Tips for training a Lab

josh

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Aug 30, 2012
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I got a lab 2 months ago. He's now about 4 months old. I've never trained a dog before but I bought some books from GunDogSupply.com at the recommendation of the breeder and I've been attempting to train the dog myself. I'm out of work right now and have the time - not always the patience though. Anyway, the dog, Lassen (named after the Natl Park), actually fetches well for a young pup and walks fairly decently but I'm having a lot of trouble getting him to come and sit and stay. Sometimes he wants to, sometimes he couldn't care less about my commands. I feel like I'm missing something here...
Any suggestions or words of wisdom? If I want this dog to be a gun/bird dog how strongly would you recommend professional training?
 

Snake Charmer

Happiness is a warm gut pile
Oct 13, 2011
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Your dog is a little young for serious training, wait until the dog is about five to six months before pushing it hard and no shooting or loud noises near the dog until it is at least five months and then it must be introduced to loud noises very carefully or you will gun shy it. Read the books you bought cover to cover and follow the guidelines. Start with the simple stuff like getting them to walk at heel on leash and establish a bond between you and the dog. If you get stuck and cant seem to make progress take a lesson or two from a dog trainer. Don't throw balls for the dog to fetch and call it retriever training (that's just game to them and not a job) Don't teach the dog to sit until you are done with all the other training, teach him down instead (hunting dogs should stand at attention when hunting not sit). Yes I recommend a professional trainer because I see a lot of dogs every year that people screw up beyond repair because they don't know what they are doing, I just sent home a Visla that the owner tried to gun break and ruined then brought to us, he now owns a $1500 pet that will never hunt. Once you take something out of a dog behavior wise you can never put it back so it is important to understand what you are doing to a dog psychologically when you train.
 
Sep 26, 2012
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Josh,
While there is a danger of ruining a pup, if you follow the procedures listed in the book, keep your composure, and don't get impatient or angry in your training, you should be able to take your dog all the way through obedience, and even the basics. But you need a good program, and you need to follow it to the letter.

When it comes to basic OB, use treats to teach. Using treats won't ruin your dog. Show him what you want.Then, once he knows what behavior you're looking for, you train. In other words, repeat, repeat, repeat. Only after the behavior is ingrained thoroughly should correction be used. Teach, teach, teach, train, train, train.

Train every day. Twice a day is better, but your sessions need to be SHORT! 10-15 minutes is plenty. Leave the session with the pup wanting more.

I've not seen it, but I've heard great reviews on Jackie Mertens' Sound Beginnings video: http://www.gundogsonline.com/dog-training-books-and-videos/dog-training-dvd/sound-beginnings-retriever-training-dvd.html. Your pup is a little older now, but start from the beginning, and work through it.

Join an obedience training class. 3 years ago, I got my first dog. By the time he was 4 months old, he was pretty good at sit and here. Heel was so-so. We joined a group OB class, and I learned a LOT about how to teach OB, and different drills to work on. The socialization opportunities were excellent, as well. If you are interested in such a group, PM me, and I'll point you to some good ones.

After your dog has learned basic puppy OB, and is a little older, it will be time to "formalize" it, or enforce it. First will be with a slip-lead or choke chain, then a heeling stick, and later, an e-collar. You may have hesitations about the use of an electronic collar, but when used correctly, it is GREAT for communicating with your dog.

Professional trainers can take a dog farther, faster, than the average amateur can. Yes, people have ruined dogs by exposing them to gunfire improperly, but doing it properly is not hard at all! If you're committed to working with your dog every day, for a few minutes a day, and you do your research, you can train a very nice hunting dog. There are lots of resources available to you. Training programs, forums (such as retrievertraining.net/forums), training groups, etc., will be invaluable.
 

Aeon

just a dude who duck hunts
Feb 16, 2011
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Buy the fowl dogs 1 DVD and follow everything. Training starts from day one when you get a pup :) I will counter what snake charmer said about the sit command. For field dogs he is right but duck dogs sit sometimes for hours in a duck blind. Sit, heal and here are the basic building blocks :)

A big often over looked thing is to take the dog out with other better trained and experienced dogs. They do learn from watching and if they are competive they will learn fast.
 

josh

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Aug 30, 2012
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Thanks for all these tips guys. The dog is coming along pretty well in his training. i do need to spend more time with him though. He's always eager to get in the water and will fetch real well with some items. I really need to keep treats with me all the time. I took the dog camping and he loved it.

Thanks again. I'll keep you all updated on how he progresses. We very well may send him to a professional trainer. Still haven't decided. I attached a photo of him fetching in Big Bear Lake recently
 

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Tanner

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May 10, 2012
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My lab is in his first season nd is doing well. I trained him myself and he's. Very motivated I would like to move forward with some more advanced training like marking and double retrieves. He can fetch birds very well but he tends to stray on the way to the bird. I can steer him with throwing rocks but I can't do that for ever. Any advice will be appreciated.
 

Snake Charmer

Happiness is a warm gut pile
Oct 13, 2011
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Josh, Tip- get rid of the sticks and toys, training dummies or dead birds only (frozen is Ok) retrieving is job not a game for a hunting dog. When you use sticks and balls it becomes more of a game and you are more apt to get misbehavior. We just got through breaking a lab from playing "keep away" with the bird we shot because it was allowed to play that game. Stay with the basics until you are getting what you want every time and then move to the next command, it's all baby steps and you need to make sure they understand and respond properly every time you give a command.
 

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