The Ounce of Prevention
If possible, it is far better never to let inappropriate behaviors begin in your pup relative to carrying objects in his mouth. A well bred retriever pup will show natural tendencies to carry and hold objects. It is up to its owners not to do anything to discourage this in a young pup. Understand that developing good delivery and a soft mouth in your retriever begins the day your puppy joins your home.
If the pup picks up and carries any item that is not detrimental to the pup's safety, regardless of its value, encourage him to bring it to you. Take it away slowly without scolding, and never pursue the pup. You want the pup to want to come to you with his newfound prize. If you don't want him to carry any specific items, limit accessibility. Remind the whole family of these conditions. If an object is of no consequence, such as a leaf or a stick, allow the puppy to continue to carry it as long as he likes.
A few other reminders:
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- No chew toys of plastic or cloth. How will the pup distinguish them when introduced to dummies?
- No chasing pup with objects in his mouth or playing tug-of-war.
- Never correct a pup for anything when he has an object in his mouth. Carrying objects should be pleasurable.
- Likewise, coming to you should be a pleasurable experience for the pup. Never call him to you for a correction.
- When retrieving, use small, lightweight canvas or fire-hose bumpers. A knotted sock will do. Only toss retrieves in confined areas such as a hallway to encourage direct returns.
- When the pup is tired, hot and panting, don't toss bumpers.
- Avoid repetitive, meaningless retrieves that extend to the point of boredom. The pup will pursue other interests or make a toy out of the bumper.
- Never snatch anything from a pup's mouth. Gently encourage a release despite your frustration. Tell everyone else in contact with the pup to do the same!
- Children should be supervised when playing with the pup, and keep a close eye on visiting friends. Their misguided interaction may play havoc with a pup's training.
- Don't put your pup on birds too early. One mishap could make quite an impact.