Pup training--making progress

okie archer

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I like to wait until about the 6 month mark to begin force fetch. This gives time for the pup to lose baby teeth and grow adult teeth. I try to have obedience (sit, here, heel, kennel, etc.) down solid as well. At the same time try to cultivate the retrieving desire with basic single marks on both land and water. Intro to dead ducks and gun noise as well.
Rex turned 6 months on May 15th so I began force fetch starting with "hold". Hold went super easy as I expected it would because from very early on when he would come back from a retrieve he would not stop the bumper/duck. That made it nice, Rex is the first dog I've ever trained that hold was not a problem teaching. They always want to spit it out.
Next I went to ear pinch on fetch command, that also was learned pretty quick. I personally never use a table because I don't see the point if your eventually going to the ground anyway. To each their own.
I think it was on the third day Rex was already going for the bumper when I stretched my arm out and also picking it up off the ground on around day 3 or 4. He was very compliant and learned quickly how to turn off pressure. By the end of the first week I transferred from ear pinch to e-collar on fetch command. That also was fairly smooth transfer. Next was walking fetch and also transitioned from small 2" bumpers to large 3" bumpers. Walking fetch went pretty good as well. I stayed on it for several days to solidify. Now that I had force fetch in my dog training tool box I started letting him have a few single marks occasionally to keep his attitude up.
At this point everything is rolling pretty smooth so I began force to pile.
FTP started out pretty good but as I increased the distance it became more challenging. One day he got confused and I got agitated and our session nose dived. So I went home and regathered myself and decided to digress a bit and went back to force fetch just a bit then to walking fetch and tried to keep up the good attitude. I really just needed to slow down. Handler attitude is extremely important especially with a young dog in formal training.
I stayed on walking fetch for awhile throwing happy bumpers in between and working on my training attitude which helps his training attitude.
His confidence has really came up good. I started back to pile work yesterday. Started out great but as I increased distance he got confused a bit and lacked confidence. Again I got in a hurry. So I tried to keep things from nose diving and shortened the distance up again to the pile and sent him 2 or 3 more times to regain confidence. In the mornings I usually work on obedience. Walking at heel, push/pull heel work. Cleaning up a sloppy sit. He has already been collar conditioned to here. I taught whistle sit around 3 months but now I am working on sitting him, calling him, and whistle sitting on way to me. That is going pretty good. I like to keep the obedience training separate from pile work etc. to keep things simple when teaching concepts.
My plan now is to work on force to pile at shorter distances until solid then gradually increase distance as to build confidence. Also have some land and water marks at different training sessions. Hopefully by hunting season Rex will be at a senior/seasoned level.
 

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okie archer

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Just chillin'' with me at work in my taxidermy shop.
 

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FishN4Eyes

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Keep up the updates, very interesting as I'm a month and half behind you with my yellow male pup.

We have had some up's and down's with the training but I always try to remind myself he's just a pup and most of his faults are likely due to his two legged companion.

He has shown some really good marking ability and has done a couple live pheasants already and loves that.

Just waiting for those damn puppy teeth to fall out so I can start the force fetch training.

Nice work, your dog seems to be coming along great, I can only hope to do as well as you guys.
 

okie archer

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A little cool down for Rex in a creek after Force to Pile. The Oklahoma temperature and humidity is starting to heat things up therefore trying to keep sessions short.
 

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OntarioHunter

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Force fetch ... with a LAB?! What the ... I'm on my seventh Lab in sixty years and never had to resort to that. In fact, never heard of it till a couple of years ago. Labs are ready to retrieve right out of the birth canal. What difference does it make which teeth are in their face? They're not going to stop chewing on stuff until 1.5 years at the earliest (current Lab didn't stop till age five). But I've only ever had one that was anything close to hard mouthed and Opal developed that in later years. And only with crippled pheasants. I suspect a rooster spurred her once and she didn't want to put up with that crap again. Crunch! My current Lab still will not retrieve geese from the field (no problem over water) but it's never been important enough to resort to twitching her. She is absolutely fantastic retreiving pheasants in ridiculous heavy cover so I am not going to mess with fixing something that doesn't matter. She'll run out and stay with the honker till I get it. Anyway, all my pups were retreiving from the get go. The late great Black Pearl was actually selected from the litter at 8 weeks because she brought my tossed cap back to me ... three times. "Honey, forget those other pups. We have our dog." A tennis ball toy with a bell inside is a great starting tool. Use it on the kitchen floor where confines and no distractions will guide the pup back.
 

