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Potential ability/ Too willful

dear trainers,
I am the owner of two Labs, a chocolate female who is eight months old and a black male who is about four and a half months. i guess i really have two questions. First of all, how can you tell if a dog is going to take to hunting and retrieving and become a good hunting partner? the second question is a little more involved; my chocolate lab ( the older of the two ) shows a good amount of intelligence and she seems to like retrieving but she can be willful at times. some days if she doesn't feel like listening to me our training sessions can tend to degrade into a battle of wills where i spend the whole session just trying to get here to pay attention to me. What can i do to help her understand when it is time to train and when it is time to just play?

Question #1

It is tough to tell if a very young dog will have the skill and desire to become a good hunting dog. Hunting requires drive, desire, physical endurance and intelligence. Dogs develop these requirements at different ages and many don't carry the genetics to turn into good hunters. The best you can do is select a dog from field trial proven lines, expose him to valuable experiences like birds and water at a young age, socialize him well and hope for the best.

Question #2

Your eight month old pup sounds fairly typical for this age. You asked an interesting question when you wanted me to tell you how to make her know the difference between play time and training. The truth is that for a pup, traini ng should be playtime. You need to make training something that SHE wants to do. This should start when the pup is very young using food and other positive rewards to build behaviors and make them habit.

My advice at this time is as follows. Change your attitude about training, If it's work for you, it will be work for her. You can make her do it and she will resent you, or you can make it fun and she will participate. Locate a training club or training book that stresses positive, inducive training for puppies. This involves the use of food or other reward to induce a dog to perform the task. Studies on animal behavior conclusively demonstrate that behaviors taught with inducive techniques applying operant conditioning are le arned faster, retained longer and performed more accurately than those taught using other methods. This is the type of training utilized by all dolphin and whale trainers. You may e-mail me directly for a copy of my book THE HOME DOG OBEDIENCE HANDBOOK which covers these concepts and techniques in detail at

Best of Luck

Bill Corcoran
Highland Retriever Kennel
Highland Retriever Kennel

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