New "used" dog ... training an adopted lab ... questions

Discussion in 'Gun Dog Forum' started by DEC, Jun 12, 2018.

  1. DEC

    DEC Elite Refuge Member

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    Not my first rodeo, but I'm no pro trainer. My 13 year old female had to got to the Rainbow Bridge last winter. I currently have a nearly 6 year old female lab also who I trained and does pretty well. Both I trained first in OB, then on to whistle, hand signals, doubles, and basic duck/goose hunting dogs. Far from perfect, but acceptable to myself for our hunting fun. Great family dogs.

    So life threw me a curve ball the other day. A phone call came in about a 15 month old female chocolate lab out of Soggy Acres Kennels in Wisconsin. Her owner had life issues (divorce, elderly father with health issues, had to get a second job, etc) and as bad as he didn't want to do it, he needed to find her a new home. So, with the blessing of my wife and teenage daughters, I took her in. She is a beautiful young dog with incredible blood lines and a world of potential. He hadn't done any hunt training. Life got in the way and basic OB is all. She sits, lays down, knows "no", is house broken, she crates, doesn't jump on furniture, and so far in the few days that I have had her she hasn't gotten into any trouble (though I haven't turned my back on her either). She is FULL of energy. A lack of handling, attention, and just the space that a young lab needs has been missing in her life. So far my older dog is dealing with it as well as can be expected and I am not seeing any long term problems, just some normal establishing who's turf and her dealing with a new 70# fire ball of energy. The long and short of it is that I can see it working out for us ... but not without challenges.

    So after all of that I am asking those who have more experience in this, what advice you might have. She isn't perfect. The lack of attention that she has had means that her OB ... while there ... is rough. I think some of it will settle down in time, but it does need some work (for example she sits on command, but doesn't hold that position for more than a few seconds). She retrieves, but to this point the previous owner didn't teach her that this is not a game of keep away, nor did he even attempt to teach her to go on her name. These are all things that I drove into my previous dogs very early. So we have a lot of basics before we dive into true water dog type of retrieving. At 15 months old though I think the timing is good to begin work after I let things shake out a couple of weeks and keep evaluating where she is at mentally. I have to dust off my Water Dog DVD set as well.

    Just looking for thoughts, input, advice, well wishes ... heck even "dude you are nuts for trying this" LOL. I had not planned on another dog at this point in life, but as my wife put it, here is a young dog with a world of potential who needs love, a good home, and someone to tap into what is in that DNA.

    Rose ...

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  2. FieldLabLover

    FieldLabLover Elite Refuge Member

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    Start her at the beginning, like you would a young puppy. She sounds like she has enough there to work with. Put her on a check cord and after awhile let her chase a wing clip. Make it as fun as you can and lots of patience. I think it's great you took a chance on her.
     
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  3. LADucks

    LADucks Refuge Member

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    Man.... where to start? I went through this exact situation over a year ago with a 2yo CLM. I could ramble on and on about lessons learned and/or different approaches that I found out must be taken for this particular situation. I'll try to summarize, but I'm sure I'll write more later when I think of it or when you ask a question. This could all be wrong in the eyes of the pros, but these are my personal notes and lessons that I learned working through the process.

