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Thread: Teaching a pup to "Fetch"

  1. #1
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Question Teaching a pup to "Fetch"

    At this point, my 5 month Golden has been picking up on his basic obedience very well. I'm still a little lost as to the typical progression of teaching him to go get a fallen bird, so I have started the following routine based on what I know of dog training and a few tips that were shared in a previous thread.

    I have been doing some short sessions where I break out the canvas dummy and do some short tosses. By first getting him all excited about this "new toy" (which I only bring out for training, never for general play), I have him sit, then toss it about 10 yards. He takes off after it like a bolt. Initially he wanted to lay down and chew on it, but he quickly picked up on the fact that I wanted him to bring it back to me. Once he gets back to me, if I have a little treat in my hand, he drops the dummy and is ready for the treat. After doing this about 3 times, he will now bring the dummy right back and drop it immediately upon reaching me, so I'm gathering that this method is working. Unfortunately, he starts to get "bored" after about a half dozen throws and will stop to explore the smells of the world if I attempt to continue, so I have been limiting these sessions to only a half-dozen tosses at one time.

    I'll be getting the recommended Water Dog book soon, but until I get it and have a chance to read it, is there anything that the pros around here would suggest adding to or changing about what I'm doing now?

    Thanks.

  2. #2

    Default Progression

    Returning with retrieved items definitely is a major part of obedience. Teaching with treats is a great way to do so. You are right about keeping your session short. Always leave them hungry for more. If they get bored then "they" have decided when and how to quite. Then they start making up the rules.
    Next thing, stop letting him bolt out. All dogs I teach, from day one, is to wait for every retrieve. They retrieve when told to do so. Don't teach anything you have to unteach later. It becomes a whole lot harder on you and the dog.
    For retrieving I like to set up snow fencing or something of the sort. You want a corridor for them to retrieve in so that they don't become distracted and can stay on the task at hand. In a sense you wouldn't expect a four year old child to run straight across a field with candy bars in the grass along the way. It's just not going to happen. So you have to eliminate the distraction. When the pup does well you should reward with verbal praise before rewarding with a treat. Wien them from treats as soon as possible. The fencing should be in an elongated U shape. Other ways would be to use a long rope and pull the pup to you. I much prefer the corridor for retrieving though. Once they are retrieving bumpers to you with consistency then you can strap on some wings to the bumper. Then a frozen pigeon, then to pheasant and on to duck. All this in slow steps. Switch back and forth. Always go back to bumpers before introducing the bird at the end of your session. By this way your dog doesn't decide he wants birds only and starts refusing bumpers. Only allow them initially to handle and retrieve the birds 2 or 3 times. Remember leave them hungry for more.
    Don't take them out of the corridor training area until you are willing to bet $100 that the dog will return to you. If your not, then the dog isn't ready.
    If you won the bet. Then start doing longer retrieves by starting short and then walking back farther from the "area of the fall" You will need some one to get the dogs attention by blowing a duck call and throwing the bird or bumper for you.
    Once you get about 50 yds then you can start introducing gunfire with blank pistols.
    And the progression continues from there. Every dog is different. So there is a lot of variances needed depending on each dogs level and abilities.
    A lot of retriever owners Force Fetch there dogs at a young age. This prevents alot of mouth issues and teaches the dogs to retrieve to hand and to fetch on command. FF is a higher level of obedience.
    Let me know if I can help you farther. PM if you need.

  3. #3
    Member lab man's Avatar
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    Default

    Not that I know much about dog training, but Wetland Retrievers took care of everything I had to share. Good advice.

    Just to reiterate one important part, don't test your pup. Testing the dog may be just setting him up for failure, and you want him to succeed EVERY time he makes a retrieve.

