For years I have been writing training tips in articles, letters and emails. I thought it was about time to make my efforts available to anyone who might just need the tips I have to offer, so here is my first entry. Please note, I am NOT soliciting questions - I volunteer tons of time to a Lab rescue organization adopters, fosters and friends. The tips shared here are free for the taking .. or not - as always, use your own best judgement regarding whether my tips fit your needs and never do anything with your dog that makes you uncomfortable. There are many ways to approach every training situation. Mainly, like my Labs themselves, I like to have fun! There will be no particular order to my training posts. Some will be for puppies and/or first time dog owners and some will be for experienced trainers, dog sport competitors, and rescue dog rehabilitaters. So here we go!
(Names will be changed to protect the guilty :-).)
Problem: Nora is ignoring the chewies and her designated stuff in favor of tearing up pillows, her crate bed, and other soft items. Sometimes she retrieves the items, sometimes she shreds them. We scold her for ripping the pillows, but she still does.
Tip: That's typical for a young Lab. They do have a high need for human attention. If chewing and playing with her own toys gets ignored, but tearing up pillows gets attention - even if negative - then pillows it will be. I suggest you play with the Nora's toys with her, and tell her how wonderful they are and make a fuss when she is doing the "right thing". If she only gets noticed when she is being naughty, then she will be naughty. And it all starts innocently - she rips a pillow as a puppy mistake and it gets lots of attention vs. she bites her bone and no one notices because she is being good and owners don't realize they need to "make note" that she IS being good. Labs are needy. It is important to make a little celebration about all of her good behaviors at first - not just ignore them. Labs love to be praised - that little effort you take to tell them when they are just being good, whether it's being quiet, chewing a bone, sleeping in their crate, whatever - that little positive reinforcement can make all the difference for a Lab - especially a puppy. It takes concerted effort and training for most people because it is so easy to ignore them when they are being good or think "phew, the Lab is finally quiet" and not make note of it to the Lab. But that is what they really need - that is what they thrive on. The "secret" to Labs is that they are needy - pay attention to the behaviors you want to see more of, because you will see more of the behaviors you pay attention to!
Enjoy your dog! Labs just want to have fun - Share the Spirit!
See some of my OtterTail Labs having fun and inspiring my OtterTail Labrador Retriever Art.