My German Shorthair pup named Chet got to partake in his first spruce grouse kill this last weekend. It his the ground fluttering and he immediately knew what to do. He ran over and scooped it up in his mouth, but didnt want to release his prize. I had to literally pry it from his jaws. Does anybody know any training tips on how to deter this habit before he gets older. He is 6 months old by the way.
That is typical if that was the first bird he had ever handled. You don't ever want to get into a battle with his mouth. You and the bird will loose.
What I do is attach a short lead to the dogs collar. This lead is just long enough to reach the front foot. By this way they can still run and not get it tangled between there legs. When the dog brings you the bird you grab the lead(not the bird) and congradulate the pup telling him what a great thing he just did. You can walk the dog in a short circle just holding the lead. Hold the dogs head up by this way they don't get to readjust the bird in there mouth. Some pups will drop the bird on there own after walking beside you for a bit. When they do you already have them on lead so you continue walking past the bird and then making them sit so you can pick the bird up yourself. If you have a reluctant dog, If you are smooth you can gently get the bird away by going down and away with the bird. Never straight out. Some young pups let go if you push the bird backwards in their mouth and out one corner.
The whole idea with pups is to not develop prey possessiveness. If you immediately take the prize then the pup sees you as an object of not much fun. But if you allow the pup to come to you and then grab the short lead. You have done two things. The pup came back to you and he gets to temporarily keep his prize. You aren't stealing it from him. The pup will drop it on his own or with leash in hand he will surrender the bird with out much fuss. With leash in hand you have more control. Don't forget your obedience commands even with a bird in the mouth. Just making them sit sometimes is enough to gently get the bird away. Always reward with great praise. Remember everything at this stage is positive. Later if you desire you can force fetch the pup to where everything is delivered to hand.
All this is assuming you have done some basics work and the pup is returning training dummies back to you.
It is better also to introduce pups to birds before you take them into the field. But not all is lost if you don't.
I enjoy the feedback folks add to the forum, and think Wetland is on top of it most of the time, but come on guys, there are a lot of you with experience in handling dogs.
I know of at least two Fairbanks Retriever Club folks who peek in now and again and it would be nice to hear from you.
Ok, now on to the question at hand.
Hold, fetch, and drop should not normally be taught in the field, especially on birds. There just are not enough controls to reasonably assure you of a positive outcome. The advice given is good with the caveat that some other work has been done.
I teach my dogs 3 separate commands, normally in the garage or basement, always on leash. I usually will not do retrieving work while I am doing the following.
The first is HOLD. Just about any object works to start with, but smaller diameters such as a 1" dowel works well. I push the lower lip on to the molars with one hand and roll the dowel downward and into the mouth with the other as I say HOLD (one time). The hand stays on the dowel, the other hand moves forward to stroke the chin. Say GIVE and take the dowel back out gently. More than likely the dog will already be spitting it out. You are not trying to hurt the dog, just encourage him to open his mouth. Keep it up until he starts to open his mouth on his own. Remember, the starting place for the dowel is right at the front of his lips. Remain firm. Typically he will go through a period of fighting you and not wanting it in his mouth. Keep up the praise when he holds the dowel. The goal is to be able to release the dowel and take both hands away from his head.
Once he understands and is willing to keep the object in his mouth, pick a new object. Start at the beginning. Work forward until he understands to keep it in his mouth. Start over with another object. Get to the point that whatever you put against his mouth and command HOLD he opens his mouth for.
Go back to the first object. Have him hold it and heal, come, sit, down, etc. He must keep the object in his mouth. Keep things simple. Build slowly. Always end on a positive note. Keep working him with all sorts of objects to hold. When he is good, take him out in the yard or for a walk. Start at the beginning and build HOLD into his activities.