    -Eric

  4. #4
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    Default little bit different expectations

    Wetland is right about a bunch, but I don't agree wholeheartedly. Again, not that he is wrong, I just see it a bit different and have separate experiences to lean on.
    What is the pup like? Hard charger? High roller? Mazeratti? Formula One power? If so, a bit more obedience and/or using more obedience early on during retrieving might work out. But if that pup is ho hum about retrieving, forget the sit stay for now. Just play. Pump him up, tease him and let him roll after that bumper. Try a tennis ball too.
    By just letting him roll, you have not "let" him break a command. Later, Sit or Sit/Stay will have to be enforced. Therefore, I never tell a pup to sit, and expect him to stay that way, unless I have my hand on his collar or a check cord through his collar.
    At 5 months, that Golden should be kicking dirt over your head as it tears up the grass running for that bumper. He should be crazy to go, and you should be getting more than 6 throws before he gets bored. Or rather, that is what I would want and expect from my dogs. Sometimes we "other" guys forget that not everybody thinks like us or has the same goals.
    Corridors or fencing works well. Long workplace hallways at night work also. If you can't find a corridor, find a baseball field early in the morning. It will be empty of distractions, and you have the fence on one side, lots of room to expand the retrieve, and short grass to encourage the pup to use its eyes.
    Run away from that pup if it wants to lay down. Keep backing up, change directions, do anything to keep that pups eyes on you and his focus on you. I teach my dogs to deliver to hand early on. I always try to be there before they have a chance to drop it. If they do drop it, I don't give praise, just pick it up and do it all again. Force fetch later will clear all that up anyway.
    As for birds, if you do not hunt ducks, find somebody that does and get the carcasses and/or wings. Get that dog started on feathers. I'll take the carcass (breasted) and fold over the skin and freeze them so there is no exposed meat. The wings will keep a long time in the fridge. A couple of goose wings taped together work well, or tape duck feathers to the bumper so you can throw them further.
    If you live in suburbia, a starter pistol might cause neighborly constipation. My neighbors used to be pretty cool about it all cause they knew what I was up to. If you aren't comfortable with that, try a cap gun during feeding. Let that pup know early that loud noises mean really good things. If you wait until you are retrieving to introduce the gun, what are you going to do if the dog is gun shy? Now the dog is scared of what used to be fun. Again, we can only say what has worked for us. You need to know the dog and be able to accurately assess his characteristics to fine tune his training.

  5. #5

    Default

    Retrieving should be what a retriever enjoys most. If you have a retriever that isn't into retrieving then your dog is not ready for field work.

    As the previous post mentioned and as I have mentioned not every dog is the same. You have to take into consideration each dogs individual personality and what will get them into the lesson and to get them to learn it.
    When I teach gun fire I do it once they are capable of doing at least 50 yds or more. I also incorporate it in with what the dog enjoys most. "Retrieving" They are so focused on the "mark" at 50 yds that the gunshot doesn't even faze them. The person throwing at 50 yds"the gunner" is the one doing the shooting. "NOT" the handler. You slowly over several sessions move closer to the "gunner". Until eventually the handler is the one doing the shooting.
    The dogs I train, I want them thinking field training, bumpers or birds when the guns come out and gunfire is going on.

  6. #6

    Default

    Joat, I agree with what has been said, until your pup is ready to begin the real work, keep retieves to 2 or 3 at a time, when, where and how many are your choice, not his. With a good introduction to guns you will see what I have in my 7 month old Chocolate Lab Female, when the guns go up, she shivers with exitement and starts scanning the skys. When we were done training Saturday, my son emptied his gun by firing off the last shell and she went nuts looking for the dropping bird.

  7. #7
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Default Thanks for the tips

    Thanks for all the tips guys. Hate to see these discussions turn into a "my way vs. your way" as we all know there are many ways to skin a cat, and most will get to the same results. Since my dog is not going to be a "hard core" hunting dog, but more of a companion/pet that I may want to take out for some low-key hunting, I'm taking this whole process slowly. The main reason I'm wanting to teach him to go hunting is that I lost my Aussie/Lab mix last spring to cancer at the age of just over 2 years. He was by far the most intellegent dog I have ever had. As I looked back on those 2 years with him, I realized that I had all these "plans" to go out and do stuff with him, but we just never got to it. It was kind of a wake up call for me and when the opportunity to get this Golden fell upon me, I vowed that we are going to get off our butts and go out and do stuff together. I haven't been much into hunting in recent years, but we're going to get back into it now.

