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When will it become enjoyable?


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So I’ve a 1 year old, male entire lab who is the focus of this ramble.

I’ve owned 3 other dogs previously but all bitches,(2 labs, 1 cocker). One of these labs is currently 8 years old and an auntie to the young male lab I currently have. She was tricky to train initially but since then has been excellent and there’s nothing I could really fault her on.

I’m finding the young male lab exhausting and not in any way getting any pleasure to train him. In the house, he’s grand. He’ll sit and wait while you open door, lies in his bed whilst you watch TV. Won’t touch your food. Basically arrived house trained day 1.

But as a gun dog I can’t get any enjoyment out of him.

Fetching has required treats as an incentive and even then, it’s hit or miss. He’s very much into himself and even within the limits of the back garden, is more interested in chewing sticks, plant pots and so on than looking to see if you’re going to throw him a dummy. Even then, 1 throw is about his limit for attention. Ball games in the house are more of a, ‘bring it back to within a meter of you’ then jump back and want chased for it,(obviously I don’t indulge this but again, just frustrating). I’ve tried making things fun.

Lead work is okay, he doesn’t pull but is always half a dog further forward than I want. “Sit” is decent to the whistle and recall is good unless it’s last thing at night when he knows he’s going to bed for the evening..

My partner is besotted with him and I’m not the type to re-home the dog,(I’ll just have to persevere). But I have to say, I’ve put significantly more time and effort into this dog than any previously with very little reward.

Is it a case that I’m going to have to wait until 18 months / 2 years before there’s any sort of adult dog and reward back from him? I know of several folk who are already out with their 1 year old dogs on shoot days and although,(in their own words) they need fine tuning, they’re doing fine.

 

Having any sort of a gun dog seems a long way away. I thought September was going to be doable initially..

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I think I am in the same boat with my Springer, intelligent, active and similarly besotted with everything going on around him and not as easily trained as my prior dogs.

He was also hesitant at fetching dummy and either wouldn't fetch it or got bored after a throw or two but now bringing back reliably, but still dropping at my feet. It took about 2 months of encouragement with the dummy to get him happy to bring it back. I ended up getting a Dog and field feather print dummy  and rubbed it in pheasant feathers for smell and in my case that seemed to make a difference as he wasn't keen on the standard unscented dummy.

 

On the upside, he is tracking birds in the air, finds every pheasant in cover and has boundless energy.

 

Every dog has their own maturity\development process and some are field ready at 12 months, some take 2 years but they all get there and being slower does not necessarily mean they are worse.

 

Edited by Stonepark
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as stonepark says 12 mths old might be a bit young for him...........does your partner use the same words/commands as you.......you really need to lay down some ground rules......otherwise it will be no more than a toy/pet.........

dont mean to be brutal...hope you understand what im getting at.......train it the proper way with your partners co-operation and it will be a better dog at home...:good:

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22 minutes ago, ditchman said:

your partner might be part of the problem..........

Yep, sounds like not enough was done when the dog arrived in the home. Very hard now to turn him around but maybe a pro trainer may help.  I have seen so many quality dogs spoilt in this way.  Always owned male dogs and never ever had a problem but from the day they where carried through the door they knew what was required.  They always got invites to go beat and pick up not me, I was just the driver.  My dogs always lived in house with us and understood the rules.  Unfortunately I also see young childred with the same problems.

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males are harder to train my first lab sky was never gun trained but she was great at 14 month old did any thing she was told i had her out shooting geese pigeons rabbits and she was great she never chased a rabbit she only went and got it when told to i had her for 14 1/2 years it broke my heart when she died a few years later i got a male lab he was a bludy night mare stealing any thing to get chased and ripped things to shreds

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try close contact training on a one to one basis in a small room .

any outdoor adventures on a one to one and on a lead until your happy then off the lead. any mistakes back on the lead , make a corner of

a fenced off field your friend as its easy to trap him down and get him back . small steps = big steps

Edited by magman
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I only have dogs and have only ever had dogs. Started with spanner’s and last thirty years labs. What I have found is they seem to take longer to mature now than they did but that may be my failing memory. I also find that the trial breeding is making them faster and harder to control unless you are used to it. This dog is also going through its teenage stage and this may well last a year or so.

