Q: My Labrador puppy runs past me with dummies and will not bring them in to deliver. This is getting worse and I do not know what to do. He finds the dummies and picks-up really well no matter where they are hidden. I have tried using a long line but that puts him off picking-up the dummy. I admit that his recall to whistle is not always good and if he is on scent he will ignore me from time to time. Any advice appreciated please!
A: This is an indication that he is being possessive and if this is allowed to continue with dummies it could have more serious outcomes when he is introduced to the real thing. He is obviously very good at the outrun, finding and picking-up the dummy. You therefore need to work separately on the recall and delivery.
First, the recall must be perfect, so work on this and stop all retrieving lessons until this is the case. Use high-value treats and every time he comes near you, give a “pip” of the whistle and give him a treat. Do this little and often until he really focuses on earning a treat when he hears the whistle.
It may take weeks
In separate lessons teach him, using positive reinforcement, to sit and hold a dummy calmly in his mouth. Get him to walk along at heel with it, then leave him at the “stay”, walk on a couple of steps and recall him to your side. Keep things simple, only increase the distances very gradually, and keep him on a slack lead during all the remedial training until you are certain he has learned that holding and delivering a dummy to you will earn lots of pleasure and reward. Get this and his recall absolutely perfect before even thinking of linking it back together with a complete retrieve. It may take weeks but it will be time and effort well rewarded.