Dropping the retrieve
Does anyone have any good advice on how to get the dog to bring the retrieve to hand constantly rather than dropping it then picking it back up just to drop it again at your feet?
This is an article on the subject. It gives alot more information than what you are asking for, but it does address teaching "hold'.
Teach them how to use there mouth. Mouth issues are certainly taken care of by the proper instruction of the "Trained Retrieve" or better known as "force fetch".
The article Lastfrontier brought up is a good source. Evan Graham also has a good dvd on ForceFetch. It will walk you thru step by step. Available at Rush creek press on line or through Gundogsupply or Lion Country.
If you don't have the patience for it. Contact myself or ask some of the others on here for some help. Those of us familiar with it will gladly help.
I too am a proponent of force fetching dogs. It takes lots of patience, and during the process may not seem rewarding. But if you do it right, and build on each step, good things will happen and you will end up with a solid foundation to work from.
Because I am not on the clock and training multiple dogs I add a step prior to starting the force program. I like to sit on the deck, or in the house, and teach the dog to hold. I usually start with something fairly soft, and smaller diameter than a small knobby bumper.
Keep in mind I try to make this an upbeat game. I sit or kneel with the dog, and keep my voice happy. I'll open the dogs mouth, insert object, and command "hold" while either keeping pressure on the lower jaw, or tapping the lower jaw. I give a vocal praise, "good boy", and then command "give". We repeat this over and over, trying to make each hold a bit longer. When the dog drops or spits early, he gets a stern "no", and an immediate happy "hold" as the item is put back in the mouth.
The hand I use to help open the mouth is the hand that instantly goes under the chin/jaw to apply upwards pressure. If his nose is pointing up, it is harder for him to drop the item being held. Pressure can be constant, or tapping.
Do not continue to say hold, hold, hold, hold. It is a command and should be given one time. Tease the dog a bit to want to take the item. If he gets to a point he does not want to give it up, that is ok, but do not get into tug of wars.
Keep the sessions short and successful. The goal should always be 3 successful commands before continuing forward, or ending the session. Each session should start just like your first one. Each time you hit a "wall", i.e. he drops early, go back to square one and rebuild each step successfully 3 times.
Don't test. Train. Keep the hands ready to apply light corrections and to react if/when he drops early. The goal is to be able to not touch him, and then to be able to do basic obedience while carrying something in his mouth.
Clear as mud?
This merely means they fetch in obedience to a command. Many dogs are natural retrievers, but no dog who drops something can be made to put it back in his mouth or keep it there without this training. Well maybe a few Drahthaars, but that's it.
what ak river rat said
I did exactly what ak river rat did, and I never had to force fetch my dog. I'm not sure i really believe in it. There are plenty of other that will say it is always needed if you want your dog to retrieve to hand. In my families 40+ years of training bird dogs, we haven't had to force fetch one dog. We did exactly the training above. Keep your training sessions short and fun for the dog. If you do decide to force fetch, get someone who has done it before, and had success. once you start you have to continue to the end, or you can really mess a dog up. I have a rescue dog that had this bad expierence, it has taken me 3 yrs to get her straightened out. I didn't force fetch any of my dogs, and you go into my kennels(my garage) and say "fetch it up!" all the dogs will scramble and find the closest thing they can(hammers, soda bottles, the cat) and they will bring it to me and won't drop it until i tell them to. it was said above.....don't test, just train, train, train. They will love it!
I think there is a misconception here on force fetch. Teaching a dog to hold and deliver at your side is just the beginning of it. Hold is for delivery but the force part comes in to play when you say "fetch". It now is a formal command. The dog is retrieving because it was commanded to not because it was a fun tennis ball that was thrown. I am saying pick that up whether you want to or not. It could be a bird, bumper, a box, yard rake, my keys, the book I knocked off my coffee table, the cat, my neighbors newspaper off his driveway. Hahahaha
For the average hunter FF isn't a real necessary requirement. But that depends from dog to dog. Some absolutely need it. Any dog running competition....... it is a necessity.
With out it, you do not have ultimate control.
THE best book I have read on retreiving is by a pointing lab trainer here in Colorado where I goose hunt. Pat and Julie have a sample of part of the book on her website. She is right on the money IMNSHO.
Force Fetch doesn't mean that you have to harm the dog.