    As a side note, the breeder warned me that we need to take it very easy with exercise and no field work until he is at least 18 months and preferably 2 years old. The breeder provided a book of medical and health studies on large breed dogs that show increased hip problems with dogs who are over worked prior to their bones and joints being fully developed in the puppy stage. Of course, he has his moments where he goes absolutely nuts with energy, running around like a complete idiot. Well, I'm not going to stop him from having fun, but I also don't want to push him too hard physically. So with that in mind, I'm not expecting him to be performing up to some higher standard at this point. We are going to go through the process at his pace and since this is my first time working the hunting aspect of dog training, we're not in a hurry from my point of view either.

    I really like the fence idea and I just put 100' of plastic fencing in the storage shed a couple days ago that I had been using while I was doing some back yard construction work over the last couple months. I've got a large backyard area that is already fenced in, so it would be quite simple to make a training corridor with a section of that plastic fencing opposing a section of permanent fencing. I'll give that a try.

    I do have a couple pheasant wings that I got from a guy at the trap club. I've used one of them a couple times and the dog goes nuts. I like the idea of taping them to a bumper, so I think that's where we'll be going next as I was using the wing all by itself.

    I guess I didn't get into all the details of what I had been doing, but I was using a 30' training lead so that I could direct him back to me if it looked like he wasn't going to bring the bumper straight back. I haven't really tried to "test" him at this point, I'm still working on the training part and directing his every move. With every toss, I would first have him sit by my side and stay first, so it shouldn't be too hard to extend the stay time until after the toss and giving him a fetch command.

    As for guns, he has been to the trap range a few times now, so he's heard plenty of gunfire. Didn't notice any problems there. The one aspect that I've been concerned about is motion sickness. Right after we got him, we had to spend a total of 6 hours driving and 4 hours flying to get him home. He got car sick once and spent the rest of the trip "green" and drooling. Since then, he has gotten much better and I have been making rides in the truck a fun experience however I can. I still have some concerns about what he'll do in a boat and I've been pushing off his first boat ride while I work on riding in a vehicle. I think we're pretty close now.

    Again, thanks for all the tips. Expect me back with more questions as we work through this process.

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    Default James Lamb Free

    As I recall he did not start training dogs until they were one year old and well developed. I start them as pups, and knock on wood have not had a problem yet. Besides, I love puppies.
    Help us out. Describe your dogs attributes. Style, temperment, athletisicm, intelligence, drive, submissive/dominant, etc. Give us a better feel so we might be able to refine our guidance and not be so broad in certain areas.
    I find myself looking forward to our multi faceted "conversations" with all of our dog friends in this forum. The cool thing about dogs, is that there are lots of good ways to get where you want to go.
    Keep feeding us intel, we are all living vicariously through you.

  9. #9
    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Smile My dog...

    So far, I would have to say this is the most well-behaved puppy I've ever seen. He's very gentle and simply picking him up will make him go "limp". He's quite content to lay around napping for long periods of time. Then, when it's play time, he turns into a ball of fur that just exudes energy. He can hardly contain himself when friends stop over, but he hasn't shown any sign of bad manners like jumping on people. He's perfectly content to sit and get attention, while his tail is going so hard and fast that I think he could smash a hole in the sheetrock.

    When he gets going on these energy spurts, he'll take off like a bolt and run in large circles around the living room or yard. He is usually trying to get you to chase him, and has on several occasions run up and grabbed something nearby and run off with it while looking back over his shoulder to see if you are going to give chase. If you don't, he'll come back and tease you with whatever it is while backing up and trying to get you to chase him.

    When we first picked him up from the breeder, we went into a PetCo and he picked out a stuffed duck toy. He would run and get it and bring it right back without any effort on my part, so I figured his retriever instinct was fully intact. Hence the reason I want to go ahead and let him develop that as much as possible.

    He is very quick to learn, so I would say his intelligence is right up there with the best of them. He learned sit, down, and come very quickly with minimal effort. As I stated at the beginning of the thread, it only took a couple tosses of the canvas bumper to teach him to bring it straight back and drop it at my feet.

