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GUN DOG Training Advise

Discussion in 'Gundog Training, Fieldwork, & Field Trials' started by Jenid, Mar 29, 2018.

  1. Jenid

    Jenid Registered Users

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    Hi there.
    I have a 15month black lab and I have never trained her as a gun dog. However in the past few months she has caught a number of animals; birds- a seagull and a pheasant; and a rabbit.
    Further more she is a fantastic retriever, except when it comes to the animals. Who I am afraid have suffered greatly from her until I have managed to prize them out of her mouth.

    This is something that I am really not used to as my previous (golden) retriever didn't bother about chasing or retrieving for that matter.

    Now- I am not sure but I can only think that working with this is the best way forward?
    I was quite sure that retrevers were supposed to carry the animal quite gently in their mouth for a retrieve- at least I have been told this by other gun dog owners?

    Can anyone suggest how I can train her to bring the animal carefully to me, should this happen again??
    I hope this doesn't sound crazy- but she's clearly very smart and I would rather try to turn this into something positive since this is clearly an instinct for her.

    Thank you in advance for any suggestions!!

    Jeni :chuckle:
     
  2. Peartree

    Peartree Registered Users

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    My understanding is that the retrieve chain for dogs is an interruption of the natural instinct, Hunt, chase, capture, kill and consume which is hard wired into any carnivore. When your dog is hunting for himself he has gone into ‘prey drive’ and so is likely to finish the chain.

    I think that it can be quite a task to work with this once it’s established but I would say that the one thing I would never do is try to prize any retrieve off your dog. It only leads to the dog chomping down on their prized possession. I would think more about trading the capture for something even better. Whenever one of my dogs has managed to hunt something up I have always put them on lead (so they can’t consume) and walked back home or to the car with it so that when you swop for something better they have had enough time with their prey.

    Hope that helps. :)
     
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  3. Jenid

    Jenid Registered Users

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    It does! Thank You! I did reward her when she came away (eventually) and was able to put her on the lead. But I fear the reward wasn' great enough to have her come away from the bird earlier!
    If there is such a thing?

    Thank you for your help!
     
  4. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    Nope, probably not.
    But through training, you create a reinforcement history rather than relying on the dog making a conscious choice (which is essentially bribing). Here is an article which explains it better than I could - about horses, but just as relevant to dogs: https://spellboundhorses.com/2017/07/25/the-super-power-of-reinforcement-histories/

    Welcome, by the way :)
     
  5. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    With Molly it wasn’t quite the same thing - I had a problem with her picking up and eating, or refusing to give up, dead seagulls on the beach in winter. I did eventually solve the problem and you might find the same works for you - don’t try it when you’re in a hurry.

    When Molly picked up a dead bird I put her on a lead and walked back to the car (no scolding or lead jerks). When we got there I waited with the lead short enough so she could stand or sit but not lie down. This meant she couldn’t eat it. (I know some dogs do manage to eat like this, so my method depends on them not doing so.) However the lead wasn’t tight and I was relaxed.
    This first time it was a long wait but eventually she did drop the bird. I moved her away from it, gave her lots of food rewards, and then picked up the bird and handed it back to her.
    We walked a few yards on lead and then back to the car. Repeated the process. It was still quite a long wait but the more we repeated the shorter the wait became.
    After a few goes, I put her on a long line and used the dead bird for a retrieve (I put it down, we walked away on a short lead, then I let out the lead and sent her for it.) She brought it back and allowed me to take it. I handed it back again.

    I don’t think Molly has a very high hunting drive, so I realise it might have been easier for me - but we had been in a position where she was grabbing the birds and playing keep away and this no longer happens.
     
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  6. Peartree

    Peartree Registered Users

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    I have worked on this with a dog that has a very high hunt drive and also was extremely resource guarding. When he first hunted for himself I couldn’t even get near to him, he was growling and warning me and I had to lasso him with a slip lead and then walk swiftly with him. I swopped the bird or rabbit for a very desirable treat. I used to keep frozen raw chicken portions in the freezer especially for this situation. Holding something smelly just over their nose and waiting patiently works eventually.

