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The first step of force fetching: the hold.

Having some problems with my 8 month old Lab pup. He is very aggressive & loves to fetch the bumpers in water & on land. He already has that 10' leap off the bank at full speed. Been in the water for the last 3 months & just loves it. If there is water he is in it. I haven't started him on birds because he has a very bad habit of chewing on the bumper when he gets about 20 ft from me.

I have already started him on the "trained retrieve" & he does real well on the bench. He will hold & fetch without any problems. When he gets on the ground I think he is so aggressive that it makes him stupid. I can usually get him to hold OK on the ground & lead him around on the leach with the dummy in his mouth but when he is told to fetch its a leap on the bumper & start chewing. Its the same thing on his retrieves. When he chews I take him back to the bench & he is fine. Back on the ground & its chewing time again. I have just received my e-collar & have been reading all the info & books & can find on it. I have yet to try that to see if I can stop the chewing. He has been wearing the dummy collar for a week now but IM still unsure about trying it out on him for the chewing problem. I have used it on re-enforcing basic yard commands (sit, stay, heel & come) & it seems to be working real well. I just don't want him to lose any of his aggressiveness. He leaves the line @ full speed, (usually so fast that he slides past the bumper because he can't stop) & returns & full speed. In the water he gets nothing but 90 degree throws from the bank & always grabs the bumper, turns on a dime & comes directly back. He is really a pleasure except for the chewing. I have thought about a professional trainer but he is the 3rd Lab I have trained so I feel like I should be able to correct the problem without a pro. I have another 2 year old that does fine & I have made him watch (wife has to restrain him because he wants it so bad) but he still chews when its his turn.

Please help a frustrated trainer.

Dear Frustrated Trainer:

Let me start with this; please no matter what you do, DO NOT USE THE COLLAR TO CORRECT THE CHEWING! At least not at first.

You need to approach the chewing indirectly. Lets start by putting your pup on the table for just a little while longer. I know you said he is fine on the table but lets just review a few things here first. Use several different retrieving items like a beer can, a plastic pop bottle, a metal pipe and a bumper. make the dog move on the table while carrying the item. Make him sit, stand and lay down while still holding the item. Correct any mouthing or chewing with an ear pinch or toe hitch. Work on the table for at least one week. Allow no retrieving at all unless he is on the table.

For the next week, place all of the retrieving items on the ground about ten yards apart. Have the pup heel on leash past the items. AS you pass over an item command the dog to fetch. if he refuses, correct with an ear pinch and place the item near his mouth. When he is holding the item, walk at heel and then take the item. Repeat the process with another item until all of them have been picked up and carried successfully. Correct any mouthing at all.

During the third week, place the dog on a sit-stay about twenty feet in front of you. Have the dog hold an item. Call the dog to you from a short distance. If he chews or drops the item, correct with an ear pinch, then heel him while carrying the item. If he comes to you without chewing or dropping the item, quietly praise him and end the session.

This will all seem very boring to the both of you and that is exactly the point. He must going to learn the mechanics of the "return to master with the item held in his mouth" without the stimulation of the throw.

When he is working well at this distance you can begin to repeat the drill at longer distances. Be ready to step in and correct mouthing.

If he has made it through the three weeks, you can begin to throw short (5-10 yards) retrieves. Keep him on a checkcord and be ready to correct chewing.

By now the pup should be much more serious about his retrieving and you can extend the distances. Be careful not to apply too much pressure to the dog when he is at your side and holding the item. This can lead to poor concentration and bad marking.

You can employ the use of the E-collar during this training but only rarely and under extreme control, like when he is on the table.

If you want to learn more about the Force Fetch or about Basic Marking and Steadying, please visit my website and download my retriever training e-Books.

I would not use birds with this dog until you are through the steadying process.


Bill Corcoran
Highland Retrievers

For more information on force fetching, try:
What is the "Forced Retrieve"?
Force retriving with an E-Collar
More on force fetching
Beginner's force fetching
A HREF="/ask/ret27.html">Introducting live birds on Force Fetching
When force fetching doesn't work
Is force fetching with negative reinforcement necessary?

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