Posts Tagged ‘force fetch’

Nom nom nom. Good dog!

Whether this works for you, you’ll have to decide. If a more experienced trainer has an opinion, I’m sure I’ll hear via Facebook. But at least one of those, pro trainer George Hickox, thought enough to bring it up in a recent conversation:

1. Dogs work for themselves, not us. If they choose to cooperate with us, “obeying” our commands, it is a means to an end.

2. The end is quite often food (especially in young dogs) or prey (in our situation, usually birds).

Makes sense to me. Think about it for a couple days as you train, and see what you think.

So, how do we adjust our training philosophy and practice in light of those observations? I’m using the prospect of holding a dead bird as a much more frequent reward with Flick than with past dogs. So far, so good.

In steadiness training, when he slams on the brakes the moment he scents birds, he gets to retrieve one. Almost every time at first, and as quickly as practicable after a flush/shot. Then, he learns to wait a while from point to flush to fall to retrieve command.

In a gentle version of force fetch training I’m testing, a variation. Obviously, he “gets” the bird when he’s sent to retrieve it. But – and I’ve seen this countless times on the TV show and at training days – the moment a dog arrives at the human, the bird is yanked from his mouth.

Not Flick. He gets a moment or two to savor it. Maybe more, if he doesn’t start chewing! I’ll often heel him back to the yard or training table as he carries the bird – that’s a lot of savoring! And once he releases on command, he gets another chance to snort-sniff-lick it while I hold it.

A bird in hand may be worth two in the bush. But a bird in the mouth is worth two hundred in the bag … if Flick can enjoy it for a bit.

I’ll keep you posted.

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A fetching foto ... get it?

Well, his first day home was uneventful in terms of interaction with his great-uncle, Buddy. Manny still has a lot of puppy in him, even after two months at breeder-trainer Jeff Funke’s kennel, where we sent him for some attitude adjustment and force-fetch training. [You’ll recall, as soon as Manny got bigger than Buddy, the fighting began, jockeying for top dog position in our pack.]

It’s one day at a time, for sure. But every day without a growl, dagger-stare, or other nefarious intent is a good one.

I’m keeping them physically separate (our rule: a gate, kennel, house door or more between them), but they are often in full view of each other and quite close. Poor Buddy averts his eyes, avoids proximity when possible, but is a trooper about it all. And our Corgi Emmy is thankfully, oblivious to the potential due to her dotage (14-1/2 years old … 101 in dog years).

I’ll keep you posted as Manny assimilates, everyone adjusts, and his training continues. By the way, he’s a hell of a retriever now.

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More mature, physically and emotionally, that’s Manny at 13 months. So, time to get this over with.

Subject and object ... now, to combine appropriately

Avid trainers insist that force fetch training:

– Shows a dog who’s really “boss”

– Doesn’t have to be traumatic

– Ensures a reliable retrieve, of anything at any time

I agree, all are true – in theory. The first one may be the most useful in our case as Manny has learned enough about life to find ways around just about anything in the way of commands. A little bearing-down in the obedience department will be of value for our long-term relationship. And ultimately, that’s what force fetching is.

So, we’re off! And the first few days have been positive. Thanks to Dave Carty’s most recent column in Gun Dog magazine for a clear outline of the process that even I can understand, coupled with a sensitive ear on Manny, we are almost a week into the ordeal.

So far, so good ...

Manny is opening his mouth with little “motivation,” making the connection between obedience and absence of pain. I’m subtly pushing him forward a bit to encourage a move to the retrieving buck and he’s “getting it.” There is some, but not a lot, of fighting once it’s in his mouth but eventually he relents and simply holds it. The release, as you can imagine, pretty much takes care of itself once I give the command.

I’ll keep you posted.

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