IdahoNick

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Force fetch ... with a LAB?! What the ... I'm on my seventh Lab in sixty years and never had to resort to that. In fact, never heard of it till a couple of years ago. Labs are ready to retrieve right out of the birth canal. What difference does it make which teeth are in their face? They're not going to stop chewing on stuff until 1.5 years at the earliest (current Lab didn't stop till age five). But I've only ever had one that was anything close to hard mouthed and Opal developed that in later years. And only with crippled pheasants. I suspect a rooster spurred her once and she didn't want to put up with that crap again. Crunch! My current Lab still will not retrieve geese from the field (no problem over water) but it's never been important enough to resort to twitching her. She is absolutely fantastic retreiving pheasants in ridiculous heavy cover so I am not going to mess with fixing something that doesn't matter. She'll run out and stay with the honker till I get it. Anyway, all my pups were retreiving from the get go. The late great Black Pearl was actually selected from the litter at 8 weeks because she brought my tossed cap back to me ... three times. "Honey, forget those other pups. We have our dog." A tennis ball toy with a bell inside is a great starting tool. Use it on the kitchen floor where confines and no distractions will guide the pup back.
I hate force fetching dogs and rarely do it for client dogs (I train 95+% pointers with an occasional flushing dog, and a rare waterfowl dog thrown in the mix, in which case they do get force fetched.) I hate the process. I hate pinching their ears. I hate the pain aspect. It simply isn't "fun."

That being said, force fetching a lab, or any bird dog is helpful in and of itself and helps with future training, especially for waterfowl dogs. If you want a dog that can be sent in any direction for blind retrieves, he needs to be force fetched. If done correctly, the dog will retrieve every time, which is also nice. Put the work in when a dog is young and reap the benefits for 12-14 years. Sure, I understand when one of my Brits won't run 100 yards down a rocky face in 80 degree weather, stick a hot chukar in its mouth and then climb it up to me....but if it's one of my force-fetched dogs, it will every time.

I also like how controlled a force-fetched lab becomes. It is a foundational training that helps the dog learn how to learn. I wouldn't say the OP is "resorting" to it. It is great training for a hunting dog regardless of whether he will retrieve a hat or tennis ball.
 

OntarioHunter

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Back in the day when blind retrieves were a part of the puppy training game for me, I used a "baseball" method. Required an assistant. With the dog out of view, I hid a treat at one of the "bases." Asst walks the dog out to the pitcher's mound. I whistle and issue appropriate hand signal. Asst walks the pup to the hidden treat. Repeat a couple of times. Then hide it at another base and repeat. Eventually the asst can simply release the dog after whistle and signal. Then the pup can be put at the mound solo on stay or wait command waiting for signal. Then graduate to bird wing which the pup has already been trained to return to handler. It's a bit laborious but worked for me. All my Labs the last 25 years have been started behind experienced second Lab.

When the geese aren't flying I would "play the game." Make all three dogs stay while I walked way out in the field and discreetly stashed a honker. Walk back to the edge of the field and release them. After a while they catch onto the hand signals while they're hunting for it. These two won't retrieve a goose when playing the field game (ducks and pheasants no problem) but always in the water. They find honkers in the field and stay with them till I get there. Oh well, it's fun. Haven't lost a goose yet except a couple that fell in standing corn. Blind retrieve is useless in that stuff. I'm pretty sure those birds were stolen by bears that hang in that stuff. They pay no attention to all the shooting.

I suppose twitching them might have made Ellie and Puppy better retreivers but I can't bring myself to do that. Just not that important. If Ellie can retrieve pheasants that fall in cattails high as my head without seeing them fall, I'm not messing with that. Adds a whole new and deadly dimension to upland hunting.
 
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AlaskaHunter

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A bit of history:

Just as the blind retrieve concept was borrowed from herding dog trainers (Dave Elliot), retriever trainers borrowed force-breaking from pointing dog trainers. Back in the 1880s, pointing dog trainer David Sanborn developed force-breaking to teach elementary retrieving to bird dogs that have little or no natural retrieving instinct.

