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From: DarylMB (
Subject:         First of all, make sure Marley ....
Date: July 19, 2008 at 11:06 pm PST

In Reply to: Chocolate Lab Water Fixation Problem posted by Wendy on July 19, 2008 at 11:32 am:

isn't swimming anywhere with a strong current because if he's refusing to come back to you, he could get into trouble where you can't reach him. Stick to ponds and lakes and avoid fast rivers and ocean beaches with strong tides.

Most labs are extremely motivated by food and I would use this to your advantage. First of all, get him good and tired with a long walk or run before you go swimming. If you can rollerblade or bike with him, so much the better but the important thing is to get rid of some of his energy. And as you know, a 13-month old lab has LOTS of energy!

Once he's tired he should be calmer and more attentive. This is when you take him to the water. Make sure he's wearing the 25-foot leash and that you have a pocketful of his favorite treats. This is a time when I would even suggest using people food like cheese or weiners as treats because most dogs find them irresistable. Let Marley swim out and have fun for a few minutes, then call him. If he doesn't respond right away, use the leash to gently force him to swim back to you. Once he's on shore, lavish him with praise and give him several treats. Even if you had to pull him the entire way, reward him as if he's the most wonderful dog on the planet. Do that several times, always using the leash, and then leave the area. Having the leash on will ensure that the dog can't fail. You call him, he comes back (willingly or not) and he's rewarded for coming back. Basically what you're doing is conditioning him to automatically return to you when you call. It's the same principle used when training a dog to come; the only difference is you're doing it on the water.

You might also try playing fetch in the water with him using a floatable frisbee. Make sure he's wearing the leash, throw the frisbee into the water and have him swim out and bring it back. Give him a treat and praise him when he comes back (even if you had to pull him) and then repeat the process. This way he'll learn that he not only gets praise and treats for coming back, but that he HAS to come back if he wants you to throw the frisbee again.

One of these methods should work for you but it may take some time to train him, so be patient. The most important thing to remember is to be gentle when pulling him with the leash. A firm and steady traction (no jerking) is best because you want to direct him without frightening him.

Good luck!

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