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Swimming and retrieving with distractions

I have a 8 month old male lab. I am now training him for waterfowl, I purchased him when he was about 10 weeks old and I started training him as soon as I got him first I trained him a bit of obedience, then I started him with retrieving , and water and gunfire. He is going good with the obedience , but he won't go in the water unless I go out in the boat first, I never had much of a chance to get him thewater when he was young because I live in Newfoundland, Canada and the water is still pretty cold, and all of the water was frozen solid up to a month ago. What can I do to get him water retrieving?
The second problem I have is that He retrieves on land perfect when there is nothing around to distract him but as soon as he is destracted he won't retrieve and goes on where he wants to go or tries to tear up the dummy. What can I do to fix this problem? Also I am now still getting him used to 22 longs , because he is not so much gunshy but just a tiny bit nervous. when should I step him up to 4 10 guage.
Will getting him nuetered fix any of these problems?
Thank You

Hi Noah,

It sounds like you can fix both of your problems by turning your dog onto birds. Does he get very excited about birds? Him lots of exposure to wing clipped birds, and get him all excited about them. Tease him with them, rile him up. Then plant them and let him hunt them up. Once he's all excited, then toss a bird out in the water, just a bit off shore. If he goes for the bird great, work slowly at increasing distances and he should be fine. If he hesitates, then get your waders on and go out with him. Make the water a happy, fun place.

As for the gunshots, I like to associate the gun with birds. Once your pup is all excite about birds, plant a couple for him (not wing clipped this time). Wait until he's flushed the bird and is caught up in the chase, then pop your blank or 22 a couple times. He should show no reaction. If he does, ignore him. Don't acknowledge his concern, or you'll be reinforcing it. If he showed no reaction, pop a little closer next time and progress to louder guns (always starting out at a distance). If he did act concerned, wait a couple days and try again with a little more distance. Just be patient and he'll be fine.

For your retrieving problems, start back in the yard. Reinforce your fetch command and your come command. Then slowly start introducing distractions, one at a time. Just patiently increase them. It takes time, but it's worth it. You may also want to consider a Force Fetch program, but thats another question.

Good luck,


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