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Breaking offlead

I have a three year old male black lab which I have trained myself. He knows his basic commands and he knows hand signals. He weighs about 90 lbs. and is very aggressive and possessive. He's a very hard charger. During training situations he is good and obeys my commands very well, during hunting situations he's his owns boss. He really comes unglued in hunting situations and its hard to get through to him, I'm sad to say

I have disciplined him harshly in the field. He knows the commands and he knows when he has disobeyed them.

People have told me to go back to the basics, use check cords, etc... but he does fine during training sessions. Problems: During duck hunting he is breaking, even before I shoot-upland hunting he is ranging to far. Do you have any suggestions that would help me steady my dog and keep in gunning range?

Many dog suffer from what you have described. It frequently occurs in competition dogs because they get very wound up during a trial or test and quickly learn that the handler cannot issue a correction.

Your dog is an ideal candidate for E-collar training. Many people are hesitant to use the electronic collar because of bad publicity generated by the old collars and brutal training styles. You might contact a pro trainer or retriever club to help you with E collar training.

If your dog is steady during training but not during actual hunting, then he has made a discrimination between the two. it is up to you to blur those lines. Make training much more exciting and hunting like, and always be prepared to issue a timely correction for breaking while hunting.

In training, I use a large number of live thrown pigeons that an assistant will shoot for the dog. This is very tempting and most dogs will break so a correction can be issued.

In the field, I will take along another hunter and I won't even shoot over the new dog until he is steady. This allows me to concentrate on correcting the dog if he breaks. It is just not possible to train the dog if you are trying to shoot ducks.

Range during upland hunting is a tricky issue. A dogs range is usually determined by genetics. There are things you can do to handle a dog to stay in range. Teach the dog to turn at your signal (whistle). Put him on a check-cord and let him run in any direction. Whistle then use the cord to change his direction 180 degrees then let him run again. Repeat until he is responding to the whistle. You can continue the training with an E collar. I set up and invisible electric fence that moves with me. For a flushing dog it is about 30 yards in front of me and 40 yards to either side. When the dog reaches that point he is corrected and given a turn whistle. In very short time the dog leans to burn his energy within the non electrified area.

Good Luck,

Bill Corcoran
Highland Retriever Kennel
Highland Retriever Kennel

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