Follower's Question: We have a 7 month old retriever that we are training to be a gun dog. We have laid a very good foundation as well as making a successful jump into the retrieving (lining, memories, marking). We have been working retrieving the last month after teething. She is not very good at holding. She will drop it right in front of us 90% of the time when retrieving. I don't want to keep going if it's going to create bad habits. Is 7 months a good time to start hold conditioning or would that be too early?
Jeremy's Answer: I think 7 months is usually a little early for formal hold conditioning. However, I also think you're right in that I wouldn't want to continue to create issues with the dropping behavior. I would try to encourage a little cleaner retrieve by getting the dummy before she can drop it. When the dog does drop, put the dummy back in the mouth and encourage her to hold.
At 7 months, as long as your retrieving is there and relatively strong (which it sounds like it is) I might be careful as to how much retrieving I would actually be doing. Less is more often times and that alone can likely bye you a little time for the dog to mature a bit before asking them to focus through hold conditioning.
From my experience, we can try to speed things up with dogs, or we can take our time and let it happen naturally with a lot less effort. In the end, we get to the same point at about the same time. Speeding things up might get you somewhere faster in the short term, but more often than not it just creates issues in other places that take longer to fix in the long run.
Be patient, enjoy the puppy time and have fun with it all. I hope this helps. Best of luck, Jeremy