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What is the "Force Retrieve"?

I am a novice trainer. My 16 week old lab pup is doing great. He is learning and so am I. I spend some time on the internet reading about bird dog's and there training. I hear everyone tak about the "Force Retrieve" but no one say's anything about what "IT" is. Can you enlighten me please. Thank's Frazer


The forced retrieve is know by many names; the trained retrieve, force fetch, force breaking etc. It all boils down to a simple concept. The idea is to train, through the use of some form of compulsion, a dog to pick up an object in his mouth, carry it firmly but gently and deliver it to the handlers hand.

Many people fail to understand why a dog that already retrieves naturally should be trained to retrieve. The truth is that the forced retrieve is more about control than it is about retrieving. Most dogs that complete a force retrieve program are more pliable and obedient than dogs who still control how and when birds are retrieved. A dog that is properly force trained will retrieve items that I want him to retrieve, in the order I want them retrieved and will carry and deliver them in the manner that I expect. The retrieve is completed on my terms, not the dog's. Otherwise the dog is free to drop the bird, sniff around, take the long way back or dictate anything else he may wish during a retrieve.

A controlled retrieve and delivery is crucial to a well finished hunting or hunt test/field trial retriever.

There are many methods and techniques for teaching the trained retrieve. While the concept may seem simple, the process can be very involved. it takes an experienced eye to know what technique to use with each dog to assure results. Too much pressure may crush a dogs spirit, too little will confuse the dog. I recommend that you look around and locate an established pro trainer or retriever club to do the training on your first dog. There is too much that can go wrong and it is too critical a step in training a reliable retriever, to leave up to the first timer.

I will briefly describe the method I generally use. It is described for illustration purposes only.

I start all my dogs on a small bench. The dog's collar is secured to a post. this setup eliminates the dogs option to run or fight. I start with a wooden dowel. it is placed in the dogs mouth and held there until he quits fighting, then I take it back. When the dog will hold the dowle for a few seconds without a fight, I move to the next phase. I will pinch the ear flap on the dog and hold the dowel in front of him. If he yelps, bites or barks, the dowel is placed in his mouth and the pressure instantly released from the ear. The dog is praised. After the dog clearly understands that placing the item in his mouth stops the pressure, I will move to other forms of compulsion, (toe hitch, E collar , etc.) until he knows how to turn each form of compulsion off by placing the item in his mouth. Over the next several weeks the dog learns to pick up, hold, carry, and release a number of different items, including birds.

When the dog appears to understand the basic idea, he moves on to retrieving from the ground and delivery to hand. Eventually he will learn that if he wants to play this game, he must play it according to my rules. In time the dog becomes more focussed and intense about retrieving than he was before.

The whole process can take from a couple weeks to a few months depending on the amount of training time committed. Again I would recommend that you look for a qualified pro to do the work for you to ensure the best possible result.

Best of Luck,

Bill Corcoran
Highland Retriever Kennel
Highland Retriever Kennel

For more information on force fetching, try:
Force retriving with an E-Collar
More on force fetching
Beginner's force fetching
Introducting live birds on Force Fetching
The Hold: The first step in force fetching
When force fetching doesn't work
Is force fetching with negative reinforcement necessary?

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