    You need to classically condition the handing over of items with lower value items, don’t start with high value possessions. So that as snowbunny says the behaviour becomes a default as it has been so highly rewarded. I never took anything off this dog without giving a treat for over a year so that the first thing he now does is to show me his special finds! It worked very well for us but it takes lots of time and patience.
     
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  7. SteffiS

    SteffiS Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    I'm very interested in this as I now have the problem with Ripple picking up and eating dead birds. Unfortunately @Joy the approach you use with Molly wouldn't work with Ripple as if he can't lie down he just manoeuvres the bird down his throat and swallows it virtually whole. I could try a variation on this but up until now he has always been off lead when he finds things and is very very difficult to catch.
    It is also pretty unlikely that I'm going to have something Ripple sees as a higher value reward than a dead bird. Currently keeping him on a long line keeps the problem under control but I am aware I should work out a long term strategy to try and solve this.
     
  8. selina27

    selina27 Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    I sometimes have issues with Cassie finding bones on walks which she wants to eat, so I'm interested in this too. We aren't plaqued with dead birds nor has she caught any live prey, so slightly different to OP's query.
    I have found that, while she doesn't bring the item to me she will allow me to approach her, talking as if she's the cleverest dog on the planet :rolleyes::rolleyes: and attach lead, so off we go and she brings it home or back to the car. She will release it and I give it back to her, but then I get a bit stuck. I'm never quite sure how many times it's reasonable to do this, perhaps practice like @Peartree with lower value items.
    I like the idea of the long line and getting her to retrieve it, I think she might do that. Yesterday, once back in the car I held the bone (oh such joy) while she chewed it for a while before I swapped it for a piece of hotdog.
     
  9. snowbunny

    snowbunny Registered Users

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    Did it with Luna and a wild boar carcass (hide and spine) a week or so again. That was gross but productive. I asked for a give about ten times and then let her have it. She eats plenty of raw anyway, I have no issue with her chewing a bit of boar hide.
    A few days ago she found a wild boar head (the hunters have been around, we don't just have boar dropping dead on the mountain for no reason). I just let her have zoomies with it and then carry it for a while until she dropped it. I then carried it the rest of the way home - it was surprisingly heavy after a while! - and popped it in the bin. I couldn't face the give-it-take-it routine with that. Even I have limits :D
     
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  10. SteffiS

    SteffiS Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    I didn't even have this problem with Ripple until Christmas, he was always quite happy to give me things, even a seagull. I always gave him loads of praise and acted as if he was giving me the most wonderful present ever. This suddenly changed on Christmas Eve with the dead duck on the beach, no idea why, and now I can't seem to redeem the situation - in fact it seems to be getting worse :(.
     
  11. Jenid

    Jenid Registered Users

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    Thank you for the suggestions! My lab (Marcie) is infact really good at leaving a dead animal since I trained her to do so from a pup (except from a couple of choice occasions).
    It's really this live animal thing that's new to me and a greater challenge. While I always reward her for leaving the dead one- it's stiff competition finding a good exchange for a fresh pheasant. So improving the reward in this case is a good place to start @snowbunny.
    @Peartree when you suggest "You need to classically condition the handing over of items with lower value items, don’t start with high value possessions" do you mean with toys ect? Because I think she is ok with that at least. Would you suggest I train her myself also with higher value items (Like work our way up to an understanding of swaps) ?

    I have to say I am suprised by the hunt drive. I really thought she enjoyed the chase and that was it :pull:
    I didn't think she'd catch let alone catch up with anything! Shes even swam really far out to sea to try to grab a duck. However i love seeing her run happy and wouldn't want to restrain her.

    Thank you again!

    Jeni :chuckle:
     
  12. Jenid

    Jenid Registered Users

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    The odd thing is the dead ones aren't so much trouble for me as since early I taught her to *leave it* and now she proudly stands beside dead things waiting to be congratulated.
    Although there is the odd moment where it all gets too much and a dead bird is consumed.
    However I am quite sure a similar concept could help in training her for the living thing!

