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Is my gundog schizophrenic?

I spent a long time trying to make sure I ended up with a level-headed but able working gun dog.

When I have been firm with her to rectify problems she becomes very sensitive and everything seems to fall apart.

JEREMY HUNT SAYS: This is not an uncommon syndrome.

But in my experience it can produce a pure gem of a working gun dog if you take the right tack and keep your cool.

The fact that you describe her as a “real sweetie” may hold the key to the problem here.

She has probably been shown plenty of affection in her early months, and that’s fine, but now you have to strike a new balance in your relationship.

I’ve had gun dogs like this and they can drive you to distraction – largely because they are extremely intelligent.

If you are a short-tempered person this gun dog will test you.

So consider if you are prepared to continue, because heavy handedness will get you absolutely nowhere.

Don’t assume that her defiance means she is a hard-going type.

If she was she would have bounced back after being chastised for incorrectness.

In this case she’s showing her true colours and going soft – almost subservience taken to the extreme.

That doesn’t need to be a problem if you can get inside her head and not make too much of this almost attention-seeking behaviour.

If things start to go wrong just abandon the training for the day.

If you can start to really tap into her abilities and achieve a very close rapport with her I would be surprised if she doesn’t turn out to be a great gun dog.

It’s all about confidence building between the two of you.

Go completely overboard when things go right and even when you are with her at other times use every opportunity to build her confidence with praise.

I had a bitch like this a few years ago that had the most loving nature and was a fast and stylish retriever as a pup but would stop short with the retrieve, wagging happily but almost seeming too embarrassed to actually give me the dummy.

In this case I adopted various tactics, avoiding eye contact on the return with the dummy, turning my back on her as she returned or simply bending down to take the dummy at her level.

It worked, and I think you will find that your bitch will improve if you take time to assess – at each stage of her training – what it is that’s
causing the problem.

I firmly believe that if you take the stance that this is a partnership that you are both working towards and build up her confidence in you, this could be your once-in-a-lifetime labrador. 


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