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How do I get my labrador retrieving again?

Labrador retrieving: Even when she is sent for a seen retrieve she starts hunting rather than bringing back the dummy.

How can I keep her under more control and ensure she returns immediately?

Jeremy Hunt says:
It seems to me that she’s finding dummies rather boring, and that’s not unusual.

I would imagine she leaves you with gusto and heads straight for the dummy, but once she gets her head down she loses any knowledge of it and starts to look for what she perceives to be the ‘real’ thing.

So how do you turn what appears to be a good game-finding retriever into a dog which will also acknowledge the need to retrieve a dummy with equal enthusiasm?

You could start by making the dummy more attractive to her by securely wrapping a pheasant or duck wing or a rabbit skin around it.

You could also try using some of the game ‘scents’ that are now available from many gundog training equipment suppliers.

A few drops on the dummy might do the trick.

None of those tactics will be on offer to you when you are actually taking part in working tests or scurries this summer – and faced with a basic, scentless dummy she may well revert to her old behaviour.

To tackle this problem from the grass roots level you will need to get back to basics.

Refrain from dummy training in any long grass or other cover which may distract your bitch from the job in hand.

Secondly, you must shorten the distance that she is sent.

Undertake any training exercises in a relatively confined space to ensure you that have maximum control of the situation.

To ensure she retains her enthusiasm and speed, make sure her dummy training is carried out before she is exercised.

This will enable you to capitalise on her keenness to work.

See what reaction she has to being thrown a basic canvas dummy just a few yards away in a confined space on a flat surface, free form any tempting scents.

Try throwing the dummy in the normal way and then see what happens if you place the dummy on the ground 10 yards in front of her – rather than throwing it – and then send her.

I think you have to try a range of training scenarios to assess which one achieves the best reaction from her.

I certainly wouldn’t give her any opportunity to retrieve anything on grass or in other cover at this point.

She may have an aversion to holding a dummy in her mouth, in which case you have to encourage her.

Forcing a dog to hold a dummy will only cause more resistance; she has to be made to pick it up herself.

Play a game with her and see if you can simply get her to pick-up the dummy and hold it, and even better still, follow you with it.

One other tip, always make sure you train her with clean dummies and not ones that may carry an unpleasant taint.

Dummies don’t improve with keeping.

For more gundog training advice click here