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Force Fetch: Are You (Am I) Ready for the Challenge?

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August 14, 2009

Force Fetch: Are You (Am I) Ready for the Challenge?

By David DiBenedetto

Not very long ago I wrote that I was a DIY amateur dog trainer. And that while I relied heavily on help and advice from the generous experts I know (and the countless great books on the subject), I had no intentions of shipping Pritch to training camp. Many of you brought up good points on the pros and cons of my course of action. But I’ll be honest, as the time to begin force fetch (now often called conditioned fetch) training approaches I’m more than a touch apprehensive.

More than any other type of training, force fetch requires you to be removed emotionally from the task. And that’s one weakness I readily admit to. Some dogs pick it up quickly and others have “sticky” mouths, willing to fetch and hold just about anything you require. But some dogs require weeks of work. I do know you should only begin the process if you are darn certain you will follow through. You’re asking a lot of your dog and the return should be expected. If I do embark on force fetch training, you can bet I’ll use some expert guidance.

No doubt, you can’t have a finished hunting dog that hasn’t completed force fetch training. And often trainers report that dogs come out of the force fetch process with a renewed vigor for retrieving and a better overall response to commands.

So here’s the question: What’s your take on the force fetch process? Have you done it? Were you successful? Or did you have a pro handle it?

Comments (11)

Top Rated
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from lshuk wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

I know you are probably inundated with recommedations on training but here is another. May I suggest you contact Brad Higgins at Higginsgundogs.com Phone # 916/717-5597. He uses a method for teaching a dog to retrieve that does not involve the unpleasantries of traditional forced fetch training. It's a very simple step by step method that will produce the results you want without any discomfort to you or your dog. It's primarily based on obedience which as you know is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship with your dog. Brad primarily trains upland dogs but this method will work for water dogs as well. I think it would be great to expose the dog world to a more gentle method of training and you have the forum to do so.

Larry Shuk

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlotte Cole wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

There are no if, ands, or buts when it comes to force fetching. Delivering to hand when the handler demands is a must for any good gun dog. It flat out makes a good dog. What is more rewarding than to have scored on a duck, witness a great mark and retrieve, and have it delivered to your hand by your faithful companion. Imagine this scenario and the bird ends up five feet from the bank.

Dave you are correct when you say it seems unpleasant with conventional methods but it gets the job done. If your dog has any sense, it can be picked up in a week particularly with a dog who has it in their blood. When the training is comleted the dog knows the command of "fetch". We all know we are talking about pinching the dog's ear, commanding fetch and putting the dummy in the dog's mouth. No worse than hitting him with a little electricity. Obviously, there needs to be finesse in the training and a sense of when to back off when the session is not going well.

The great thing about this method is that if you are in the field or training and the dog delivers the bird to the ground, a quick pinch with the fetch command does wonders. No coddling with this command.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

haven't tried this yet but I'm just as apprehensive as you are for the day we start trying it maybe later this week after we keep working on regular retrieving.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from j-johnson17 wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

I haven't tried it, and most likely I'll send my new dog to a trainer to have them do it. I don't want to try something that I have absolutely no clue about with my dog an d have it backfire on me.

I can get the obedience down, then let someone else work their magic as far as the force fetching is concerned. I understand it can be a pretty brutal training process, but I also think it is necessary in most cases.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Point is, r u smarter than yer dog.. u dont need to enforce harsh commands if u r but can make the fetch an enjoyable thing that any dog will pick up if u got time, patience and the required stamina to do it right.. the force fetch is a shortcut in dog tranining in my opinion and ive never "enforced" it with my dogs.. still they deliver to hand and do so with obvious enjoyment.. cos i took my time to make them enjoy "fetching".. might take a bit of sausage and patience, but well worth it in the long run.. my current dog will "fetch" in freezing conditions and any weather imaginable cos it wants to, not cos i conditioned it too.. treat yer dog as u would a 3 year old child and u can reap the rewards withouth feeling bad for enforcing harsh lessons..