My youngest is by a top trialler and is simply on rocket fuel. At two he is still a pup and wreaks havoc if allowed to do so. I couldn’t do much with him until 15-18 months and am only now starting to really crack down on the serious stuff. As to using treats for delivering dummies there is no shame in that and again I have had dogs that needed this approach. I also use the advice in Total Recall by Pippa Mattinson for a lot more than just recall, a book worth reading if you haven’t already.

My take on this is that you probably do need to step back and set your expectations for training at this stage a lot lower. All dogs are different and you can’t compare them. I hope you will feel able to get on with this dog over time. They all reduce me to tears from time to time but I eventually get their with patience. 

Lastly, mine are all castrated at about 18 months or so as I don’t breed. It takes nothing out of their ability but does remove some of the silly traits of males. Not everyone agrees with me on this but it has worked for me for donkeys years.

Hope this helps and good luck!

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Can’t disagree with most of the comments here.

1. Treat a puppy how you wish it to behave as a dog, from day 1.

2. A dog should have one master, or at least all masters that are consistent and share the exact same aim and approach. 

3. 12 months is very young to be working really, I know many that do but most that don’t. 

4. Entire male / neutered male, bitch / spayed bitch makes no difference. 

5. The dog’s joy should come from working for its handler. He starts to mess about put him away.

6. Start some sessions with a professional trainer. 

7. I’ve had dogs that needed treats to understand training, then they would do it for praise. You need to spend the time building a bond first and foremost.

@Dave at keltonis your man for definitive answers though.

 

And just like magic! I was typing that when you posted! 

3 minutes ago, Dave at kelton said:

Lastly, mine are all castrated at about 18 months or so as I don’t breed. It takes nothing out of their ability but does remove some of the silly traits of males. Not everyone agrees with me on this but it has worked for me for donkeys years.

I know I’m going to get pillared for this but you can train-out the same traits as castration achieves quickly. I train rather than chop but in reality there is little need to apart from vanity. Dogs mature and calm down naturally about the same age as most people have them chopped so it’s hard to see if it is just coincidence. 

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9 minutes ago, Dave at kelton said:

I only have dogs and have only ever had dogs. Started with spanner’s and last thirty years labs. What I have found is they seem to take longer to mature now than they did but that may be my failing memory. I also find that the trial breeding is making them faster and harder to control unless you are used to it. This dog is also going through its teenage stage and this may well last a year or so.

My youngest is by a top trialler and is simply on rocket fuel. At two he is still a pup and wreaks havoc if allowed to do so. I couldn’t do much with him until 15-18 months and am only now starting to really crack down on the serious stuff. As to using treats for delivering dummies there is no shame in that and again I have had dogs that needed this approach. I also use the advice in Total Recall by Pippa Mattinson for a lot more than just recall, a book worth reading if you haven’t already.

My take on this is that you probably do need to step back and set your expectations for training at this stage a lot lower. All dogs are different and you can’t compare them. I hope you will feel able to get on with this dog over time. They all reduce me to tears from time to time but I eventually get their with patience. 

Lastly, mine are all castrated at about 18 months or so as I don’t breed. It takes nothing out of their ability but does remove some of the silly traits of males. Not everyone agrees with me on this but it has worked for me for donkeys years.

Hope this helps and good luck!


Cheers gents, a lot of interesting replies on here. As with all dog info, lots of variety.

To be fair I can’t knock my partner. She treats him as I do in the house, only walks him on lead and does no gun dog stuff, so any shortfalls on the gun dog side are on me.


“My take on this is that you probably do need to step back and set your expectations for training at this stage a lot lower. All dogs are different and you can’t compare them. I hope you will feel able to get on with this dog over time. They all reduce me to tears from time to time but I eventually get their with patience.”

Funnily enough this almost word for word what my partner said last night. Essentially I need to go at his speed and not set deadlines like for next season. And also not to compare them with my other two which are on a pedestal.

 

I’m just amazed how puppy ish they still are at 12 months. I was speaking to a chap that does field trials and he says he only really starts ‘serious’ stuff with them at 18 months.

When do they start to ‘settle’ then? 2 or 3-4? He has had a few signs of a teenage phase recently as well. Probably just re-testing boundaries.

 

I’ll get there through perseverance but so far it’s been hard going.

 

 

Cheers for the feedback folks

 

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“I’m just amazed how puppy ish they still are at 12 months. I was speaking to a chap that does field trials and he says he only really starts ‘serious’ stuff with them at 18 months.

When do they start to ‘settle’ then? 2 or 3-4? He has had a few signs of a teenage phase recently as well. Probably just re-testing boundaries.“

Finally on these two points,

I don’t expect my dogs to be out in the field proper until two years old when they start showing mentally maturity not just doing the fancy handling stuff. When they settle is impossible to say but my experience is somewhere between 2&3 years unless an exceptionally calm dog. All my expectations are focused on this timescale.

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From what you have said I think you should reset your mindset and stop thinking how easy your other dog's have been to train and whether it's a dog. Just take a step back and maybe change how you do things with the dog, there is absolutely nothing wrong with treat training if it gets the results you want. I will use an example of my current springer to the last one I had Stan the previous one you only had to show him half a dozen times and he just did what you wanted  Tom the current one is polar opposite I had a similar problem with not returning all the way and turning short. I have purchased a 10 metre lead and with the use of treats I could control how he came back to me. I only did 2 or 3 controlled retrieves each time but over a few days. It is only in the last couple of days I have had him off the lead and retrieves reasonably well now he's worked out what he needs to do, as I further comparison I think I will be 6 months behind what me and Stan did at the same age. That dosnt really matter as my aim is to have the best dog I can and not to set age related targets, if you come to term's it's going to take longer you won't get so frustrated and training will become a pleasure again ( for most of the time 😊)

I  wish you the very best of luck in your training. 

RE dog's or bitches I've only ever had dog's all kept in the house and it's never been a problem. 

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I am also going to point our pint half full picture. All dogs are different and sometimes you spot the traits that you find difficult but miss the ones that they have picked up with ease. 
 

I also have to add that if things take a turn for the worst go back a stage focus on building on the bits that’s going well.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and some of the best dogs are the hardest to train. 

A lesson or two with a trainer can work wanders on different techniques to reduce an issue or deal with a bad decision. 
 

my spanner spaniel only started to mature at 18 months!

Agriv8 

 

 

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I feel your pain wildfowler.250 as I'm currently going through a similar experience with my youngest dog, but in my case she is a bitch in every sense of the word. It all started out well enough, house training a breeze, simple commands like sit stay and heel seemed to come easily, indeed requiring very little effort. She was always hyper, but eager to please, and controllable. But then she just seemed to stop maturing after an initial purple patch at around the 1 year mark, or just after her first season. She appears to be stuck in the adolescent phase and is showing no sign of coming out of it nearly 2 years later. I've been to a couple of professional trainers and even a behaviourist but no one seems to be able to calm her down. She still does the basics but is hard to control out of familiar environments to the point that we are no reluctant to take her out places with our other dogs. She's good enough round the home and on local quiet walks but that's about it. I won't stop trying with her, but it looks like my best pedigree and most expensive gundog will only ever be a pet.

My dad had a springer that remained like a puppy for her entire life once, and she lived to a ripe old 17. I hope you make a breakthrough with yours soon.

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You have received some excellent advice above.

I'd advise backing off the pressure on yourself and the dog and let him become mentally prepared before trying to push on with more advanced training.

One year old is way too young to take a dog into the field and expect it to behave like a seasoned campaigner.  Many dogs with decent potential have probably been ruined that way.

Patience, perseverance, and if that fails a nice drop of scotch ;)

Edited by Jim Neal
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4 hours ago, adzyvilla said:

I feel your pain wildfowler.250 as I'm currently going through a similar experience with my youngest dog, but in my case she is a bitch in every sense of the word. It all started out well enough, house training a breeze, simple commands like sit stay and heel seemed to come easily, indeed requiring very little effort. She was always hyper, but eager to please, and controllable. But then she just seemed to stop maturing after an initial purple patch at around the 1 year mark, or just after her first season. She appears to be stuck in the adolescent phase and is showing no sign of coming out of it nearly 2 years later. I've been to a couple of professional trainers and even a behaviourist but no one seems to be able to calm her down. She still does the basics but is hard to control out of familiar environments to the point that we are no reluctant to take her out places with our other dogs. She's good enough round the home and on local quiet walks but that's about it. I won't stop trying with her, but it looks like my best pedigree and most expensive gundog will only ever be a pet.

My dad had a springer that remained like a puppy for her entire life once, and she lived to a ripe old 17. I hope you make a breakthrough with yours soon.

 

There trial lad out there looking for the type of dog you describe. 

Unfortunately they aren't always suited to everyone. 

A bit like having a ferrari for a everyday car, it'll be too much to handle for some. 

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