"I have a 7-year-old chocolate Lab who seems to be a quick study when it comes to bird hunting. I personally trained her for upland hunting. She picked up the game relatively quickly. After a year, she was finding birds with the best of them. The retrieve was never a problem. Although this was mainly game farm hunting, it was still very enjoyable to see her work.
This year I was fortunate enough to fall into a goose hunting club where she was put through a different set of circumstances. There are water and field retrieves. Again, she was a quick study.
The problem comes when she is not retrieving, particularly in the field. We hunt from pits at the end of which is a dog box dug into the ground. The box is big enough for two dogs. On the lid are two windows for each of the dogs to observe incoming birds. Getting in the box is not an issue. Waiting for the retrieve is the problem.
It does not take her long to start whining. I assume this is out of boredom, for she has relieved herself and I have found no injuries prior to her entering the box. I enlisted the use of an e-collar. This proved promising but not the entire solution.
She would quiet down for a brief time then be back at it. On her last hunt this season I decided to go against my training beliefs and increased the intensity of the collar. After two incidents and responses by me at the moment of the whine, relief. I think she may have gotten the message. She was silent for approximately two hours.
Can you give me any thoughts on my approach? What can I do in the offseason to avoid this next year? Although the higher voltage was successful on that last afternoon, I do not want to do anything that would harm her attitude toward birds or jeopardize her response to the collar in the future."
From what you say about her, I get the picture she is a pretty intense dog in that she gets into her job totally, not just casually. So with her personality, I think the whining started because she was excited, anticipating something would happen soon. I suspect she whined and eventually a goose came over, was shot and she got to retrieve. She was rewarded for whining, in her mind at least, so that she now knows whining long enough will bring a goose over.
It is always self-rewarding in that it gives her a chance to let off steam from the building excitement, and it works — a goose comes by often enough to keep her keen on it. So the whining tends to escalate. Breaking the habit is not easy and will take a lot of time and patience. Your e-collar might work temporarily but she will revert as soon as she makes a sound or even thinks about it and a goose happens to come in.
The surest way of breaking the habit is what Skinner with his training box called a slow-down schedule, a very difficult thing to learn for anyone. A way that you can do it is to have her sit in her dugout, box or pit so she can see a dummy being tossed. Start by having her sit quietly for 1 minute. If she is perfectly quiet for the full minute, toss the dummy and have her retrieve it to you.
Walk her around for a few minutes and set her up again, but this time she must wait 90 seconds before the toss and retrieve. Getting to retrieve is her reward for being quiet.
Keep gradually increasing the time she must wait for the reward. But don't increase by the same amount every time.
If she does whine during a wait, stop, take her out of her box and walk her away, quit for the day, back up a few steps and go again the next day. Don't say anything, just end it for the time being. Never reward her for whining or for doing anything you don't want her to.
Keep working until you get her up to a 10- or 15-minute wait for the dummy to be thrown. By then you might also consider using something other than a bumper such as a make-believe duck or goose dummy or even a real dead bird. You want to get her over the excitement and learn that being quiet is the way to get birds, just as she has learned whining brings the goose.
You want to keep it enticing for her by adding shooting blanks when the bird is thrown and so on, but be careful not to get her too cranked up or you might have to back up again and go slower for a while. You should also do some of this training at the club where you shoot geese so she is in the real setting.
After you have been able to keep her quietly waiting for the extended time and you go on an actual hunt, if she whines in the blind, get her out, walk her around a bit and replace her as you did in the training when she wasn't quiet. She may never be totally fail-safe so you want a way to remind her of what is correct.
Keep the lessons short, do only four or five repetitions of the drill at any one session and try to do them twice a day, especially at the beginning. You don't want her to get bored, but rather you want to keep her enthusiasm up.
You can do this by interspersing play retrieving between the wait-quiet lessons. Best of luck in bringing her to her full potential.
From down under, John Hoy (Lower Southgate, NSW Australia) submitted this photo of Gerty at nine weeks. John notes that Gerty's tail is not docked as it is against Australian law.
Birds! Bugs! Bananas! These are a few of eight-month-old Tully's favorite things, according to Greg and Annette Snow of Vancouver, WA.
Casey Jones is a two-month-old black Lab who enjoys watching the Red Sox and taking naps. He is owned by Edward Bilsky, Ph.D.
I didn't do it, honest! This Brittany, named Abbey Road, certainly LOOKS guilty!
Kevin Richardson, of Roscoe, Illinois, says that Bullet, his 10-month-old Brittany, loves the water almost as much as he loves pheasants... 'almost! '
POINT taken! Valentine, at 10 weeks, pointing a pen-raised quail. The Brittany is owned by the Harrison family of Jonesville, LA.