    1. He may be 1.5yo, but in the eyes of training, he's a puppy. You need to have a "puppy" season/period and start him with puppy standards. Now you can certainly hold him to higher obedience thresholds, I'm more talking about the hunting portion and your expectations.
    2. Mine was hell on wheels at first too. He's around 80lbs and was kept in a backyard that might be 1/5 acre. Let him run, don't jump into training. Goof around the yard. The previous owner couldn't believe he was the same dog after a month at my place just because he could finally be a dog which alleviated a lot of trouble (Attention seeking) issues. Let him settle down, and watch the dog he becomes. That brings me to my next point.
    3. Spend some time observing and taking notes on who he is. You've missed a large part of the opportunity to mold/create what you want as far as personality. For the large part, he has the personality he's going to keep. Observe his strengths/weaknesses and I recommend tailoring your program to those (It's not like you have a clean slate puppy you can make what you want). Mine came to me timid (not scared per say, just wasn't put in situations that instilled confidence very often). His drive was all but suppressed and that was our biggest hurdle. He literally would not retrieve. No matter the level of excitement I'd generate, he'd run to whatever object, sniff it, and move on. He had great blood but was turned into a yard dog. HOWEVER, his obedience was excellent. That was his strength. Therefore I knew I needed to focus on coming at it from a command perspective. With that knowledge, Force Fetch and Force Focused training was important to us at first. Once I turned Fetch into a command, I had a means to make him do it. Once I was able to show him what was to be done and complete a retrieve, he realized how fun it was again. We "awakened" him and brought forth what had been buried, what he was born to do. This was only possible because I tailored my training approach to his strength.
    4. Kind of an addition to #2, but mine missed bird introduction. He didn't want any part of them. Live pigeons, dead ducks, didn't matter. However, at this time we were retrieving bumpers great. This was another opportunity for me to change what I would normally do to fit my dog so we could reach the end goal. Lots of times people start with birds, wings, etc and then work down to bumpers. We were backwards. I added scent to the bumpers, then a wing, then 2 wings, then completely encompassed the bumper in feathers. Next thing you know, we're feather crazy. Again, find out who your dog is, tailor to him. Butting heads with an older dog just wasn't worth it to me. I devised easier ways to work with his personality instead of trying to use the same cookie cutter approach with puppies. We can get away with many methods with a puppy, I don't personally believe we have as much freedom of choice with an older dog.

    That's just off the top of my head in relation to this specific situation. These comments could be burned to a heap of ashes by the next few guys. These are just my personal notes and what I learned. Ask away if needed. It's definitely been a journey.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2018
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  4. DEC

    DEC Elite Refuge Member

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    That is pretty much the mind set that I am trying to keep on this "project". Outside of knowing some basic commands, she is pretty much a 70 pound 12 week old puppy mentally. I have long term hopes that I am pretty sure that I can achieve, but for the immediate future it is a getting to know process and letting her mature a bit. Thankfully I have a lot of land for that energy to be burnt off and am in zero rush to hunt her, as my yellow does a nice job. The focus for the next few weeks or months if need be is to get her to settle in, define some basic house hold boundaries a little better, work on longer sits/lay down, basic retrieving back to me rather than keep away (keeping it fun on a check cord), and as much positive re-enforcement as possible. She certainly isn't timid thankfully and was not abused (mentally or physically) in any way that I can tell. She is happy and full of energy that is for sure ... LOL.

    Realistically, if I can get her out for a field goose hunt in 2019, I will be ecstatic. I honestly have no time table because I was not in the market for a dog. My gut says that this will be a "project" of love more than anything. But I do believe that she can be turned into a great hunt dog and awesome family member ... it just will be a different path and time table to get there than I have taken in the past.
     
  5. P Frey

    P Frey Senior Refuge Member

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    I started "real" training with my first BLF at the age of 1. She turned out great. As others here have said, start from the beginning. She should pick things up fast. Good luck. Keep us updated.
     
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  6. DEC

    DEC Elite Refuge Member

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    So we have spent a week together now and what a difference a week makes! I have to give her previous owner a little more credit than initially. She knows all of the general OB and "pet" stuff. 100% house broken ... a couple small accidents early in the week that I attributed to nerves. Her basic sit, down, no, here, type of stuff is pretty solid and getting better by the day. She has not once attempted to get up on any furniture, or take food off of a counter, and really doesn't beg around us when we eat. I am 99% sure the previous owner had her on an underground fence because she instantly recognized the white flags when I put them out for my existing fence and seemed to know exactly what was going on. Three days on the fence and she confidently runs in our 1 acre or so fenced off area and has yet to test the boundaries since I first introduced her to the lines and collar beeping. She is pretty smart and just has adapted much faster than I thought she would. She is FULL of ENERGY! So we have been creative in finding positive outlets ... lots of general play time outside, letting her run in the yard with my yellow lab, lots of chew toys, and she spent the weekend rolling around in a kiddie pool to the point that I thought she was a fish rather than a dog.

