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Grady Istre – FIELD DOGS

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Monday, July 18, 2011
Live birds and young dogs
Friday, October 07, 2011
Read the signs

Marking during force fetch

Should you throw marks for your dog during the force- fetch stage of his training? The answer to that question can get complicated because it’s sometimes difficult to weigh the risks.

Force fetch will teach your young dog to pick up and hold a bird on command, but it is also the first serious pressure related drill that your trainee will experience. Some dogs simply can’t handle pressure well and will quit retrieving when the rigors of force fetch are applied.


No matter how good a marking dog you have, when any type of pressure is applied, his marking skills will diminish to some degree, during this period. Force fetch  makes a dog realize that he no longer has the options he once thought he had, such as: “do I feel like making this retrieve,” among others. When a dog comes to that realization, it will be a defining moment in his career and it can be a make or break situation. His response will tell you whether or not he wants to become a hunting dog.


I’ve have had emails and phone calls from distraught readers of my column wanting to know if they have ruined their dog, because their dog no longer marks as well as he did before force fetch was started — some even said their dogs quit retrieving altogether. So what now?

The smart thing for any novice trainer to do is stay below the level of pressure that will make his dog reluctant to retrieving, but that’s often hindsight. Still, if your trainee refuses to retrieve because of training pressure, it’s never too late to back off and recover his desire again. First, observe and analyze your dog’s attitude when you throw him any marks during pressure related command that you are teaching. Is his gait towards the bumper/bird  slower, or the same as usual? Is he more cautious on his retrieves than before? Be prepared to adjust your training program the very instant you notice any severe change in your dog’s attitude towards retrieving.


Cajun dog training rule  No. 15 comes into play here; “There has to be something in it for the dog for him to continue to be advanced.” Always maintain his eagerness to retrieve, and, of course, the best way to do that is to shoot live birds. If you can’t get a hunting dog charged up about retrieving with shot birds, you may have a serious problem. You have either gone too far too fast, or you have possibly run out of dog.


If you have pushed too fast, just back off. If you have run out of dog, you should consider making you currant dog a pet and move on to a more promising candidate. The best rule for any novice trainer to follow is to proceed with caution. As I heard my Uncle Frank say many times, “when you don’t know, you go slow.”  Always take your time and think before jumping into a problem with your young dog, fellow trainers; you’ll find things work out better that way.


Have fun training! GRADY ISTRE can be reached at reibar.com





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