Four-month-old Midge, an English cocker, may look sweet here, but she will be terror on pheasants, predicts owner Dick Greene, of West Yellowstone, MT.
Now what? Field-bred English cocker Rowdy is looking back at his hunting companion (a yellow lab named Doc) asking, 'Now that I've retrieved it, what do I do with it? '
Bath time for eight-week-old English setter Cody. Jack York of Colorado Springs, CO, says although Cody is not fond of baths, he is on track to becoming an excellent hunter.
Twelve-week-old English setter Yuma takes a break for lunch during a grouse hunt in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Yuma is owned by Tom Milakovic of Michigan City, IN.
Resting up for hunting season is Angelette Mon Diamant. 'Angel ' is a 12-week-old French Brittany spaniel.
Minnesota's FS Dakota after her first hunt at 7 1/2-months. This lovely French spaniel is owned by Karla and Paul Fischenich.
Four-month-old Fred has a taste for trailer wiring harnesses, huntng gloves...and anything green! Nevertheless, Derek Wenzel, of Livonia, MI, says he could not have asked for a better German shorthair.
Three-month-old Gauge, a German shorthair, loves to play with his DeadFowl pheasant and jump off the dock into the pond, according to owner Nathan Sherwin, of Blackstone, VA.
Worth every mile! Steve and Cindy Hutson traveled from North Carolina to Jasper, MO, to pick up Karli, their three-month-old German shorthaired pointer.
'BEE CAREFUL! ' Grant Stencil of Bonita, California, says his German shorthaired pointer, Rosie, loves pointing bees in the backyard. Amazingly, to date she has not been stung.
Matt Davis submitted this photo of his first bird dog, Sawyer, a six-week-old German shorthaired pointer.
Life is good! Ten-month-old German shorthaired pointer River enjoys a pheasant wing in the afternoon sun. Ed Eick, of Rochester, MN, is River's owner and hunting companion.
Jeremy and Kasey Anthon, of Morrison, TN, submitted this photo of Sawyer Anthony, a 10-week-old German shorthaired pointer who LOVES ducks!
Ruger never fails to find and retrieve birds regardless of where they fall...water, blackberries, ANYWHERE! The 5-month-old German wirehair is owned by Kenneth Larson of Monroe, WA.
Picture Perfect! Coop is an 8-week-old German wirehaired pointer owned by William Swinarski, Jr., of Omaha, NE, and photographed by Adam Swinarski of Swinarski Photography.
Lucky number nine! Norah Bones, a 10-month-old golden retriever, flushed and picked up nine birds while quail hunting in East Tennessee.
Wrap them up€¦I'll take them! These 8-week old Labrador retriever pups will soon be retrieving machines. Jasper, Calypso and Ragen are owned by TJ and Mercedes Jones of Laurel Hill, FL.
Simply a GREAT litter! 'Every one of these pups is being hunted, ' says Ike English of Jackson, GA.
Dreaming of future days afield, Leo is a Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever. Leo is owned by Dan and Pam Giberson of Okotoks, Alberta.
Life is a field of clover for this 3-month-old fox red Labrador retriever, Dawkins, owned by Hunter Moyer of Mifflinburg, PA.
You've got to start somewhere! Pointing low hanging fruit is Shiawassee's Smoking Joe (Joey) at 7 months. 'He is my best buddy for sure! ' says Bob Versica of Manton, MI.
Life is just a breeze! Twelve-week-old springer Breeze is owned by Tony Del Giorgio of Eagle, ID.
Allie will retrieve anything, including blowing leaves. The 10-week old springer is owned by Gary Bondy of Brooklyn, MI.
Why can't I go? Three-month-old springer spaniel Murray was feeling a bit down after being told he was too young to go pheasant hunting. Brian Maher of West Chicago, IL, is Murray's owner.
CHEERS! Tommy is an 11-month-old springer spaniel from Vermont (where Switchback Ale is brewed). He belongs to Karen Cartier of Rutland, VT.
SURVIVOR! Maggie, now 10 years old, was photographed here at 8 weeks. An Epagneul Breton, Maggie has hunted all over the U.S. and survived a mountain lion attack two years ago while hunting in Arizona.
Dean Stainberg, of Redding, CA, submitted this photo of Cooper, his 7-month-old vizsla. Cooper earned his AKC Senior Hunter title at 11 months.
Liebchen, shown here holding a pheasant wing, is no doubt daydreaming of whole birds. Gregg Shunkwiler of Berrien Springs, MI, owns this 4-month-old vizsla pup.
Vacation can be exhausting! Four-month-old Weimaraner Nala is resting at her family's Northern Michigan cabin after a long walk through the woods.
Wirehaired pointing griffon Magnum at four months loves to hunt and enjoys boating and long walks through the forest.