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Heidi

Force fetch

22 posts in this topic

Do most retriving dogs need force fetch training? I have one

Brittany who won't bring back a bird and has no desire to. She will retrive smaller objects, but not birds. My second

Brittany is being sent for training and he retrives anything

thrown his way, including dead birds. It is reasonable to expect him to retrieve to hand without having to be forced fetch trained? Thank you for the replies.

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Heidi - you're lighting a match next to a gas tank with this question! shocked.gif People usually have very strong opinions on how FF either is or is not necessary, so be prepared. Hopefully it will stay civil.

Do a search in this forum on Force Fetch over the last year. There will be a handful of discussions that come up.

My personal opinion on your question (and I'm sure I'll get flamed): ALL hunting dogs, whether natural retrievers or not, can benefit from FF for 2 reasons:

1) there's going to come a time when you need the dog to retrieve a bird and he's going to decide today's the day he flips you the *paw* - you need the FF foundation to get him to make the retrieve

2) it forces you to spend time training/bonding with your dog (with appropriate help if needed) which will always help you find a deeper sense of satisfaction with your dog and builds your relationship together

If you do decide to FF, thoroughly do your research BEFORE STARTING, make a plan, and take your time with each step. I can't stress that enough. Build confidence in your dog that retrieving is a GOOD thing and it will pay off in the long run.

Good luck!

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Heidi,

My 13+ month old lab is going through this right now at the breeder/trainer. I tried to do myself on my first dog a GSP and we never got it finished as family priorities necessitated not having enough time to do it well.

This lab almost from day #1 has been earmarked for this as she is incredibly rough on birds and the trainer was jokingly threatening to start charging me for every bird she killed instead of him getting 3-4-5 dogs on a single bird.

I'm hoping that what returns to my house is a dog that understands it's place in this world and in my house and that retreiving is not a choice but a requirement. Do I wish that I had a dog that wouldn't have needed this, absolutely, because instead I'd be spending training money on intermediate lessons like quartering, lining, etc., but in the long run I know that I will have a better hunting dog because of this.

Some dogs are natural retreivers until as mentioned in the other post when they finally decide to show you who is boss and flip you that "paw". I came to accept that not every bird from my GSP was coming back to hand but that some were and I was OK with that. You have to decide what your expectations are when you hunt and then decide if you have to or need to take this step. I've now been on both sides of the fence and I truly think it depends on your expectations and on what your dog does naturally. (realize that natural instinct may be enough but there will come a day where you get challenged---the trainer I bought my GSP from owned the sire and he was training as a 2yr old for his Versatile Championship and he retreived everything out of desire and instinct---less than 7 days before the championship that dog totally flipped him that "paw" and quit retreiving. They managed to come to an agreement that involved some pretty tough days and he did earn his VC and retreived like a machine but I can still hear that professional trainer berating himself for not force fetching his own dog.)

Best of luck with your decision!

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Heidi, How old is your dog? I have a 3 and 1/2 month old brit that is fetching very well. He has been doing this naturally for about 1 month. Just started him off slowly and we only play fetch with the dummy for about 5 minutes or so at a time. Usually 6-10 times then we stop and play. Maybe you could try scaling it back and start from scratch. Good luck.

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My lab has never been force fetched and she does great. She loves to retrieve and for her 11months of life i have made it fun for her. if she messes up i take her back and make her pick it up and do it right wich now is almost never. FF with a dog is no fun and is not much of a bonding time. Its hard on both. Some dogs do need it however.

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I would try everything under the sun before being this cruel to an animal. I have seen dogs that have scars on their ears from this. Have you tried using a long check cord?

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I would do everything I could to avoid F.Fetch. I know there are fierce advocates. I have worked with labs, from GOOD breeding, since 1962 and I have never had to resort to FF. Sure, I've had some less than robotic dogs. So what? They have ALL loved me without qualification and have ALL done everything they could to please me. They have ALL been my pals. Have I smacked them on the (Contact Us Please) now and then?...sure. But I have never had to be deliberatly cruel to them.

Avoid it if you can. I think you end up with a better dog.I will say this....there was a time when you didn't have to fight with a black lab to get it to retrieve a bird...or a rock...or a pie plate..or a frisbie...Ha! But the breeding sure has changed. Talk to any old fart....he'll tell ya! grin.gifgrin.gif

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Boy are the myths and inuendo running rampant on this thread...

