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High Strung Lab (Labrador Retriever)

My 22-month high strung Lab, is a tremendous challenge; she barks for her meals. If I don’t feed her when she starts to bark, she wets in her crate. Sometimes she wets, even when I do get the food there on time. She has been vet checked. She is destructive in the house that I have to keep her crated far more than I should. I have tried her on a 20-foot leash, so that I can correct from a distance, but she has countered this control by wetting at will.

Snickers goes to dog school, three times a week and has done so since she was five months old. She heels beautifully, on-leash, when in class, knows Down, Stay, Halt, Stand-Stay, and Sit and has done basic agility. I have limited success in off-leash work.  I have done three-minute off-leash sit-stays and down-stays. She does recall but runs at me at full speed, then body checks me when she gets to me. In class, I now recall her while standing against a wall. Try finding a wall outdoors.

At dog school, she has been nicknamed “the Meth Lab” because of her crazy behaviour. If she breaks on an off-leash exercise, she takes off at top speed and circles the arena about six times, then comes on recall.

I love Snickers and I know how to be firm with her. She is enrolled in school and has an excellent teacher. I am trying hard. However, she is out of control and I don’t know where I went wrong.


Hi M.H.

There are such contradictions in your letter. It seems that you’re working very hard but you absolutely must be doing all the wrong things. Your dog however is speaking very clearly to me. She knows “Halt” but you’re having a problem with her body checking you? Training 3X/week and she still performs as if everything is a trick or a game? At some point in training (and you’re way past that point) every dog needs to understand, Come, Heel and Stay are jobs. Everything you describe are a typical byproduct of a dog that has never heard the word “No”. I’m not saying you haven’t said it, I’m saying she hasn’t heard it and to be blunt I don’t think you’ve been firm with her a day in her life. Either that or she has a screw loose.

A dog that gets so excited about food that it urinates may indicate a situation where the training for treats has been overdone. A dog that urinates when disciplined may indicate over-the-top discipline but more likely a horribly confused dog as to just what it is being disciplined for. This does not equal “excellent teacher.” It usually indicates a trainer with little experience or no experiences with anything other then one approach to dog training and so little creativity when it comes to customizing a program to a particular dog’s needs.

If this was a child with a behaviour problem and your trainer the therapist and the therapist after a fair kick at the can was unable to produce results for you and your child, what would you do?

I think it’s time to move your Meth Lab on down the road. The chemistry isn’t right where you are.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade

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2 thoughts on “High Strung Lab (Labrador Retriever)”

  1. Issa Bella

    My dog Leo is a 28 month old lab/blue healer. Leo was good match or so I thought….Leo is kind and Loving,leo rescued a starveing kitten [Bella] and I helped take care of the kitten. I was not sure how cat Ang dog mix would go but there great pals . my issue with Leo is he want’s to be in the house with me ALLTHE TIME! If I’m not with him all the time he becomes very destructive in and out side of house he has a huge yard to play in. I take him for ditch runs every day and he runs full-till for 3 miles,he eats blue buffalo,healthy treats his weight is on the money. I love him but I can not keep up with energy and his down right stubbornness. I got to put a collar to restrain him in public or if I want to walk him. He cries when other come around to visit he jumps and runs at them he will not stop till have to put him a in a time out in his time out place. Everyone I speak to about this issues is stumped. I wanted a dog to walk with not do battle with his assertiveness, I’m 68 year old widow I rescued Leo in hope that he would be a good companion but now I really feel like I’ve made a terrible mistake Leo will have to go I don’t the energy for this every day. Help .

    1. Hi Issa,

      Some Labrador retrievers have had the “hunt” bred out of them and are content to lay about, others still have the work drive. Not the best companion for a non-working home. Blue Heeler’s can almost be more a hobby than a pet as they are also working dogs with less interference by breeders more interested in selling to companion dog homes than preserving that which the breed was designed. However, even if this is a high drive dog matched up with a companion dog home, I’ve found often 80% of the problem behaviour is more due to a training approach poorly matched to the dog. Try reading my book for this sort of dog, The Beautiful Balance – Dog Training with Nature’s Template

      I’m not sure the bit about him wanting to be with you all the time is related to his drive. It may be that you imprinted him during his critical socialization period with the idea that you were a constant. (Socialize Your Puppy for Everything Maybe not, but Labradors and most dogs in general want to be with their pack as opposed to isolated.


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