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Have I dented my gundog’s enthusiasm?

My young lab is very keen but tends to run-in on marked retrieves.

I trained him myself and have concentrated on steadiness with marked retrieves.

However, I’ve now found he has become reluctant to go out on blinds.

He even turns and looks rather sheepishly at me when he has gone 20 yards or so.

Have I affected his enthusiasm by concentrating on steadiness and how do I correct it?

There’s clearly been a breakdown in communication, probably caused by focussing too much on the part of the training that was going awry.

Yes, the steadiness has to be sorted but it’s so easy to give young dogs hang-ups about things they don’t grasp as easily as they should.

His reluctance to go out on a blind might be linked to your efforts to achieve steadiness.

So how do you encourage him to go away from you when he hasn’t seen a dummy thrown for him to retrieve?

As always go back to basics and rebuild confidence and the bond between you.

Walk 20 yards with him at heel – try using some rough grass to make it a bit more realistic – make him sit and stay and place a dummy just in front of him.

Return to him, and with him at heel, go back the same 20 yards.

With a clear hand signal and an encouraging send-out command of your choice, send him for the dummy.

Repeat the exercise, but put out two dummies and ask him to retrieve both using the same procedure.

This exercise is removing the typical marked retrieve – and so removes the trigger of keenness – but it is getting him to go away from you when he hasn’t actually marked the fall in the true sense of a marked retrieve.

Extend the distance and repeat, ensuring he is looking clearly at you when you give the hand signal.

When you feel he has progressed and is gaining confidence you can go out to the piece of ground before you start your training and place a dummy in the rough grass without him seeing it.

Then go through your normal routine of walking him out for 20 yards or so, placing a dummy so that he can see it (away from the first unseen dummy) and then asking him to retrieve it.

Ask him to go out for the dummy that he hasn’t seen you hide in the grass.

If he does you are on the right track.

Through praise, successfully undertaking this exercise over a period of time – and always in the same location – you should build up the dog’s confidence.

To ensure he achieves a result before he has even allowed himself time to question what he has done, you must initially ensure he comes across the dummy quickly.

Distances can be increased as he progresses.

For more gundog training advice click here