Scars? Cruel? Smacking on the head O.K. but not an ear pinch or other form of negative reinforcement?

FF done properly is not cruel. If you are scarring the animal you are not doing it correctly and the handler should be wallopped up side the head. You only need to apply enough pressure to cause discomfort. You do not need to physically abuse your dog to complete the FF.

Telling people to avoid it and saying you'll end up with a better dog may end up having that person end up with a dog that will not fulfill his work. Forcing a dog is a very set timetable of a training regimen that needs to be followed. Waiting to see if your dog can get by without it may set you up to be living with a 'couch dog'. I've seen it! I owned one! She would retrieve on her terms and desires... not mine. She now lives with another family on their couch. While I love my dogs dearly, they are not my kids. If you don't cut it, there will be a nice 'pet class' family found for you to live out your life. My dogs have a purpose and I EXPECT them to do it.

If you are a waterfowler, I believe FFing a dog will give you a very dependable retriever. It also strengthens the ability to form a finished non-slip retriever. Myself? I have begun to FF every Lab I've owned since the early 90's. Before that we got away without the force, but as Ufatz eluded to, the breed is changing. It's nothing to have a 4 generation pedigree only span 6-8 years of dogs... Most people are now buying puppies out of 'stacked' field trial pedigrees and these dogs are not the natural retrievers we know from 20+ years ago. Athletisism and intelligence are the benchmarks that they are breeding for. Many are not even remotley close to having the ability to be a reliable natural retriever. It's not that the desire and instnct aren't there... it's just that it is not as natural for them to complete the retrieve as it once was.

Done properly, the FF is humane. You do not even need to use an ear pinch. Tritronics has a method to do it with low level stimulation from the collar. Most FF proponents have no qualms using a collar on there dog.

FF does foster a bond between the trainer and the dog. It does solidify the role of you the trainer giving a command and the dog complying and finishing said command, it does set the dog up for success in handling, it does give you a command (fetch!) that the dog understands in a hunting situation to fulfill a tough retrieve.

What is accuratley stated in all the posts is this: YOU need to decide what you expect from your dog. At what level would you be happy with your dogs performance... FF a dog does not turn them into robots! My dogs are as animated as the rest and were a joy to watch both pheasant hunting and waterfowling. I hope my young one turns out the same. She has completed her force and has begun her life in the hunting world. There are still labs out there that will flourish without the aid of FF. I myself will not risk owning one that doesn't... hence one of the reasons all mine go through it now. Most proponents have never had a dog forced or themselves learned how to force... it's like my 10 year old son saying how he hated squash... but when he tried it, he couldn't believe he liked it. You have to be exposed to it, in order to make a sound judgement on it. To each there own on the styles and methods they use in training their dog. As long as you are happy with where your dog is at in their level of training, then you suceeded in what you set out to do.

I'm not advocating that every person needs to force their dog, as stated above, that is up to you, but I am trying to mispell some half truths.

Good Luck!

Ken

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If your dog is young I would say first work to get her desire up. You can do this by limiting the amount of retrieves such that you quit when she still wants more. Soon she won't be able to get enough.

In my opinion I would force fetch any dog I ever own, otherwise you'll be in a situation where similar to a dog that doesn't know come. The dog will return in the end, then get scolded for something it was never taught to do. The cruelty lies where a dog is punished because the owner is embarrassed that he didn't train his dog.

I would suggest training your dog for whatever you want it to do. If you want you dog to come, teach come. If you want your dog to sit, teach sit. If you want your dog to retrieve, teach force fetch. Teaching a hunting dog is usually done by avoidance training so all are the same. Always remember keep it fun and praise should be most of your arsenal.

Edit: Well stated Labs4me.

