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Handling a young dog

Dear whom it may concern,
I am having a problem with stopping my lab in the field when he is retrieving to give him hand signals. He is 7 months old now. When we first got him we started him pretty early with a whistle. At about the age of 10 weeks he would stop and sit when you blow the whistle. But I think that I made a mistake and took that he knew it and would not forget it. I did not work with him for a couple of weeks and he did not do it so good the next time. My problem now is that if he is by you and you want him to sit and blow the whistle he will. But if you send him back on a retrieve and blow the whistle he just keeps going as if nothing has happened. I am wondering how I can get him to honor the whistle when doing retrieves so that I can get him to look at me and take hand signals. If you could please help me because I have tried many things and it will not work and I am on my last leg with training him this. I do not know what to do. Thank you very much and your sight is very good.


Please realize that you are dealing with a very young puppy. You should not expect a dog this age to be "honoring the whistle" like you would expect out of a two or three year old that has had a lot of training.

You should not be running this pup on any exercises that require him to stop on the whistle on the way to a retrieve. He needs to learn the smaller component parts of the exercise first, then slowly put them together.

Start out with the pup at heel and blow the whistle. Praise him when he sits. Move on to calling him toward you when he is in the field. When he is half way to you, blow the whistle. The instant he slows down to sit, throw a bumper out beyond him so that he will have to turn away from you to get it. Continue to do this until he will sit and look at you when you blow the whistle then throw a bumper for him.

After you have gone through your three hand casting exercises and have are well along in the "force to pile" and "sit to pile" work, you can begin to work on the whistle while he is going away from you toward the pile of bumpers. Do this very occasionally or the dog will start popping and won't run the line cleanly.

There is a fine balance in training a dog to run a line and training him to listen to the whistle. If you start too early and move too quickly you will have to issue many corrections and you risk destroying the dog's attitude about the work.

A dog this age should be learning to mark under light restraint, working on basic obedience and working through the force fetch. Slow down and let the pup catch up. You will find that your training will actually progress at a faster pace because the dog understands the work better.


Bill Corcoran
Highland Retrievers

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