My three-year-old Labrador, Daisy, is obsessed with swimming. I know it is a natural trait of her breed, but it has got so extreme that I can't walk her anywhere off-lead. Daisy can smell water wherever we are and will run until she finds it - nothing will distract her attention. She has even charged across a busy road to get to a pond on the other side, which has now made me afraid to let her run free.
Can anyone suggest a solution? I don't want to rid her of her natural instincts, but I need to have more control over my water baby.
Jo Richards, by email
Amy Hatcher, behaviourist and obedience trainer, says...
All breeds have their natural traits and with Labradors the number one thing seems to be swimming (and eating of course). My Border Collies are trained sheepdogs but I can still walk through a field of sheep and they won't go near unless I say so. You can achieve this by training your Labrador to go in the water on command to fetch something and then when she comes out with the article walk on and do some other training with her such as sit stays, down stays etc. Return to the pond and send her back in for a retrieve again. Don't just approach the pond and let her go in, actually encourage her by throwing something. This makes swimming 'work' rather than just a free for all. The next time she needs to be on the lead. Tell her to stay and throw the retrieve article - keep hold of the lead as she is likely to break her stay to rush in. When she relaxes and stops trying to pull you in give her the retrieve command and send her in. You need to repeat this step a few times in quick succession and then each day in various locations.
June Williams, COAPE Association of Behaviourists and Trainers, says…
Instead of scenting and chasing deer, rabbits or squirrels, your Labrador is scenting and chasing water. It is therefore, essentially a recall problem together with finding something that she will find more rewarding to do out on a walk with you. The difficulty is that, the finding and enjoying of the water is so irresistibly and intrinsically rewarding. I would work on an emergency recall and/or whistle train her. Get some professional help from an APDT member. Put her on a long line, the end of which always stays within reach. It will get you fit! Try and get her more interested in playing with a special toy that only goes out on walks. It will take time and hard work.