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When my black Labrador bitch aged 14 months goes out on a retrieve she goes out really fast to the dummy, and about 50% of the time she gets to it, gives it a look and then just starts to sniff around and won’t pick it up. I have tried running out to encourage her but she just doesn’t seem interested. Can you advise?
HOWARD KIRBY replies: This is a problem that clients present to us at Mullenscote on a fairly regular basis. Generally speaking, there’s no one thing that will fix this, but don’t worry, if you’re prepared to make some changes then you will be able to get her really keen again.
Firstly, take a look at her day-to-day management – is she getting too much other stimulation from walks, toys, or too much training, etc.? Deliberately try to make day-to-day life a little less exciting for her. Once this is sorted she should be coming into your ‘classroom’ absolutely full of beans. For many, the renewed ‘drive’ will be sufficient, but once some dogs have learned that they can get away with ignoring the dummy, they will simply opt to do this.
With a dog that has got into this habit we will need to brush up on its general obedience. All the dogs we work with need to be sharp around us – heel, sit, stay, focus, or the lack of it, will all contribute to shoddy retrieving. Once the dog is working with us, is happy to follow the rules and is not terrified, there should be a huge difference. Then we can give her instruction: ‘Hey you, that dummy that I’ve just thrown, it’s compulsory! Fetch it, straight out, pick it up, straight back – nice!’
This is almost certainly fixable. Have a go at these suggestions and don’t forget to keep in touch and let us know how you’re getting on.