Start training your hunting dog now!
Thirteen-week-old puppies are challenging. If you have heard of the terrible twos for toddlers, a three- or four-month-old puppy is very similar. They are still puppies and therefore are still cute, do some fun and hilarious things, but they are also very troublesome. You can’t turn your back on them or leave them unattended for very long because they will get into trouble. Here is the training for your 13-week-old Labrador puppy.
Training and socialization for 13-week-old Labrador puppy
Here are the things we worked on this week while training of Bubba.
At this point, I consider Bubba crate trained. We are no longer actively working on crate training her, it is just a natural part of her life. She goes in and out of the crate without issue, is quiet in the crate and sleeps soundly in her crate throughout the night. We put her in the crate around 9 pm and take her out at 6 am. She also spends time in her crate each day between periods of training or play time.
Housebreaking will be an ongoing process for the next couple months at least. Bubba rarely has accidents, and we know they will become less and less over time and will eventually just stop.
Obedience training your 13-week-old puppy
At three-months of age I start formal obedience with our puppies. We started formal obedience with Bubba last week and this will continue for the next several months. The key command I work on first is SIT. While we have already been working on SIT inside the home, moving this command outside and in a more formal setting will challenge Bubba. The SIT training will involve me walking Bubba at HEEL, but my focus is on SIT.
Formal obedience will be done on leash with a chain collar. I try to make Bubba HEEL as much as possible by changing directions often. Occasionally I stop and have Bubba SIT. In the past, I have enforced SIT with a push down on her bottom. Now, at this age, I will start using my dog training tools and will introduce the use of a heeling stick.
Using a heeling stick to enforce SIT command
A heeling stick makes it possible for me to give a quick tap on Bubba’s bottom when she is slow to SIT or if she is constantly standing up after I have commanded SIT. Each time I give a correction with the heeling stick I say the command before and after the command. It should look something like this: SIT – tap- SIT.
This week I expect Bubba to SIT and stay for a few seconds. We do not use the STAY command, because when we tell a dog to SIT we expect him/her to SIT until we say another command or release the dog.
Currently Bubba will sit still for around 10-15 seconds before getting antsy. Sometimes she gets distracted by her own tail, which is funny. I do some movement with my body to add distraction and firm up her SIT. For instance, I may lift my knees and “pretend” walk while I am close to her or shuffle back in forth between feet. My movement helps Bubba learn that just because I am moving, that does not mean she can.
Over time I will add a lot more distractions, but I add them slowly based on how well Bubba is understanding what I expect of her.
Training your 13-week-old puppy to COME or HERE
HERE is such a hard command at this age. But so vital. Getting a good consistent reaction to the HERE command will require a little more maturity. Eventually, we will use an electronic collar to achieve quick responses to our obedience commands. But we want the puppy to be a bit older for before we start with the electronic collar.
For now, I must be content with taking Bubba outside on lead and using a long lead for doing fetching and marks. When Bubba gets in trouble for a HERE command, I can see her mind working. She is starting to understand when I am not happy with her behavior. Luckily, Bubba is very tractable. She isn’t one of those dogs that is self-absorbed, Bubba cares if I am happy. I have already seen some adjustment in her behavior just from my stern commands and corrections.
While I am not a big fan of treat training, I know that it is very effective to get a puppy responsive to the HERE command. I have started working with treats (I use little kibbles of her dog food) to get a better response from Bubba on HERE outside. I will only use the treats for a short time, once I have Bubba more responsive to a HERE command I will stop.
Introducing your Labrador puppy to hunting elements
We continue to introduce Bubba to various hunting elements. So far, we have introduced her to water and swimming, decoys on land, and a live pigeon. These introductions have all gone well, so this week we added a few more introductions.
Introducing your puppy to boat on land
There are several ways to hunt ducks and geese. Some hunt from a boat and some hunt from land. We take great care to make sure our dogs are trained to hunt from both. To do this, we start with an introduction to a boat on land. The surface of a boat can be slippery, and many dogs do not like to get into the boat at first. With retrievers this is generally easy to overcome by throwing retrieves from the boat.
Bubba jumped into the boat with a little encouragement. She has been well socialized with walking on top of various items and surfaces, so the boat was not a big challenge for her. While Bubba was in the boat, I threw a bumper for her to fetch. When she brought it back to me, I had her jump back in the boat and repeated this a few more times.
Introduction to HOLD
One aspect of hunting training that many people overlook is teaching your dog to hold an item in his/her mouth for a period and to release the item when commanded. This is a trained behavior; it is not natural for a retriever to do this. The first step toward teaching your puppy or dog this behavior is to teach HOLD as a command. We do not start this training until after all the dog’s adult teeth come in, around 5-6 months of age. But you can do some prep work towards this training now by simply messing with your puppy’s mouth.
So, what do I mean by messing with your puppy’s mouth. It is very simple, occasionally, grab a hold of your puppy’s collar and make her SIT. While she is sitting, grab a hold of your puppy’s lower jaw by insert your thumb inside your puppy’s mouth with the rest of your hand under her lower jaw. Put your thumb behind the K9 teeth, there is a little pocket there so that you won’t get bitten too much. You can wear a leather glove if you are worried about damaging your hand.
Hold your hand there and when your puppy resists, say NO, HOLD. Be prepared to have a bit of a fight on your hand. Your puppy will not like this the first few times and will likely resist strongly.
When your puppy stops trying to escape and/or bite you, and holds her mouth still, say GOOD DOG, HOLD and then say GIVE as you take your hand out of the puppy’s mouth. You don’t have to do this every day, but it should be something you do occasionally. After a while your puppy will not fight it so hard and may even willingly SIT and hold your hand.
Once your puppy starts getting adult teeth, you will want to stop this training since the teething process is painful and your hand will cause them more pain and will do more harm than good.
Increased distance for assistant marks
Bubba continues to get assistant marks each day. We have begun to increase the distance but are still limited to the length of our check cord until we can get a consistent response on the HERE command.
Final thoughts on training for your 13-week-old Labrador puppy
Your 13-week-old retriever is capable of learning quickly. But he/she will require you to be firm and consistent in your expectations. Set boundaries and enforce infractions with a quick correction. Putting your puppy in his/her crate for a time out can work, as can a stern command. Just don’t give up!
If you are struggling or need additional help with your new puppy, you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or just give me a call (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time, happy retrieving.