    He is very much into exploring and usually has his nose to the ground searching out something far beyond the scent capabilities of a human. The first week at our house as I was letting him explore our back acre of forest, he promptly found a dead song bird and brought it back to show me. Though he seemed a bit distraught when I took it away and tossed it on the burn pile that is waiting for wet weather.

    He tends to be a bit shy, and I'd call him more submissive, especially in new suroundings and around new people. I've taken him to a number of public events and he'll pretty much sit or lay down and watch. He has little reaction when folks come up and want to pet him. However, when there are other dogs around, he wants to go meet them. He tends to be submissive when meeting another dog, but his tail is going wildly and he acts like he wants to play. A friend of mine got a yellow lab shortly after we got our golden, and the 2 pups have spent a lot of time together down at the trap club. They are a ball of fur the whole time, chasing and wrestling around with each other. The lab is more aggressive, but the golden, being a bit larger, ususally maintains the upper hand.

    And as I've said, his mind does tend to wander. He has little interest in tennis balls, but would rather chase down a stuffed or rope toy. He also likes the Kong frisbee. However, with general playing around, he's good on one topic or toy for only a short while before he wants to move on to doing something else. When playing in the backyard, he has a tendancy to stop and start smelling around after only a short while, so I have to work to keep him on task when we are training.

    He's very food motivated, so little treats have been the primary motivator at most training sessions, though I taper off the treats in favor of simple praise and petting after he has shown that he's got the task down pat.

    He's still a bit of a klutz, so I don't want to label his athletic ability yet. A few days ago, he started chasing his tail in circles and was spinning so fast he fell over and laid there with that classic "typewriter" motion of head and eyes signaling someone who is completely dizzy. He will also come running up to the couch in an effort to jump up there, but will jump too early and hit the front edge of the cushions with his chest and fall back to the floor. He's getting better at this, but he's over 40# now and quite a bit taller.

    Oh, and he loves water. When it's raining he'll run over to the drizzle coming off the end of the gutter and stand under there snapping at the water. After a particularly hard rain a couple weeks ago, there was a large puddle in the yard and he went nuts running around and splashing in the water. If you break out the garden hose, he's right there trying to get at the spray. But it didn't take much to teach him that the garden hose was not for playing with, so now he just comes over and sits there waiting and watching whenever I'm using the hose for something. I need to get him out to a lake sometime and see how he is at swimming.

    So, there you have it, as best as I can put together at this point. By the way, just to put a name and face to it, his nickname is "Dusty" as a shortening of Wildwood's Alaskan Gold Dust, which is his pending registered name. And I've attached a pic I took a couple days ago.
    Last edited by JOAT; 08-27-2009 at 10:17.

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    Default right on

    thanks for letting us get to know him. Sounds like a winner to me.
    If he is shy, reserved, nervous, or distracted around people, I would train in those environments only if you see it as a potential future problem. Set up the basics at home. Keep building the teaching, training, testing process there. Then go to the ball field or playground when they are devoid of people. Train really well there and when ready, test. If successful, go back to training again in new areas and maybe with people around. Every time you go someplace new, plan on starting out at the beginnning and train. After a bit, it won't matter where you are, the rules are always the rules and Dusty will understand that. Don't forget to go back to the areas he is most comfortable with to test him.

  11. #11
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    Default

    Funny, my wife and I just had this discussion about pups tonight, what a pain it is getting them into the adult stage

    From the first moment you get the pup, the training begins. All retriever training should begin in the hallway of your house, it takes two people to train, one at either end of the hallway. All doors in the hall have to be kept closed. You will be on your butt with your legs spread so the pup can not get by you. Your pardner at the end of the hall will be the holder of the squeaky toy (Small). You hold the pup and teach everything from there, the pups call name, the excitement of retrieving, that he is looking forward, that everything will be before him, that he always will return to you. At the same time you will give him the command of mark, over time when he hears this command he will know it's time to get busy using his eyes and to look for the bird.