In the 1880s, when Mr. Sanborn "force breaking pointers", most pointing dog trainers were also horse trainers. Therefore, horse-training terms have always permeated the language of pointing dog trainers. For example, “Whoa!” Then, too, a horse trainer doesn’t train a horse; he “breaks” it. Thus, when a pointing dog trainer trains his dog in obedience, he “yard-breaks” him. When he steadies his dog to wing and shot, he “breaks” him and a steady pointing dog is a “broke dog.” Since among horse trainers, “breaking” is a synonym for “training,” the term force-breaking was quite natural for David Sanborn and his fellow pointing dog pros.

For many decades, retriever trainers did not force-fetch. For example, as late as 1949, James Lamb Free, in his classic, Training Your Retriever, all but foamed at the mouth at the very thought of force-breaking a retriever. (He did, however, recommend teaching retrievers to hold on command, apparently unaware that this is the first step in force-breaking.) However, gradually force-breaking became popular among many retriever trainers. The 1968 classic Charles Morgan on Retrievers recommends force-breaking every retriever. The procedure also was name a variety of terms including "trained retrieve", "force fetch", etc.

There is a wide variety of methods of force-fetching including the classic "Non-Hell Week" approach by James Spencer, the conventional toe-hitch used primarily by pointer trainers, the training table approach, the "SmartFetch" approach by Evan Graham, and the non-ear pinch e-collar approach by Bill Hillman.

Force-fetch is rare among pro trainers in the UK, primarily because in their trials every retrieve is
a live shot bird unlike US trials where cold, wet, skanky ducks can occur.

Why force fetch? It is not a required precursor to e-collar or blind retrieve training.
I've done both successfully without force fetch.
I've been training labs for 35 years and most have been force-fetch, mostly because I run hunt tests.
I had one lab that during my sheep hunting days I hunted exclusively and I did not force fetch that lab.
She was a fantastic hunter and ran blinds just as good as my best labs.
My duck hunting partner also has hunted labs for 30+ years and has not force-fetched them and they have
been great duck dogs. With these dogs, every retrieve is a warm, freshly shot flier.

There are several reasons why I choose to force fetch.

1) If your dog is going to run hunt tests or field trials, he will have to deliver to hand
a cold bird with the scent of other dogs, or sometimes a cold, wet,"skanky" duck.
Very different than hunting where every bird is a warm, freshly shot flier.
Force-fetch gives you a training tool to deal with delivery to hand a cold, wet,"skanky" duck.

2) If your dog is going to run hunt tests or field trials, he will have to deliver to hand
after swimming for a retrieve. Most untrained dogs would naturally drop the bird
to shake when exiting a pond returning at the shoreline. Force fetch provides a
training tool to prevent this drop and shake behavior.

3) It provides a training tool for dealing with mouth problems.
For example, as a handler what do you do if your dog starts chomping birds?
Force fetch gives the trainer a tool if mouth problems start.

4) It teaches pup that he must quickly react (fetch) on command in response to pressure (ear or toe pinch).
No longer is he retrieving only because that is what he wants. It provides a training framework
where there is a negative consequence (pressure) if there is not compulsive obedience.
This framework is important in some dogs for quick and non-loopy whistle sits required for running blinds in Master Hunter or field trials.
This framework is important in some dogs for a consequence to a cast-refusal
where a cast refusal may be the beginning of a bad blind in Master Hunter or field trials.

For hunt tests/field trials though force-fetch is a necessary tool for the four reasons cited above.
 

okie archer

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Force fetch ... with a LAB?! What the ... I'm on my seventh Lab in sixty years and never had to resort to that.
My current Lab still will not retrieve geese from the field (no problem over water) but it's never been important enough to resort to twitching her.
Sir you answered your question.
You never had to resort to FF yet your beloved lab "still will not retrieve geese from the field".
Force Fetch would have solved that issue unless the dog was very small and was not physically able to get it's mouth on a goose and pick it up which if the dog is able to in water should be able to on land. Sounds like to me the dog didn't want to so it didn't and you just have to accept that because you don't have FF in your tool box to turn to. If your fine with that good for you. I personally am not fine with that.
Every lab will retrieve until it won't. At that point you have no tool to reinforce a retrieve.
A lab that is not FF operates on its own terms. Dogs that are properly trained and FF operate on the handlers terms. When I'm hunting with my dog, I want to be in control not Fido.
FF is not about inflicting pain on the dog for fun. It's about teaching the dog to turn off pressure for desired results. The FF process is only a short part of the dogs life that will reap great benefits over the retrievers career wether it's a field trial dog, hunt test dog , or just a simple hunting dog.
I'm not trying to come across as a jerk. As I said if your fine with your dogs actions good for you, that's all that matters. I personally will not have a retriever that is not FF. I will just get a Yorkie at that point.
 