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I will not be redundant here and repeat alot of stuff thats already been said. I share similar view to Labs up above. I suppose it does depend upon your expectaton for your dog but I can emphatically say I would not personally own a hunting dog that I did not force train. Every dog is different but in general it has been few and far between when I haven't seen a hunting dog (that hasn't been FF) that hasn't at some point dropped a bird and then refused to deliver to hand. If your ok with that, no problem. Personally, I'm not. If you plan to run trials or hunt tests, it is unlikely you will be successfully without doing FF. If you're a waterfowler, its nice to have the confidence that every duck you send your dog for will be coming back to your blind and not periodically left close to shore when the dog shakes off the water or becomes distracted. Also, I think it is another foundation component that benefits your dog when teaching handling. They ultimately know when you give them a line and you send them, they better go. And to reiterate, it doesn't have to be a cruel process if done correctly. Good luck on whatever you decide.

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Hey Labs ol' man....did you ever hit it on the head! HA! I have a nice little lady now, likely my last dog. She actually DOES sometimes sleep on my wifes favorite $3000 leather couch.You're right. And...I can point at an object in the yard...any object, and command Fetch....she picks it up, brings it to my left side and waits for mw to take it. I taught her that through repetition and some tough chats. I HAVE used FF, way in the past. I know it works. I don't like it and don't need it. It IS cruel, any way you slice it-you are intentionally HURTING your dog. Can you justify it? sure....guys do it every day.

Sooner or later old guys like me will be gone and you guys won't have to put up with our quaint old ways. Ha! grin.gif

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Well some dogs might not need it but some definitely do need it. It is not cruel if you know what you are doing.

I guess you can speak for your own experience but there is a reason people do force fetching. Feel lucky you have had dogs that are not hard headed. wink.gif

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-Labs....good post and I agree with what you have stated!

-Brain....how ya doing? Still need to get out and run some marks soon! I am currently revisiting the hold part of the FF process...I ran into some issues I am trying to correct. Kash was rolling the bumper in his mouth and bitting on it a bit....also, if there is a rope attached he will pick up by the rope. Not sure what to do about that besides removing the rope from the bumper frown.gif

-To those of you that have never FF'd but plan on doing it yourself, TAKE YOUR TIME AND DO NOT RUSH THE PROCESS AND BASIC STEPS!

-Ufatz, out of my own curiosity, I assume you do not use prong collars, choke collars, or e-collars....(or smacking the dog on the head - can't say I do that one much)? These all employ the same sort of CRUELNESS you describe. All are made to allow a trainer to give a desired pressure on the dog. However, I don't agree that it is cruel (well, maybe the smacking the dog on the head).

-As far as FF goes, you are not pinching the ear to cause pain to the dog so to speak, you are pinching just enough to cause discomfort that they don't like. How is this cruel?

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Quote:

-Brian....how ya doing? Still need to get out and run some marks soon!


Doing good. Let's plan on that. Maybe next week? Send me an email on what day(s) work best for you. I'm pretty open.

Brian

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Putting all of our certain situations aside and focusing on the Heidi's situation, here is my answer. As stated above, if the dog is young (less then 1) I would continue to work on other drills. If more, then I would seriously consider sending it to be FF.

If a dog naturally retrieves birds (as many do) and the owner is happy with their performance that it may not have to be FF. My springer retrieved birds naturally at 6 months but would be sloppy at times. When he was 1 1/2 I had him FF just to polish him up some.

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UFATZ, sounds like you have a dandy... I wish I can say I had 45 years of labs under my belt, but alas I only can lay claim to half that.

I wish all Labs were as reliable out of the gates as your dog is and my first few were, but I firmly stand by my statement that a good majority of the labs bred nowadays will flourish under FF training vs. the 'natural' method.

I also stand by my statement that it is only cruel if you make it cruel... The only purpose to FF is to give the dog enough negative stimulation to allow the dog to understand the only way to shut it off is to comply immediatley and to see the retrieve though to the end at delivery. As with any training, it is best to use the lowest level of stimulation possible to reach your threshold of success. Applying pain is not the reasoning (nor does it make sense) of FFing. This cannot only make the dog's desire to retrieve less, it will lengthen the time needed to proceed through the force as it would be very confusing to the dog why it is being punished... FF is not punishment, but a negative stimuli turned off by the dog by him doing the positive stimuli. It works.

I don't know how long ago you forced a dog or what method(s) you used, but as with many things in the world, it has evolved miles over the last decade or so.

