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trailratedtj

Barking and Breaking

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I was wondering if you guys can give me a little advice or your approach to fix the situation im in.

The dog and I went out Saturday morning for his and my start to the '08 season. Since it was his first time in the field I brought along a piece of plywood for him to lay on. The piece of plywood also had a carabiner so i could keep him teathered down. As usual the goose action was slow and the doves were burning us left and right so we decided to shoot some while waiting on the geese. Once the first shot was fired my dog quickly remembered the sound and was way hot to trot after the dead bird, a little too hot. He started going nuts. he broke instantly and once i sat him down and release him he totally forgot him line and his mark and just started running the field searching for the bird. After i had enough i hit him with the collar which slowed him down enough to get his attention. A few minutes later he finally found the bird and quickly retrieved but never would settle down. Everytime a shot went off he went crazy, losing all attention and breaking horribly, even if the bird was missed i would have to release him and let him search so he would cool off. If i wouldnt release him he would sit and go crazy, barking like a little puppy. no matter how i corrected him he would continue till i couldnt stand it no more and i would then release him. i know i gave in, but this was after a solid 2 minutes of correcting. also, everytime i would correct him he would bark like a puppy(or little girl), even if i grabbed him and tried petting him he would bark. i never had a dog so stubborn that force would not break him or at least settle him for a bit.

oh yeah...the plywood board didnt make it 10 minutues before he was spazzing out trying to rip himself away from it. he tried so violently to break away from it that i feared he would hurt himself. i ended up taking him off it and putting him on a short lead(3ft).

so how do i stop this?? i dont have another dog to use help steady him and force is not working. does anyone have any suggestions?

he is 19 months male choc. lab.

oh and he's very steady in the yard, only breaking ever so often.

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When we train Springers with my Trial friends, one of the things they work on is keeping the dog calm before they send them on their run. Some Trial judges want them to be very calm and quiet - which is a little ridiculous, if you ask me - because you want them to run with excitement when they are in the Trial. But this is the way it is - so they will plant birds, walk him up to the line, and if he barks, they will bring him back and put him back in the kennel, and run another dog.

They learn quickly that if they want to have fun - they had better behave and keep quiet going to the line, or they will go back and listen to everybody else having fun.

Seems to work. I'm sure there are people with much greater experience than I do - but I'd thought I'd share my observations from "Springer-land".

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You need to train with a Hunting scenario if you want your dog to understand what it is that you want from him while out hunting.

Asking him to remain calm and steady while throwing bumpers in the back yard is a far cry from the mass confusion / over stimulation they recieve in the hunting blind.

With that said, I have seen Labs that will never make competent watrerfowl dogs simply because they are wound waaaaay to tight. Too much line breeding for big running - high powered trial dogs. This is, I feel one of the slow demises of the labrador breed. Labs by nature should be fairly calm, stable and tractible. I quit breeding back to the high powered trial dogs, simply because I do not believe a good majority of them will throw honest 'meat dogs' any longer. They are exceptional athletes and are amazing dogs, just not what the average Joe can begin to handle or train.

So now you can begin to train only in 'hunting scenarios' to see if you can reverse the tide with your dog. It is a lot of organizing and effort to do so, but it can also be fun and rewarding. Gather friends and/or other dog owners together and set up 2-3 tests in an afternoon. These will include decoys, blinds, calling and frozen birds. Your buddies throw the frozen birds out and away from you and shoot a popper. You can start the sequence by calling and then having them return the call and throwing the bird and shooting. You will handle your dog and not do any of the shooting. You will concentrate only on your dog and teaching him manners and ethics and ultimately retreiveng. When you get him to remain calm then and only then release him. If he remains wild and fighting you, have your buddy walk over and pick up the bird while Fido watches. Repeat the sequence. Then, if he does not calm down, in the crate, in the back of the truck he goes. Giving in will only reinforce his bad behavior. He should NEVER get his reward for non-compliance, EVER! This goes for training as well as hunting. Reinforce what you teach him in these grander scenarios with small set-ups in the yard by yourself that involve a canoe, some duck decoys set out in the yard and calling. Work more on steadyness and calming him down than retrieves. DO a lot of calling, swing a 2x4 like a shot gun, move around in the canoe, get out of the canoe but make him stay in it, rearrange some decoys, call some more and eventually give him one retrieve of a frozen bird, shot with a blank pistol if he remains steady and calm. That is his one reward for a job well done. Work on steadyness with a small scrap of indoor/outdoor carpet. Once he understands this 'steady mat', you should be able to take it anywhere and have him remain on it till released. You can work on this even in the house in the evening, or in the garage or anywhere. Bring the mat with you and teach him where ever he is at, when placed on it, he is to remain there till you release him.

I'm not a fan of training while hunting, but if this is the only time you can simulate a hunt, I say do so without you actually doing any of the hunting. Work your dog. Teach him to become a good citizen in the blind. Giving up a half a season of hunts may pay dividends for the next decade. Not doing so, may cause you grief and heart ache over the next decade.

One other thing to those starting out a pup... do much more work on obedience drills than retrieving drills. These dogs are bred to retrieve. They don't need 20 bumpers thrown for them a night or the tennis ball thrown for 2 hours straight to make them retrievers. Use that time instead to teach them sit and stay and to remain steady. Throw the bumper out while they remain at heel and then you walk out and retrieve it. Do this 4 times for every one that you send them on. Calmness, while not always inherited any longer, can still be taught, even in high powered dogs. It is much easier to show and teach them your expectations of what you indeed seek in a retriever when they are pups, than it is to break them when they are older.

Hope some of this helps!

Good Luck!

Ken

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thanks for the advice. The energy and drive he has has been there since day one. Along with the stubborness the two put together makes it hard work and alot of patience to work him in the field. I only carried him out three times last year and it he was never this bad. to say the least the breaking didnt hardly happen at all last year. all three times he went out last year was duck hunting over water. while hunting on the water he was always on a 3ft high platform teathered down, i never had too much of a problem when shots went off. This year like i said, once a shot goes off he's like a rabid beast and on top of him being 100lbs.. controling him isnt easy. i dont really have the money(for gas) to simulate a hunt since my buddies live 20 minutes away and then an additional 20 minutes to get to a field we could practice in. i do have a ball field by my house with three ponds on it but im not sure if people are there that they will like a starter pistol going off........or me wading around in a storm water pond setting up decoys. Setting up a hunt in my yard isnt a problem, but my yard is only 80'x100' and im surrounded with neighbors. im pretty sure i can discharge a starter a few times with no problems but is the familiarity with the yard from training with dummies going to interfere with simulating hunts??

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It's not so much where... but how!

Set-up the hunt and make it stimulating and boring... just like real hunting. Moments of sheer frenzy, coinciding with long periods of quiet in between.

Yeah, your neighbors will think you are crazy sitting in a canoe for an hour or two, on your lawn with duck decoys out, calls a balzing and swinging a 2x4... and then nothing... just you and the dog talking; but it is the process of teaching him to be able to react as you desire to different situations he will encounter throughout a day hunting.

Let's put it this way... if you kept your kid only in your yard the 1st 10 years of his life... how would he react if he was cut loose at the State fair? I bet much different than a kid rasied there. A carny's kid would think the fair and all it's lights and noise is boring and cotton candy is putrid... but he's been spoon fed that scenario his whole life.... a kid never having those senses brought to life will be in override and darn near having a stroke as he takes in all he can...

Jump back a few steps, start over, insill what you want, repeat and reinforce!

Good Luck!

Ken

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Thanks Ken. We'll get her done. My neighbors already think im crazy since im alway cleaning guns in the garage and blowing calls on the back deck.....whats a 2x4,duck boat, and decoys gonna change?

i appreciate the help and ill let ya know how it goes. ill start this new tactic after work tomorrow.

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My dog had the same problems. I will never forget the time I was hunting with a large party, half of them were strangers. My pup was out of control to the point where he caused us a few flocks of mallards. You can dummy train all you want, but there is no training that compares to the actual thing. My dog seemed to learn through experience. He would lunge for the birds as they were coming in. I often let my friends hunt, just to focus my attention toward my dog. I would calm him as the birds were coming in, and after time he learned to almost mimic me and hide till the shooting started. I cant stress enough to work your dog at his pace instead your pace......It will come with time.

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Well, I setup a hunt in the backyard on Tuesday, decoys, starter pistol(taped to a broken muskie rod), and frozen duck all included. I did the same thing normally done in a typical day in the field. 15-20 minutes into i had the old lady sneak outside behind the fence and toss a bird after i made a few calls. I, of course dropped the bird with the starter pistol/muskie rod combo, which caused the dog to do his thing, barking,whimpering, and lungeing. after a few minutes the dog settled enough to stop barking and was release. I repeated the sequence 4 times.

we are leaving tonight on a hunting trip and will be bringing his kennel. if he acts up he will be put into his kennel where he will stay till he settle and then hopefully try again. i got three days of hunting so hopefully we can work on improving.

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hunted pretty hard this weekend. the dog came along with on 3 or the four hunts and did alot better. He seems to be settling in to the whole field hunting thing. Like i said this is his first year in the field. The goose action was very intense and very steady and the dog was very tolerable and alot more steady. He's not there all the way but i believe after a few more hunts he'll at least be passing with a "C". He did his barking thing once on the first hunt and after being corrected he never did it again all weekend. The highlight was him retrieve his first goose, and then quite a few more. while we did limit out twice over two day span with three guys, he didnt retrieve all of them, but he got his share. i release him on most of the birds but ended up calling him off alot of them due to the action.

he isnt steady yet and its definately not as bad as i thought it was. I think i may have jumped the gun alittle bit at first but i was quickly settle down after seeing his performance this weekend.

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