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You want me to HOLD it, too?

Buddy: "Hold it!"

Once Buddy is solid on retrieving and holding a bird or bumper, it will be a matter of extending that hold indefinitely. Again, this is critical in almost every hunt test or field trial situation but more importantly in the field. Wing-clipped birds are highly motivated to scoot away given the chance, when a dog puts it down before the handler has his hands on it.

So, how have Buddy and I worked through this? Well, we are making progress. And as I said in an earlier post, it’s often more a test of my will than Buddy’s.

I have to resist giving the release command too soon, trying to pre-empt Buddy from a dropped bird. If he beats me, I give it back without repeating the retrieve command.

He’s to the point where when he drops early, a stink-eye look from me is enough to clue him into picking up again. I move away to encourage the pickup and a completed retrieve.

When Buddy is holding well, it’s my job to help by minimizing distractions or confusion. Confusion comes in many forms: leaning forward, premature praise (even reaching into the pocket I hide treats in), reaching for the bird, extending a hand, even if to praise with a stroke.

Instead, I’m using gestures to encourage holding, and distract Buddy from releasing until he hears that command. I will back up slowly, so he never knows when the retrieve is actually completed. I stand up straight, show empty hands (no treats, keep your mouth closed on the bird). I’ll wave one hand high to keep his head up (encourages holding). The other hand is ready below Buddy’s mouth for a surprise “thanks” when he least expects it.

I know professional dog trainers have other techniques, from toe pinch to e-collar “stimulation,” but I’m inclined to distance a bird in the mouth from any pain, emotional or physical

To this point, the jury’s still out. We’re getting closer by the day and that’s pretty good for us.

How about you? Especially when it’s time to “just add water,” and get a dog to hold once he’s emerged from a pond. Any suggestions?

Hey, some great shorthair-Lab tag team work at this excerpt from my show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSQ5OyCCjW4

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