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Game crunching after bird attack

My 6 year old lab was recently "malled" by a winged pheasant, and now feels compeled to assure every bird shot is completely dead by crunching it, and for the most, part ruining it. After he has ruined the bird he will retreive it hand quite nicely. Any help on how I can correct this hard mouth problem would be greatly appreciated since he is otherwise a wonderful dog to hunt.

Some of the advice I am going to give regarding a dog that crunches birds to ensure they are dead can be time consuming and/or expensive so you will have to decide if you should apply the effort to a dog of this age.

The first thing I would do is to ensure that this dog does not get to retrieve any birds until you solve the problem. Allowing him to continue ill-mannered retrieves will only cause the problem to worsen and become habit if it hasn't already. Your frustration with the problem will only make him more stressed out and result in more damage to your birds.

This dog must be taught to retrieve properly. I would recommend that you take the dog to a qualified Pro and have the force fetch done or even redone as a first step. I always force fetch all my retrievers. I feel that the force fetch is not about retrieving, it is about control. Problems like hard mouthing birds are always easier to fix on a dog that thoroughly understands the forced retrieve.

After the forced retrieve is reliable, I would have the dog walk at heel for considerable distances while carrying a dead pigeon. Next repeat the exercise with a dead pheasant. Any behavior other than a gentle carry results in appropriate correction and a rehash of force fetch. Next have him carry a live pigeon with it's wings taped down. Finally have him carry a live pheasant with it's wings and legs taped.

If the ill-mannered mouthing seems to have ceased, you can begin throwing dead pigeons, followed by live birds for the dog.

The foundation for this solution is in the forced retrieve. It must be done to control how your dog retrieves all birds. If you are well versed in the forced retrieve then you can apply the technique yourself, otherwise send the dog to a good pro to have the work done.

Best of luck,

Bill Corcoran
Highland Retriever Kennel
Highland Retriever Kennel

For more information on eating the retrieve and force fetching, try:
What is the "Forced Retrieve"? - BIll Corcoran
Eating the retrieve - Jan Burkholder
Sitting still, plucking the bird, and vests - Jan Burkholder
Occasional bird eating - Joe Riches

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