    Thank you

    Jeni
     
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  13. selina27

    selina27 Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Hi Jeni, and as I should have said before welcome to the Forum from me and Cassie, who is coming up to 2.

    I was wondering, would it be worth working on Marcie's recall, and that way preventing her catching live prey in the first place? If you don't already have it, there is a really good book by Pippa called Total Recall, it's worth the investment.

    I know what you mean about letting them run free, I feel that way myself :)
     
  14. Joy

    Joy Registered Users

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    I wonder if @Beanwood might have some suggestions. Her Bramble has killed birds in the past but is also doing really well in her gundog training.
     
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  15. Beanwood

    Beanwood Moderator Forum Supporter

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    Yes, Bramble has just turned two, and whilst she has a very high prey drive when it comes to working/training in the field she will sit to flush, or on cue when needed. She can now work off lead when there are pheasants.

    However we have a lot of poultry here but if she is too close, and they are flapping then quite honestly there isn't much I can do, mainly because I don't have that nano-second of time to get an emergency cue in place. This is a very, very rare occurrence. If I have time, just a couple of seconds, and a bit of space, I can manage Bramble well in these circumstances, even off lead.

    This takes time though, and I think @snowbunny has mentioned an article that really put a bit of context around that process, reinforcement history. https://spellboundhorses.com/2017/07/25/the-super-power-of-reinforcement-histories/

    One thing about chasing game is that it is highly reinforcing. For Bramble hunting, itself is incredibly reinforcing, and I need her to hunt well for working, I don't want to punish her for it! :) So I have worked in behaviours I need, or want, and this does not necessarily mean recalling her away from a chase/hunt. I simply replace this with something that has a high history of reward. I rarely recall Bramble away from anything, unless she is already moving towards me, I know that sounds odd! Trying to recall Bramble from a hunt may have a negative effect on my recall in the future. I appreciate this is very much how I work with Bramble, and actually is different again with the other two. With Bramble the STOP whistle is the more important cue, if I know there are pheasants for example I will use the STOP cue and instantly she knows to hold her place until told otherwise. I use the whistle even before a retrieve, to help shape that all important impulse control.

    So there are a few things I can do. I use a stop whistle and redirect, or in an emergency, I use a magic word mine is "Lost, lost, lost!" . This technique involves me throwing a handful of the highest value treats up in the air then they have to hunt for them. I have trained this over, and over and over, in very LOW distraction areas. I like this cue as I am not taking them away from something highly reinforcing, but offering them a choice to get some-else really highly reinforcing. So in effect they don't have to do anything to get it.

    So a lot of information here, I would recommend trying gundog lessons, they are great for your partnership with your dog, but also really enjoyable! Just make sure you find a positive only gundog trainer, who train by helping your dog make the right choices instead of punitively so.
     
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  16. Jenid

    Jenid Registered Users

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    @Beanwood Thank you for this detailed reply! I think I understand- and certainly agree that gundog lessons could be a fun way forward for us!
    This has only happened so far on a few occasions however she is clearly very hunt/ pursuit driven. And as I have said I am really trying to find how to work this best for us both.
    I can also undersand when you say that you rarely recall unless she is already coming towards you- in the end I imagine this would be positive reinforcement. While if she is hunting, she may be more likely to become distracted or deaf?
    Thank you for your help!

    Jeni
     
  17. Inky lab

    Inky lab Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    Just to add an anecdote to this. As you know I've had a problem training Inky not to eat dog poo, incidentally improving but still a way to go but with dead birds it's different.
    I have a phobia about birds, I can deal with them flying and if they're not too close but there is no way I could deal with Inky with one. We've encountered only 3 dead ones or bits of them that he has gone towards or picked up. Each time I've told him to leave in such a panicked fashion that he's immediately dropped it and come away. One of these was a dead pigeon in the garden on our last visit outside. I spent all night worrying about how I was going to remove it and felt quite pleased with myself when I managed on the 3rd attempt with gloves and a trowel to put it in a bag at arm's length. Even writing this I know it's ridiculous but I tell myself that most people have a fear of something.
    I did find Inky's response interesting though, I think he picked up on my distress but not in a bad way.
     
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