After he holds it, I teach him to DROP. My dogs only drop or give to hand. They do not drop any carried object on the ground. You decide what you want. When I put the item in his mouth, the command is hold. If I tug on the item, the command is still HOLD. When I do command DROP, I hold my hand still as i grasp the item and make him move his head away. Never get in a tug of war. Never pull anything away from him. I can lead him around with the rope on a bumper and he will not drop it until commanded to do so.
The dog may need the same pressure on his lip to release the object as was made for him to hold the object. You are applying pressure to open the mouth and enforce the given command.
HOLD and DROP are opposite commands. You may end up with him being sticky and not wanting to drop. Or, he may end up wanting to spit it out. Keep balancing the pressure and the commands. Do not get mad, do not lose patience. Just be firm and when he gets it add in lots of praise.
A lot of pros do not do these 2 steps due to time and cost to the client. You can do it easily, and when and if you decide to force fetch, you already have 2 basics in place.
The leash idea WL gave for field use is a great one. When you get to the point you are doing field work, think about how to apply that information.
I won't go into FETCH yet. There has been some talk about it already and you may not be there yet.
Keep us in touch.
Those are some excellent and descriptive training posts. Thanks for sharing your methods in such detail. I'd love to see more posts on specific training methods for various issues similar to these.
What methods or areas would you like to discuss?
That's kind of the sticking point, with no previous background in working with bird dogs I'm not sure what specific items I might be missing out on. Just for instance, AK River Rat's description of teaching the hold and drop commands in such detail was very informative and an item that I would not have thought to ask about. I'm progressing slowly and reading what I can, so I can pose specific questions as they come up, but it's the little details that you guys who've been doing this for years and take for granted that those of us new to the sport don't even know what to ask. I suppose that after a winter of continuing with the book basics, I should plan on a live get together with one of you experienced guys to figure out where to go next and pick up any missing pieces that we can't figure out via this forum. That would also allow an experienced trainer to see my dog and give specific recommendations based on his behavior.
Just for comparison, I have a solid emergency medical background (paramedic) including as a trainer. Someone could bring up a simple topic like bleeding or fractures and most might have a vague concept or even some good first aid knowledge on how to deal with it. But I could start into detailed descriptions of many things about such topics that would be beneficial in providing the treatment, but wouldn't be found in most of your first aid books or taught in a basic first aid class.
JOAT, I enjoy my opportunities to engage with you, WL, and others on this forum. I spent a large amount of time in my 20's doing nothing but working with dogs. I trained with pros and for pros and with some of the best ametuers in the country.
In the beginning I was just like you guys. I had a dog, but did not know where to go. I was given the name of a man, Bob Tarnowski, back when I was young and dumb. So I called him up, and every night for 2 weeks we talked. Never less than 15 minutes, sometimes for hours. The cagey veteran asked me if I wanted to come out to a Sunday morning training session, and I did. I was nervous to say the least.
I got there, shook hands w/ everybody and watched for a bit. Then he asked me to get my dog out of the truck. That was scary item number 2. They threw some marks for her, which she pinned, and I was on my way to being a training junkie. I was hooked.
I love these dogs, and through them have met great people. Still, after almost 30 years, I feel a debt to the people that helped me along the way. I wish all debts were so fun to repay.
For new trainers, it is often difficult to know what to ask until you are in the middle of a problem. I know I did a lot of "un-training" early on with my dogs to fix my goof ups.
So for the newer folks, don't give up if things don't go well. Drop a line and we'll provide the best feedback we can. If you are thinking about doing something and want to talk it over before hand, feel free to call us.
Anybody can PM me when ever they like, and if we can't figure it out on line we can do it over the telephone, just like I did back in 1978.
And one of these days when I drive to ANC I am stopping in at WL's for coffee.
only 6 months old
Remember your dog is only 6 months old. I would not pressure this dog too much yet. There are good comments on here. I might add using your index finger and thumb just roll the dogs lip under a tooth and add just enough pressure to have the dog open its mouth releasing the bird. You can say give during this then praise the heck out of your dog.