    Her number one bad habit that I have to break is the keep away game. She loves to retrieve and I am finding will sit and go on her name ... not all the time but we will get there with more work. But it is obvious that she wasn't taught that it is not a game of keep away. She brings it back, stops a few feet short, and then plays keep away. So as we continue to settle in, that is my first order of business to correct. I think from there she will work out fine to progress in gun dog training. Baby steps.

    She is just an all around fun dog. She is loving life right now.

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  7. freezeland

    freezeland New Member

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    Good on you for taking the dog in and giving it a good home. That is foremost. It sounds like her OB is far enough along that you can start FF. Have you picked a formal training program or plan to?

    For retrieving Id put her on a check cord and let her drag it. I'd also recommend having someone else toss the bumper/birds. You can reel her in with that check cord when she starts the keep away game. Also, you throwing it constantly from your side will eventually lead to her hunting short on bird boy / launcher thrown marks. Better to have someone / something out in the field throwing.
     
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  8. DEC

    DEC Elite Refuge Member

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    For my first lab ... back in 2004 ... I used the Water Dog series. For my current yellow lab (2012) I used the Smart Work series. I own the full DVD's and books on both systems. I had good luck with both, though again, I am far from the training levels that many here have and my dogs while have served my purposes perfectly, are not to the level that most want for hunt test purposes. My dogs are meat dogs and pets. Steady and bring birds back to hand are my priorities. My intent right now is head down the Smart Work path. My life has changed a lot since 2012 and definitely A LOT since 2004. Those changes should allow me more time to dedicate to training this new girl and the ability to reach out for help if needed. She has too much potential to not invest the time and money.

    Those are my plans as of now. But again, I am only into 1 week of getting to know her. Some more time might change my mind in how I approach the gun dog training. Force Fetch will be key though, that I do know. Both of my other labs did well with FF.
     
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2018
  9. DEC

    DEC Elite Refuge Member

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    A little update on Rose. I decided to wait 4 weeks to do much of anything with her, more if needed. We as a family just took the time to get to know her and her us. Needless to say things have gone awesome and far better than I would have ever expected. I have to be honest, it hasn't been without challenges. I distinctly recall Day 10 and me saying "that is it we are finding her a new home" ... LOL. But patience is always best and man am I glad that we were patient. It took a full 3 weeks for her to decide that this new home was a pretty cool place to live. I think it clicked ... "they pet me all the time, they let me run in a huge yard (2+ acres), they get a pool out for me when it is hot, the yellow dog lets me wrestle as hard as I want to, and in general they treat me with a bunch of love" ... or at least that is how I watched it unfold through her eyes.

    So here we are 4 1/2 weeks into this new adventure. I honestly could not ask for a better dog at this point. Knock on wood, but she has yet to tear anything up in the house, in my barn, or in the yard. She has gone around and picked up about everything you can imagine and looked at you like "is this OK to carry around?", but she has yet to destroy anything. Her OB is solid, though at times she will bark at me like a two year old throwing a tantrum when I get on her about something ... I try not to laugh at her. She has become a member of the family and everyone loves her.

    On Monday we started working on simple single mark retrieves with a bumper. Up to this point retrieving ended up more as a game of keep away, which I tried to keep my cool about, but it was really pizzing me off. So on Monday, with a 30' cord, in a confined area, we began the journey of "sit, mark, Rose, fetch the bumper and return to me, sit, drop". By this morning, Day 4, we were outside in the yard with no check cord, doing single mark retrieves out to around 30 yards or so and running them like a machine. For about 15 minutes, non-stop with barely a bobble or mistake we just kept running this simple drill. She seems enthused, quick to learn, and seems to want to do it right. So I can see a world of potential here and I am pleased so far. The plan for now is to keep working on solidifying this fundamental concept and then go into force fetch probably once I get through July. July is crazy for me personally. Once I get through July, then my calendar will open up and she and I can dive deeper into training.

    Needless to say I am pretty happy that our lives crossed paths, even if we are getting a bit of a late start.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
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  10. likesbigspreads

    likesbigspreads Elite Refuge Member

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    A buddy of mine that knows a lot about labs said " you need to get the dog to love you first, then it will do whatever you want it too". Sounds like you did just that!
     
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