    While holding the pup between your legs with both hands, the pup on his hind legs head up, you tell him to" mark" this is the clue for your partner to get the pups attention by voice with "hey, hey, hey calls while pumping the squeaky toy, we want to get this puppy excited about the retrieve he about to make. Once you our sure he is looking at the toy and he strumming to go, you call his name (this is the Que for your partner to release the toy.) You send the pup on his way. All pups want to play keep away as soon as he has made the pick-up he can only run away from your partner at the end of the hall and has to return to you for the trap. You let the pup hold the toy while you tell him what a great little guy he is and what a great future you can see for him. Take the toy away and hand it back to your partner.

    You can make any dog into a retrieving fool, using the following method, (works on cats too). You have to keep the pups attention focused on only one thing at a time to start so you have to have a small kennel next to your chair and the squeaky toy close to hand where it's ready for teasing him.

    By the way this is also how you teach another series of commands with this kennel, that is the command I use of outside, and place. When it's time to take the pup out of the box for a nature call, you command with outside, you take him outside by carrying him at first and setting him down and tell him place, nature is a great training aid, tell the pup what a fine fellow he is for doing his business. Coming back in he gets his water break and a snack if you feel like it. Take him by hand back to the kennel and as you place him back inside you will teach him the next command of kennel up or just kennel.

    The only thing this pup will have in his mind is to retrieve for you, nothing else will matter to him but the retrieve and getting out of the kennel to do just that. That squeaky toy in front of the door, with you pumping on it will get his bore attention better than any other thing in his world. His only play will be the retrieve, and all the rest will just fall into place "IF" you do your part.

    When you think about it what we are really doing is training ourselves to handle this dog for the rest of his life from the vary start. Just like you can get through a lot of training using this method, you can also teach him a lot of bad things that are murder to undo.

    Caution, do not let kids play with this pup, until it is clear in their heads to never play keep away with this dog, and you can't really trust kids not to do this as that pup will want to do just that.

    As many a great trainer will tell you, "training dogs is easy, training the people is what's hard"!

    Goodness, how I love to train them!

  12. #12

    Default training to stay first

    The most common mistake I see with untrained dogs (pup or adult) is not training to stay first before retrieves are taught. Of course you will get 100 opinions on this but after a puppy learns to sit (easiest of all commands), next on my list is the stay command. Start by leashing the dog and making the pup sit. Then hold the leash behind the head (your hand must be behind the dogs head) and enforce the "stay" if you feel the dog moving. If your dog moves forward gently tug backwards (easy since you are basically sitting almost on top and infront of the pup) so the dog feels resistance behind its head. Do this a couple of times, reward the dog, and let it go until the next training session. If after a couple of weeks the dog learns to sit and stay (pups stay only for a short time because they loose concentration/get bored) then you can step backwards (in small increments) issuing the stay command and before long (a couple of months) you can tug that leash hard and the dog won't budge until you release the dog (whatever command you wish but I use the dogs name). Then I work on retrieves. IF the dog is retrieving before stay, it will take much more work to get the stay command down.

    By the way retrieving is one of most instinctual things you can work a dog on so don't be in such a hurry with retrieves. If you teach simple retrieves and want to focus your dog on looking for birds (pointing to a spot and issuing the "find the bird or dead bird" command) find a park with pigeons and let your dog run through them for fun) yell one of those two phrases as the dog has fun with pigeons. In the next year you can yell one of those commands in your house and that dog will go crazy. Later in the field that command will click on the retrieve. First time you see it you will be amazed. But get all the basics down before you move to the intermediate/advanced work.

    My 2 cents!

  13. #13
    Member Big Al's Avatar
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    Default

    I missed out on that one as I only teach "sit" which means just that. Sit does not mean to go have a ball as soon as your butt touches the ground.

    Sit means just that, until the next command is given. I teach "sit" with gravity and a treat. Now the treat is popcorn. The reason for this is to teach the pup to use his eyes later in training. Bring the pup to heel on the left side (if your right handed) on a lead, bend down over the pup and tell him to sit when he sees the treat and move it over his head towards his rear-end. This is where gravity takes over, his rear goes down and you keep your hand down while you give him the treat, telling him you think he is a great little guy.

    Maybe you want to start with the short blast on the whistle, which means sit. Never to early to get the basics in, don't you know?

    Sit will always mean stay!

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