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Spaniel won't bring to hand

I have a 3 year old ESS that is a very hard hunter and has a great nose for birds. I started teaching him to retrieve when he was around 11 or 12 weeks old. The problem that I am having is that he will not bring the bird to hand. He will run to the bird, maybe pick it up (especially if it is still moving) and then drop the bird and keep on hunting. Sometimes he will pick up the bird and start back towards me. Usually he will come within 15 to 20 yards and will lay down with the prize. When I go to him, he will let me take the bird although when he was a pup, his first bird or two had to be pried from his mouth (with him growling the whole time). Yes I did feed the dog before the hunt. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Kevin

I have seen this in many different breeds. Basically the dog was never trained to retrieve. You said that when it was young you started. I assume you were play retrieving with the puppy. This dog may need to be force broke to retrieve to get anywhere with it. I have always been able to do a trained retrieve with most springers and not have to go with the force.

First will the dog sit before you feed it and wait to be released to eat, otherwise is the dog steady to the feed bowl? If the dog won't, train this dog to wait for it's food and only feed the dog at certain times in the day. DO not let this dog have free choice food. It must learn that to get something it MUST do something for you first. It MUST sit and wait to be fed, it MUST sit at the door before you let it in or out. When the dog understands that it MUST do something for you, BEFORE it gets something the training will get easier.

Will the dog retrieve bumpers? If it will go back to bumpers and do this in a hall way in your house. Throw the bumper and have the dog retrieve, when the dog picks up the bumper tell it HOLD and repeat, the hall way keeps the dog close and keeps it from running around. If the dog brings it back and spits it out walk around while you say hold to keep the dog from dropping the bumper.

Next let the dog if it will, keep the bumper and hold it, don't get in a rush to take the bumper. Tell the dog to hup or sit, at this point it may drop the bumper. Place the bumper back in the dogs mouth and pet it and keep the bumper in it's mouth, and say hold again then take it away and say give. Try to get the dog to hold the bumper as long as you can. Then move to sitting and holding. If the dog will not do this then a course on FORCE breaking to retrieve is in order. By the way feeding the dog before you hunt has nothing to do with this problem. This dog is what I call a spoiled brat! you can turn this dog around but it will take authority, and you will need to be consistent. Start making the dog understand that it must do something for you before it gets something and you will have better luck. Even enrolling in a obedience class would help. Good luck Ron

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