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How do you get your dog to retrieve?

How can I start teaching my brittany to retrieve?

Retrieveing is based on prey drive. Prey is the prize a dog gets from hunting. This is an expression I learned a long time ago. "Prey comes from play and prey is not prey unless it flys away", I teach my dogs that this game does not consist of them and the toy but instead is YOU, the dog and the toy. Without you there is no prey. a good start is to throw a ball. Tease him by playing keep away. When he is excited throw it a short distance. Get the dog to chase it even he does't pick it up. If does not pick it up , go to him and the ball and do it again it from there. Keep the game short and fun.

Later on when your dog brings the toy back he is still in prey drive. Do not attmept to take it from him but instead put one arm under his neck and stroke his head to calm him down. You will begin to feel him relax. This is his prey drive winding down. You are showing him that it is his and he doesn't have to fight you for it. When he has eased up on his grip and is almost ready to drop it anyway whisper "out or give " or whatever command you use. He will open his mouth and let it go. As soon as you get it you instantly go into the tease which turns his prey drive up again. Repeat this process until he has learned there are definate parts to a retrieve. There is the prey which is go get it. There is a calming part when he can say it is his. There is the out when he gives it to you.

This method will prevent problems such as chewing the bird or fighting you for it. He will soon figure out that without you there is no game. I will generally throw a bumper 6-8 times or when the dog is at his peak and then I will stop abruptly and go sit down. I let him keep it if that's what he wants but the game is over. He may want to lay down and mouth it but will very shortly lose interest becasue it is no longer prey. You will usually see him begin to bring objects to you in an effort to get you to play. You control this game.

Bear in mind that he is young and do not rush to get a finished dog. You did not learn overnight and neither will he. He will make mistakes and so will you but a foundation is being laid. Make it strong and you can build a powerful structure. Take short cuts and the walls will come tumbling down.

Terry Germany
JC&T Shooting Sports

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