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Hot here in N.Y. again.Dogs only learn three ways POINT OF CONTACT,ASSOCATION,and REPETION.Methods other than the conditioned retrieve utilize only one. Repetion,repetion,repetion,repetion,and more unpleasent prolonged repetion with no safety net to fall back on except back to basic training.Each piece is taught to be a command in force fetch like sit(hup)or stay is so if one part is failed the dog understands what it was and what his or her job is.Each piece becomes a command that you tell your dog by what rules he or she will play the game.Hold Magnum.
UK SPRINGER

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Another one of my personal and optional training tools from the bag the Dokken Dead Foul retriever teaches the dog in itself to only pick the bird up in the middle is in his mouth.A Great TOOL!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

kelmitch-- I've heard a lot of great trainers praise the Dokken Dead Fowl. I need to get one ASAP. -D

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from pinopolis wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

since it's my dog, i want to at least have a hand in this part of the training. but the only way i'm going to do it is under the watchful eye of a pro.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

I grew up with duck dogs all home trained and we never had to force fetch train any of them, great dogs and family pets. I think we got lucky with our pups, but I've seen others that have required this training and I would do the same if the dog wasn't taking the training well enough.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Flyler Durden wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

First timer DIY guy here. After watching a couple of "professional trainers" work, there is no way I would send my draht to someone else. I also wanted to keep the connection/relationship with the dog and learn something along the way. I had the same fears everyone has: hurting a great relationship with my dog through force fetch, plus the issue of having never done it before and fearing I would screw it up.

Frankly, I'm amazed at how easy it's been (I recognize that maybe I'm blessed with a great dog) and how the training IMPROVED the relationship I had with the dog, especially once we got past the initial "force" section of the training. I had a pretty independent pup that thinks through things and actually enjoys ribbing me for fun. I'll admit the early part of the training did make my pup (9-month old at the time) reluctant to engage in activities for about a week, but once she accepted fully who's boss, she has now gone from independent-turd to kiss-up. Don't get me wrong, she still likes to be a turd and still messes with me once in a while around the house, but NOT while we're engaged in training. There's a whole different mindset during our training sessions. She has also learned to love training sessions since they've replaced those early puppy throw-and-fetch sessions. She now eagerly goes to the training table (which is no longer a tool) and wags the tail waiting to have her e-collar put on.

If you commit to it, make sure you're dedicated. It takes a LOT of time, but to me this is nothing but fun. I love seeing a dog work and develop. The regular advancements in her training are so gratifying for both of us. Make sure you have the type of schedule and personal commitment to take 15-30 minutes out of your time every day and cancel 50% of your weekend commitments so you will have the clear mind to hold multiple training sessions on weekend days. Also, don't view it as "training", I view it as time to interact and build a relationship with the dog.

A side note: Obedience training did NOT bring the relationship with my dog to this level.

Some other advice: I've accomplished overlaying the e-collar onto the force fetch training by using only the paging button 95% of the time through the early training and 100% of the training at this point (I'm about 5 weeks into the training now). If you're not familiar with the paging option, it just vibrates the collar rather than shocks the dog. My girl hates that vibration and a quick vibrate command gets a distracted mind right back into the correct mindset again. As long as you have spent the necessary time to teach the dog his or her expectations, the collar and paging button only serve to refocus the distracted mind. No pain, just annoyance! Get one!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from lshuk wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

I know you are probably inundated with recommedations on training but here is another. May I suggest you contact Brad Higgins at Higginsgundogs.com Phone # 916/717-5597. He uses a method for teaching a dog to retrieve that does not involve the unpleasantries of traditional forced fetch training. It's a very simple step by step method that will produce the results you want without any discomfort to you or your dog. It's primarily based on obedience which as you know is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship with your dog. Brad primarily trains upland dogs but this method will work for water dogs as well. I think it would be great to expose the dog world to a more gentle method of training and you have the forum to do so.

Larry Shuk

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlotte Cole wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

There are no if, ands, or buts when it comes to force fetching. Delivering to hand when the handler demands is a must for any good gun dog. It flat out makes a good dog. What is more rewarding than to have scored on a duck, witness a great mark and retrieve, and have it delivered to your hand by your faithful companion. Imagine this scenario and the bird ends up five feet from the bank.

Dave you are correct when you say it seems unpleasant with conventional methods but it gets the job done. If your dog has any sense, it can be picked up in a week particularly with a dog who has it in their blood. When the training is comleted the dog knows the command of "fetch". We all know we are talking about pinching the dog's ear, commanding fetch and putting the dummy in the dog's mouth. No worse than hitting him with a little electricity. Obviously, there needs to be finesse in the training and a sense of when to back off when the session is not going well.

The great thing about this method is that if you are in the field or training and the dog delivers the bird to the ground, a quick pinch with the fetch command does wonders. No coddling with this command.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from muskiemaster wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

haven't tried this yet but I'm just as apprehensive as you are for the day we start trying it maybe later this week after we keep working on regular retrieving.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ingebrigtsen wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Point is, r u smarter than yer dog.. u dont need to enforce harsh commands if u r but can make the fetch an enjoyable thing that any dog will pick up if u got time, patience and the required stamina to do it right.. the force fetch is a shortcut in dog tranining in my opinion and ive never "enforced" it with my dogs.. still they deliver to hand and do so with obvious enjoyment.. cos i took my time to make them enjoy "fetching".. might take a bit of sausage and patience, but well worth it in the long run.. my current dog will "fetch" in freezing conditions and any weather imaginable cos it wants to, not cos i conditioned it too.. treat yer dog as u would a 3 year old child and u can reap the rewards withouth feeling bad for enforcing harsh lessons..

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Hot here in N.Y. again.Dogs only learn three ways POINT OF CONTACT,ASSOCATION,and REPETION.Methods other than the conditioned retrieve utilize only one. Repetion,repetion,repetion,repetion,and more unpleasent prolonged repetion with no safety net to fall back on except back to basic training.Each piece is taught to be a command in force fetch like sit(hup)or stay is so if one part is failed the dog understands what it was and what his or her job is.Each piece becomes a command that you tell your dog by what rules he or she will play the game.Hold Magnum.
UK SPRINGER

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from j-johnson17 wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

I haven't tried it, and most likely I'll send my new dog to a trainer to have them do it. I don't want to try something that I have absolutely no clue about with my dog an d have it backfire on me.

I can get the obedience down, then let someone else work their magic as far as the force fetching is concerned. I understand it can be a pretty brutal training process, but I also think it is necessary in most cases.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kelmitch wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

Another one of my personal and optional training tools from the bag the Dokken Dead Foul retriever teaches the dog in itself to only pick the bird up in the middle is in his mouth.A Great TOOL!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dave DiBenedetto wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

kelmitch-- I've heard a lot of great trainers praise the Dokken Dead Fowl. I need to get one ASAP. -D

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from pinopolis wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

since it's my dog, i want to at least have a hand in this part of the training. but the only way i'm going to do it is under the watchful eye of a pro.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 4 years 35 weeks ago

I grew up with duck dogs all home trained and we never had to force fetch train any of them, great dogs and family pets. I think we got lucky with our pups, but I've seen others that have required this training and I would do the same if the dog wasn't taking the training well enough.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Flyler Durden wrote 2 years 28 weeks ago

First timer DIY guy here. After watching a couple of "professional trainers" work, there is no way I would send my draht to someone else. I also wanted to keep the connection/relationship with the dog and learn something along the way. I had the same fears everyone has: hurting a great relationship with my dog through force fetch, plus the issue of having never done it before and fearing I would screw it up.

Frankly, I'm amazed at how easy it's been (I recognize that maybe I'm blessed with a great dog) and how the training IMPROVED the relationship I had with the dog, especially once we got past the initial "force" section of the training. I had a pretty independent pup that thinks through things and actually enjoys ribbing me for fun. I'll admit the early part of the training did make my pup (9-month old at the time) reluctant to engage in activities for about a week, but once she accepted fully who's boss, she has now gone from independent-turd to kiss-up. Don't get me wrong, she still likes to be a turd and still messes with me once in a while around the house, but NOT while we're engaged in training. There's a whole different mindset during our training sessions. She has also learned to love training sessions since they've replaced those early puppy throw-and-fetch sessions. She now eagerly goes to the training table (which is no longer a tool) and wags the tail waiting to have her e-collar put on.

If you commit to it, make sure you're dedicated. It takes a LOT of time, but to me this is nothing but fun. I love seeing a dog work and develop. The regular advancements in her training are so gratifying for both of us. Make sure you have the type of schedule and personal commitment to take 15-30 minutes out of your time every day and cancel 50% of your weekend commitments so you will have the clear mind to hold multiple training sessions on weekend days. Also, don't view it as "training", I view it as time to interact and build a relationship with the dog.

A side note: Obedience training did NOT bring the relationship with my dog to this level.

Some other advice: I've accomplished overlaying the e-collar onto the force fetch training by using only the paging button 95% of the time through the early training and 100% of the training at this point (I'm about 5 weeks into the training now). If you're not familiar with the paging option, it just vibrates the collar rather than shocks the dog. My girl hates that vibration and a quick vibrate command gets a distracted mind right back into the correct mindset again. As long as you have spent the necessary time to teach the dog his or her expectations, the collar and paging button only serve to refocus the distracted mind. No pain, just annoyance! Get one!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment