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My family have a golden retriever that we rescued. The dog isn't badly behaved in general but didn't get any training until he was 2 1/2 (when we rescued him) so his retention in general isn't great.

It's a real problem though in the shooting season. I live in the English countryside and during the shooting season farmers will keep large cages full of birds by the fields that I normally walk my dog. When he finds these cages he barks, runs frantically around the cage and won't come when I call him. It's difficult to even catch him and drag him away while he's doing this.

He smells these cages a mile off and I don't always know where they will be (they move depending on where the shoot is planned I guess) so the only way I can stop him is keeping him on a leash the whole time, which I really wouldn't like to do.

I know it's a weird one but does anyone have any advice or experience on what to do? It stresses me out because he doesn't answer me and can get in trouble if he's caught disrupting other people's animals (legally farmer has the right to shoot him). It's ruining a lot of the great walks I used to take him on.
 

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This is hard because Retrievers have a natural prey drive toward birds. But are you walking your dog off leash since you said he wouldn't come? If so get a good leash! I would also recommend training him to look at you on command in a bird free environment. You need to work up to that slowly and hopefully it can help. And maybe find some new walking routes.
 

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I'd suggest keeping him on lead or at least keep him on a long line connected to a harness to keep him safe, this way he still had freedom to roam a little but you can still stay in control.

With the long line and harness I'd also start more recall training. So training in low distraction areas to start with even in the house to start with, choose a recall word mines is 'Buster come' and stick with that.

Have some very high value treats like cheese, hot dog, bacon, sausage something awesome and call him to you, only once. If he comes to you, reward and praise highly make a huge deal about it. Repeat this in the house until he is reliable, then you could move out into the garden and repeat, still under low distractions and repeat same as before.

Once you feel confident with him in the garden, not after one session after many many sessions, you can start coming out with him still on the long line, still with treats and praise. But when outside and there's bigger distractions you need to make an even BIGGER deal about him coming back to you. So when you call him and he comes to you throw a party. Mad praise and jackpot treats.

Practice until he is 100%. All takes patience and consistency. You'll get there.
 
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This training is for cats but extended to the park with the ducks and geese. You will have to leash him and take him to the area with the birds and take him only close enough that he is not frantic so you can reward calmness. Every time he is quiet reward him even if it just a couple of seconds. I used a clicker and clicked and treated every time my dogs saw the cats and did not react. It took time but did work. I extended the training to the park with the birds and squirrels and it worked.
Now when they see the birds they just walk by. I am talking about a whole flock of geese, they walk by like they are not even there. One of my dogs is a hound so I did not think it was possible.
Diamonds in the Ruff
 

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Discussion Starter #5
This is hard because Retrievers have a natural prey drive toward birds. But are you walking your dog off leash since you said he wouldn't come? If so get a good leash! I would also recommend training him to look at you on command in a bird free environment. You need to work up to that slowly and hopefully it can help. And maybe find some new walking routes.
Thanks for your reply. No, I've always enjoyed having him off the leash. It's one of the joys of living rurally and I personally think that it's hard to give retrievers the exercise that they need if you keep them on a lead.

I do think training him up a bit more would help a little, you're right. But part of me just wants to shrug and say... 'it's a cage full of dog dinner. How else would he react?'....
 

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This training is for cats but extended to the park with the ducks and geese. You will have to leash him and take him to the area with the birds and take him only close enough that he is not frantic so you can reward calmness. Every time he is quiet reward him even if it just a couple of seconds. I used a clicker and clicked and treated every time my dogs saw the cats and did not react. It took time but did work. I extended the training to the park with the birds and squirrels and it worked.
Now when they see the birds they just walk by. I am talking about a whole flock of geese, they walk by like they are not even there. One of my dogs is a hound so I did not think it was possible.
Diamonds in the Ruff
Thanks! Yeah trouble I might have is that over the years I've not taken much notice of him chasing things (he never gets them and in the countyside he's not at much risk if he goes running off for a bit) so I wonder if he'll be able to respond to training now I've got this problem.
 

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I had that problem with mine too but the training worked. Mine were 5 and 7 when I did the training and they both chased small animals.
 

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Thanks for your reply. No, I've always enjoyed having him off the leash. It's one of the joys of living rurally and I personally think that it's hard to give retrievers the exercise that they need if you keep them on a lead.

I do think training him up a bit more would help a little, you're right. But part of me just wants to shrug and say... 'it's a cage full of dog dinner. How else would he react?'....
I can understand that it's one of the joys of living in the country as you say, but you also said that if he is caught on a neighbor's property he will be shot. So, your choice at this moment is leash your dog on walks, or he can potentially be killed. And just because you have to initially train him on a leash to stay with you around temptations, doesn't mean he will always need it. After all, nearly everyone who rides a bicycle started with training wheels, but they grew out of them when they got proficient. So I suggest you either leash him and work on training him to focus on you and stay away from the birds, or find a new place to walk him off leash. If you keep up what's going on his safety can be in danger, and/or you can just make some very angry neighbors.
 
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