Murphy has entered his first rebellious stage, which I knew would come eventually. It can be frustrating if you let it; so don’t let it, because it’s also pretty humorous. The key is to eliminate the opportunity for this response and take a step back for a few days.
During this entire first period of training, we have been calmly handing the dummy back and forth and he has even been given an occasional short “blind” retrieve. I do not throw anything, as I learned from experience training my Lab Pickett that getting the puppy jacked up on marks flying through the air is a quick ticket to a breaking dog in the future. Instead, I drop the dummy during our walk and then let Murph see it on the way back, make him sit for a few seconds, then let him go and get the dummy. Up until now he has dragged the dummy back to my feet.
Yesterday, he decided to play keep away and not bring it back. As I stepped toward him he would jump out of reach, look up mischievously with his legs spread apart ready to spring away the moment I reached for it. While it was cute, it is definitely not something I want ingrained in his rapidly forming little brain. Cute now will turn to exasperation later.
Paul and Murph try again
photo by Tim Bronson
I decided to handle it two ways. First of all, I didn’t respond by chasing him. I did exactly the opposite and walked away, totally ignoring him. He followed me instantly, but he still wanted to play keep away the minute I reached down, so I ignored him again. Finally I decided to use the “come” whistle, which he has been responding to very well. It was enough to make him forget the game for a second and come to me. I took the dummy and put it away. No more of that.
Today, I brought the dummy back out and simply handed it back and forth with him again to get him to understand that this is all about give and take. There were no retrieves, but I did place it once, let him see it, placed him at sit and stay, and then I went and got it. I brought it back and we handed it back and forth again a few times and I put it away. I am going to do this for a few days to get him to understand that the dummy belongs to both of us and then I will try another retrieve again in about a week. I am in no rush here and the last thing I want at this stage is a bad habit I have to break.
The good news is Murph is becoming increasingly steady at stay. Today I walked away a good distance and put the stopwatch on him for a full 45 seconds. He didn’t move until I blew the “come” whistle. That exercise and his willingness to come to the whistle was very helpful in getting him to bring me the dummy during his little walk on the wild side as I stated above. It all works together.