Gundog puppy: teaching to retrieve
PUBLISHED: 10:16 19 June 2015 | UPDATED: 16:36 10 November 2015
For both puppy and owner, structure, repetition and consistency are important in training. It’s essential to set goals in order to know what you are trying to achieve and a time frame you hope to achieve these goals in.
Using a hoop in your gundog’s early training can instil the perfect delivery to hand from your pup. We recommend the ‘Working for a Living’ programme, which is designed to develop your puppy by teaching it to come, sit, stay and walk to heel. The training is reward based and provided your dog is driven for food, you will achieve results. So the balls, the food and the training are in your court now!
Hoop training will help teach your dog to retrieve and the puppy should be heading for the hoop every time you drop it onto the floor. As soon as they are sent to make a retrieve they pick up the dummy and come rushing back to the hoop to collect their food reward. Perfect! Well, sometimes. Come on you’ve been doing this dog training thing for long enough now – put your dog training cap on and see if you can anticipate all the things that might go wrong?
So whilst you’re having a think about the pitfalls of that last technique, let’s read on and look at an alternative. Most well managed gundog puppies will naturally pick things up and bring them to you. But when this happens don’t grab things away from them. Reward them, sit on the floor, get them up into your lap, make a fuss before taking the retrieve, and then maybe throw something for him again.
Gundogs that live indoors pick up anything and everything. In your haste to teach them not to retrieve shoes, remote controls, clothes, logs, your dressing gown whilst you are wearing it and even your small children you will inadvertently spoil the retrieve and once again create a problem that was never there. “Hey Fido, you used to take the things you found on the floor to the boss. I’ve noticed you now run off and chew them in your basket, why do you that?” “Oh, well, whenever I take something to them they tell me off, pinch my prize off me and shut me in my crate, so I’ve stopped doing that now,” replies Fido.
The problem with offering food to a puppy that’s got something in its mouth is that it’s likely to dump the retrieve on the floor to receive the reward, which in turn spoils the delivery. The key, as you will hear repeatedly, is to ensure you have thoroughly conditioned the puppy to return to the hoop and sit patiently; if you don’t do this properly then the hoop won’t really help. Only when this is done do we start the retrieving games.
Ensure you are positioned at the back of the hoop, stand outside with the toes of your shoes butted up to it. Ensure there is no food in your hands, send the puppy for the retrieve then encourage him back into the sit position in the hoop. As he arrives with the dummy in his mouth, you need to make a quick observation, is he holding it or going to dump it quickly? Prolong the hold for as long as you dare then take the dummy from him, saying “dead.” It’s not essential that he sits at this point, just that he brings the dummy to hand. Ensure you put him into a sit before you go to find him a food reward. You now have a nice retrieve.
If he drops the dummy, encourage him to pick it up again. If necessary give the dummy a little kick with your foot, this should regenerate his interest in picking it up. Reward him when he does. You are trying to explain what it is you want him to do; be patient; he’s not being difficult, he’s just unsure what he’s got to do to get the reward.
I’m afraid it’s not always as straightforward as that and although reading about technique is a great way to learn things, dog training is a practical skill and is something you will need a real live person to assist you with.