okie archer

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Some folks think they have seen fine dog work until they have seen a FC/AFC at work. For that matter an AKC Senior level or HRC Seasoned level dog blows most peoples minds. My field trail days are behind me. My last lab won a AKC Qualifying stake at 2 years and 11 days old. I was not willing/able to move up to the major stakes at that point (amateur/open), to much dedication and money for my lifestyle, so I just hunted my dog. I used to train daily with a man that has trained several FC/AFC dogs for himself. I am far from an expert but what I learned about dog training during that time was very beneficial. I learned that most labs/dogs are far more capable than the level the average guy trains them to. Is owning a FC necessary for the duck blind? Absolutely not, but it sure is pleasant watching those dogs perform in the field. After training with those kind of dogs and having just a QAA dog myself I am spoiled to how polished a lab really can become. I will never have my own dog that is not properly trained and that starts with obedience and FF as just the foundation.

I expect my dog to walk at heel.
Be whistle trained to sit and here.
Only retrieve when I send him by calling his name. (No breaking)
Honor other dogs
Handle (blind retrieve)
Deliver to hand (any bird wet, dry, cold or hot, dead or alive)
Pick up multiple marks
Without FF many of things on list will not happen.

Was pheasant hunting with several guys once and a rooster was shot near road but sailed a LONG ways to next property across road onto a wheat field about 3"-4" tall. Everyone in hunting party thought bird was gone I asked our host could I send my dog. Sure he said. I approached the wheat field and saw a tiny dark spot on the ground approximately 250-300 (guessing) yards away. Hoping it was the downed pheasant I lined up my black lab and sent her on back command. Just a few whistles and cast later guided her to the spot. She picked it up and came back with a gorgeous rooster pheasant. Kinda shocked the other hunters

Another time duck hunting the river with several guys. I sent my lab on a retrieve on other side (80ish yards) of river. Dog picked up duck but just before getting back in water to come back another group of ducks began working decoys. From across river I blew sit whistle to stop my dog. If my dog was swimming back through decoys ducks would have flared the dog. We worked those birds with my dog on far bank sitting still while never dropping the duck he went after. Then I called dog in with whistle. Awesome experience to me partly thanks to FF and obedience.
Having a well trained retriever is at least half of the joy of duck hunting. If your dog is a slob and won't listen dont expect to get invited back to hunt with your buddies.
 

JLS

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I agree 100% in that most hunting dogs are capable of far more than we challenge them with, and it’s far more enjoyable to hunt with a well trained and polished dog.

FF is pretty much mandatory in the Drahthaar world if you test your dog. Retrieving game and fur to hand is a requirement to pass.

I get it FF isn’t for everyone. Me, I think it’s an integral part of the team building process.
 

Scott85

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Keep us updated with the training progress. My Molly is with a trainer going through a basic gun dog program right now. I wanted to give her the best opportunity to be the best she can be and I didn’t want to mess up FF and E-Collar conditioning.
 

okie archer

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A little pile work this evening.
 

