Contact Us    Help    Site Map    About Us   


Dear Trainers,

I have a young Vizsla who is a very good hunter (holds to wing and shot, strong bird finding ability, trainability-listens well,etc.) and has been very easy to train with the exception of retrieving and honoring (i.e. backing).

I have trained the dog using the general training methods of Richard Wolters and Bill Tarrant. However, I am having little success in having the dog understand what I want him to do when it comes to retrieving and honoring. I hope to have him become a complete hunting companion and to finish him in the AKC Hunt Tests. Do you any suggestions?


This is not a simple or easy portion of training (backing or retrieving), let's take it one piece at a time:


First off, if you're trying to pass an AKC SH test, the rules state that the backing dog can't be given a warning (verbal or hand) to stop until the dog acknowledges it's bracemates point. So what's the definition of "acknowledge" you ask? So did/do I. There are three general answers AKC judges will give you:
    - stops when it sees it's bracemate on point
    - slows down or comes out of "hunting" mode when it sees it's bracemate on point.
    - sees it's bracemate on point.
That's the sad truth. There is no common ground amongst AKC judges when it comes to defining the criteria for acceptable performance before a handler can warn the backing dog. I know this because I ask judges this very question when i'm on the line before breaking the dog away at a SH test. I also ask this question to my judging partner when I'm judging a SH test. The 3 answers givin above are always the answers I get.

So how do you train for backing? Try running your dog with a check cord, try the pop-up silhouettes or as a last resort, use a collar. You obviously don't have a natural backer, either do i, so don't feel bad. However, I've made a conscience decision to not tailor my training to pass a test whose criteria is vague & not definitive.

Backing was put into a pointing dog hunt test to demonstrate a dog's ability to work with another dog and NOT interfere with it's birdwork. The AKC, for some crazy reason, has given latitude to it's judges to take that to a ridiculous level, if they so wish. What I'm trying to tell you is that if you're dog will stop when you command it, either verbal or via hand signal, then that is what you should be training for.

If you have an independent, hard-driving dog who wants to find their own birds, and they're not natural backers, you have a task & a half ahead of you.

Train with various other breeds (i.e.: breeds of different colors). Set up a back, specifically to train the BACKING dog. Find a MH or NAVHDA UT level dog, (read: a VERY steady dog), put them on point and then bring your dog in for the back.

If the pointing dog can appear suddenly (i.e.: around a thicket) as your dog comes into range, it will give you a more precise moment to command your dog to back. Start with a check cord and a verbal warning (whoa). Then remove the check cord as the dog demonstrates the ability to back. Do not jerk the check cord! Just don't let the dog advance.

In a real hunting situation, if a dog is on point & my dog comes in, I command them to back and they do. That is biddability in my book. As much as the AKC's intentions are good on this one, they've let it get out of hand. The AKC MH backing criteria are just fine, the dog has to back & stay absolutely still through the entire retrieve by it's bracemate all without a word spoken or hand signal given by their handler. That's what a MH should do. SH however, is a different story.

If the check cord is too cumbersome to train with and coordinate during this exercise, use a low level, training collar. Same routine, this time command whoa & as soon as your dog moves a foot AFTER you say whoa, correct them.

Now on to Retrieving:

This one is much easier..............force fetch.

Good luck,

rob hopkins
Hoppy's Kennels

For more information on force fetching, try:
What is the "Forced Retrieve"? - BIll Corcoran

<< Back to Q&A

follow us on: