement, you can progress to increase the level of the distraction of the bumper, provided that she continues to be successful. Gradually, your pup will learn to handle the distracting influence of the bumper better and better.

Jim
Love this and I'll add to it that if you use Ellis's system of markers with "good" as your "continuation marker" (he uses "yes" I believe) you can train your dog to lock onto and stare at that bumper almost indefinitely. This works to REALLY FOCUS the dog on a visual picture and translates beautifully into field work. It will minimize any head swinging and help you get good lines on blinds also. You could use "yes" in your field work but you would sound funny so just substitute "good" and work a little bit on staring at the bumper before release to retrieve. The dividends will become obvious quickly.
 

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I would ask Bill, he is pretty approachable via facebook or email, ESPECIALLY because you are starting to develop noise
 

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I PM'd the OP and offered to invite her to join our training group. Never got a reply.
 
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