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OntarioHunter

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Sir you answered your question.
You never had to resort to FF yet your beloved lab "still will not retrieve geese from the field".
Force Fetch would have solved that issue unless the dog was very small and was not physically able to get it's mouth on a goose and pick it up which if the dog is able to in water should be able to on land. Sounds like to me the dog didn't want to so it didn't and you just have to accept that because you don't have FF in your tool box to turn to. If your fine with that good for you. I personally am not fine with that.
Every lab will retrieve until it won't. At that point you have no tool to reinforce a retrieve.
A lab that is not FF operates on its own terms. Dogs that are properly trained and FF operate on the handlers terms. When I'm hunting with my dog, I want to be in control not Fido.
FF is not about inflicting pain on the dog for fun. It's about teaching the dog to turn off pressure for desired results. The FF process is only a short part of the dogs life that will reap great benefits over the retrievers career wether it's a field trial dog, hunt test dog , or just a simple hunting dog.
I'm not trying to come across as a jerk. As I said if your fine with your dogs actions good for you, that's all that matters. I personally will not have a retriever that is not FF. I will just get a Yorkie at that point.
To keep this in context 1) I have absolutely no interest in hunt tests, field trials, or breeding dogs. 2) Ellie started behind an older Lab who did the goose retreiving. That dog, Opal, also would not pick up birds, either geese or pheasants, when we played "the game" stashing birds in the field to find. She would go find it as that part of the game interested her. But when Ellie's predecessor Pearl was alive, Opal would usually defer to her. Pearl was kinda possessive about geese (though curiously she would defer to Opal for upland retreives). Pearl would, however, let Opal assist when retreiving geese. They brought it in tandem, Opal usually hanging onto a wing. When Pearl died Opal stepped in and filled the spot. Now that Opal is gone, Ellie simply will not retreive big honkers off the field. Cacklers, snows, and ducks she's fine with and also no problems retreiving honkers on water. It's the size of them. Dead weight in the field. And yes, I could probably fix the problem with force fetch ... if it really was a problem. She has fun and we don't lose birds so there is no problem. And I doubt force fetch would work with her anyway. Ellie is a lovely happy Lab (the happiest I've owned) but she does NOT respond well to pain or physical punishment. Quite the opposite. She gets very defensive. I have learned that this dog responds much better to positive reinforcement. 3) I have absolutely no problem with my dogs not wanting to pick up skanky birds someone else shot yesterday. Would prefer they don't pick them up. It is interesting that several of my dogs had no interest in retreiving a bird more than once. They go for a training dummy all day but once I've got my hands on a bird, they usually don't want anything to do with it again. I suspect this is because as pups they probably got in trouble for messing with stashed birds in the blind. Pearl was the exception. She was very possessive of HER geese and often nipped Opal or Puppy if they got close to the pile. She loved to play the game and always retreived geese I hid in the field.

Ellie was a late starter and I'm sure most trainers would have given up on her after two years. Then one day when the other two dogs were done for, I hunted pheasants with her alone. Wow! That's all she needed. Worked close, pointed beautifully, and retreived faultlessly. Every dog is different and this one was quite the puzzle. But man it was worth the wait. Yeah sure she doesn't pick up geese on the field but for uplands she is absolutely fantastic. And she loves this old shit to pieces. Hugging me as I write this. 16549945995949114608701198885908.jpg
If all dogs were the same, what would be the fun in that? Just as well hunt with a robot. Enjoy the nuances. It's what makes dogs interesting.
 
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Scott85

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My trainer just posted this today of my girl. I can’t wait till I can go visit her. She has only been when the trainer a month and started with basic obedience.
 

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okie archer

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Not trying to bore anyone with my training updates with Rex but someone asked for updates so here goes.
We have been doing force to pile for a few weeks now. We started close but have now extended to about 100 yards. Rex goes on "back" command very comfortably now. He runs with drive and confidence to pile. Also have been incorporating sit whistle on his way back. I don't do sit whistle everytime because I don't want him to anticipate the whistle and slow down on return. I have been also walking him at heel without a lead. Most days I have done pile work in the morning and give him some marks in the evening. Drill work can be monotonous so marks are important to keep attitude up, especially like to use real ducks. That serves two purposes. #1 keeps the concepts separate and doesn't muddy the water. #2 it's hot right now and I want him to not overheat and have plenty of recovery time.

Now that FTP is solid I started yesterday with angle back casting drills. I sit dog facing me about 10 yards away. I tossed a white bumper at an angle behind him. He was wanting to retrieve bumper so I had do minimal work to keep him steady. Once steady I gave a right hand angle back cast with verbal "back". He picked it up right away. Today was second day of this. I plan to do this a few sessions then will place a pile of bumpers in angle back position and continue. Once this is solid I will start process over on the left side. These are building blocks to straight backs left and right. Then to overs and T work.
There is more than one way to skin a cat but this is what works for me. There are several great programs and trainers, Mike Lardy, Even Graham, Danny Farmer, Judy Acock, Bill Hillman, etc. I don't really follow just one but rather have just put together what I like and works for me. Rex will be 8 months old July 15th.
 

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AlaskaHunter

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I teach silent casts every day with a puppy during feeding time.
For example, silent left and right angle backs.
I like training twice a day during feeding time as most labs are highly motivated, eagerly obedient then.
Less than 2 minutes per session, twice a day and much can be accomplished.

I taught most of the key concepts this way and
we got a 1st and 2nd last summer in field trial qualifiers, and Master Hunter passes.
Same lab a few years later hunt in Alaska:

I'm on my 8th lab in 30 years and training is often the highlight of my day.
 
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