How to Stop My Dog From Playing Keep Away

Apr 10, 2020

The dreaded scenario: You send your dog on a retrieve. It runs out as fast as it can and grabs the bumper perfectly. Your pup starts coming back and then looks right back at you....

Your puppy decides to turn the other way or start doing a big victory lap. It won't come back to you.

Can you feel the frustration?

What do you do when this happens? Better yet, how do you prevent this from happening altogether? 

If you can prevent this normal dog behavior from happening, you will be much better off. First, we will cover how to prevent this in your training sessions. Then, we will talk about what to do if you are already in a situation where you can't get your dog to stop playing. 

There is nothing more important than prevention. It's always better to prevent than to have to find a cure for something. This actually starts as soon as you bring your puppy home. When you first get your puppy home, you get to teach your dog so many valuable lessons that, when done properly, will make all of your future training sessions so much easier.


1. Do not over retrieve. 

This may come as a surprise, but you do not need to do very much early retrieving. If you have a really well-bred dog, it is innate within your dog to retrieve. All you need to do is just enough retrieving to wake that desire up. 

Most people over retrieve. You can prevent a lot of problems by not retrieving too much and by focusing on the things that your puppy needs most, which is socialization and obedience. 

If retrieving goes well, I may let a young puppy retrieve 2-3 retrieves every other day. You always want to leave your puppy wanting to retrieve more. If your pup starts to get bored, you've done too many retrieves and should scale back on the number. 

If it does not go well, then I do not do any retrieving for a week or two.

2. Retrieve in a hallway or other natural channel.

Retrieving in a hallway causes your dog to have no option to run away from you. You will hear this a lot here at CGA: get your dog a win. You want to set your dog up to have success at whatever you are training it to do. 

Now the only negative thing that can happen when you do try to retrieve in the hallway is your pup could decide not to come back to you. It could sit at the end of the hallway and chew on whatever you sent to be retrieved. 

If that happens, I would encourage you not to sweat it. Don't worry about it. Just go get your puppy, and then don't retrieve for a week or two. You can come back and try again later.

The Cure

Now, let's say that you're already down the road a little. Your puppy is a little older. They're already at a point where you can start gun dog training with them, and you're having a huge problem with your dog not coming straight back.

Well, what do you do in that situation?

1. Create a barrier for your dog. 

Again, you need to create a situation that your dog can win in. You need to create essentially an outdoor hallway. 

Purchase enough garden posts and fencing like plastic chicken wire to build a 20-25 foot lane. You want the end you’re standing at to be open, but you want the lane to be fully closed in on the other three sides. 

2. Use a check cord. 

You can purchase a check cord from our store here or from your favorite retailer.

If your dog goes down to the end of the lane and decides to lay down and start chewing, you can do a light tug to have it come on back.

It's important that you use the check cord properly. You need to have preconditioned your dog to the check cord so that you're not creating bad habits. We cover this in-depth in our 52 plus program how to do that. 

3. Condition your dog to come back to you.

Once you've created your lane and preconditioned your dog to the check cord, it's all about conditioning. You have to condition your dog to come straight back to you. The habits you create in your dog are the habits that will happen when your hunting. You never want to be chasing your dog in the field, so you need to train your dog to come back to you every single time. 

Conditioning really comes down to repetition. You just have to repeat over and over and over and essentially drill it in. You want to train to the level that your dog basically dreams about this in their sleep. 

Side note: This repetition happens over time. You still want to leave retrieving with your dog wanting more.

You can eventually remove the check cord. If your dog starts to get away, put it back on.

4. Exchange the man-made lane for a natural lane. Start with the check cord.

If you repeat having your dog successfully come back to you that many times, then what you can do is transfer out of the man-made lane. A natural lane would be something like a lane you've cut with heavy grassland on both sides.

With much success here, transition to not using the check cord.

5. Move to an open field. Start with the check cord. 

Once you've done that, then you can transfer to more of an open field and then condition it there. As long as you keep repeating success over and over and over, eventually, your dog is going to forget about the running around. It will know it's time to come straight back every single time. 

If you do that, and then all of a sudden your dog reverts back to old ways (maybe when you've introduced something new,) don't sweat it. Just take a small step back, repeat it, and remind your dog what it's supposed to do. Show your pup exactly what you want it to do and then keep moving forward.

Having a great retriever is a process. It takes time and patience. You can have a dog that brings the bird back beautifully every time. 

You can have that feeling of "we did it!" when your dog comes back from that impossible retrieve in the field. Hang in there, and you will have success.



Joshua Parvin

P.S. If you want more on this and a step-by-step plan, check out 52 Plus. I walk you through exactly what to do with my very rambunctious dog, Violet.