Many of the old quaint ways that I know of include: trainers were known to pinch ears with pliers, step on toes, tie string to toes and pull backwards etc. to force a dog... confused.gif why? This is torture and has no place in the dog training world. Trainers used to shoot dogs with #8 shot in the old days pre-collar to solidfy sitting on whistle or for 'chasing' game, or any number of other 'away' from trainer bad habits... cattle prods, barbed wire on dummies, sling shots to the rear for breaking on the line etc. I'm not implying those are your ways at all, and by your posts I KNOW FULL WELL you do not use or condone any of those methods... It's just that today's methods of training are portrayed as being cruel, when in reality it's not the method but rather the trainer!

I guess what I'm getting at is this: as the caliber of the dog begins to lap "us" average trainers, we need to have weapons in our arsenals to achieve a finished retriever. Heck the dogs are even lapping the pros and they need to have success or they go out of business. If you are having success going the 'natural' route, more power to you and your dogs... I am truly envious! I remember those days. I can honestly say some of my current dogs may not have needed to be FF, but I refuse to gamble if they do or don't.

Have fun with your girl, tell her she's lucky to be laying on the that $3000 couch! grin.gif

Good Luck!

Ken

p.s. there's no such thing as "this is probably my last lab!" grin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gif

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All good points. The trainer doesn't like to FF his dogs because he doesn't have the stomach for it. His partner handles this part. I think the 14 month old dog will do fine

and we will just have to see. Thanks fellas

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Not to highjack the thread, but I have a similar question. I recently got a five year old chocolate lab. The previous owner told me that she will not retrieve pheasant, but will retrieve ducks in the water. When pheasant hunting she will flush the birds and go to a downed bird, but will not retrieve it. I have not hunted behind her yet to see this myself. Would f.f. be recomended on her even though her age, or would she be set in her ways and it would not do any good. Any other sugestions?

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I will ff every dog I own. I did it to my one year old lab when he was six months and it worked great. It is easy to use the ear pinch for future training as well.

We do all our bonding after training when I grill him a steak and we share a beer. Give him too many beers and he starts telling me how cruel I am grin.gif

FF is a great tool.

LovenLifeGuy

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Jbell I wonder if your chocolate was ever spurred at a younger age. I would try putting your dog along another dog and get the competive juices going first and see if that does the trick. Or I would introduce the dog to pheasants through a bird with feet restained and flopping around get them fired up over pheasants before going to FF. Force fetch to me is more of a "on button" for when the dog wants to sieze up in training, and a prelude to collar conditioning/reinforcement. Granted though it is a the foundation to a consistent retrieve.

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Jbell, I had the same problem with my lab. He would retrieve ducks in the water, but not birds on land. He was very hesitant and had a very soft mouth when it came to picking birds up off of the ground. Ducks on water all he had to do was swim and open his mouth, but he was so soft that he would just "mouth" birds on the ground, and if a duck landed in the weeds forget it, he wouldn't pull it out, and that just don't fly with me. I LIKE DUCK!

I went through FF with him and that totally solved the problem. This is only my second dog, and the first that I have FF, and I must admit that even though there were some very mentally trying times for me and my dog, it was a great thing for both of us. Although most people in this post seem to disagree, I feel it really was a great and very bonding step in our training. I think I learned more than he did. I really learned a lot about dogs and body language. That really helped when we moved on in training and you learn to read if he's not trying, or actually confused, stressed by the situation, too tired, etc... It really helped us work better as a team, and make our training time more productive.

I have always thought that my dog is "soft", and during FF wondered if I was doing the right thing, but when it all clicked it was great. And to this day I can wreck a training session with my mouth quicker than I can with any kind of "pressure". I think that's because during FF, CC, etc... a dog learns to deal with pressure, and not shut down, but do what needs to be done to turn the pressure off. So, once you teach them about pressure it actually helps them focus and complete the task much better. I feel that in order to expect a delivery to hand the dog needs to be taught what is expected of him.

Kinda went off track, but I hope that helps?

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Force fetching is a great tool and will work on any age dog. I have used it in the past if i have a problem dog. Personally i don't do it unless i have too. On my last four dogs, all vdd drahthaars, i haven't needed it because of their tremendous drive to retrieve. Their are some dogs in every breed that need a little extra training or different type of training to get the desired result. Dogs will be dogs.

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