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Force fetching, also known as conditioned retrieving, is a method by which a dog retrieves an object without applying pressure. This is of the greatest value in hunting situations, particularly with regard to partridge, pheasant, and fowl, which are bred for the purpose of hunting. Breeding these animals takes a great deal of time, effort, and money and hunts are usually expensive to join. Therefore if you have a gun dog, or are taking your dog along on hunts with you, they need to be extremely disciplined. If your four-legged friend is able to force fetch for you, this will save you a lot of time and inconvenience. You will be able to enjoy shooting and hunting poultry and game, with your furry friend fetching the game for you, especially on a miserable rainy day, saving you traipsing through the mud and ruining that expensive jacket you worked so hard for.
This is a very useful command for those that work in the country, shoot or are looking to get into shooting and have a retriever type dog. It ensures the dog simply fetches the game for you and doesn’t let its natural instincts take over and damage the bird, ruining the product. This will ensure that the game can later be used to make delicious meals such as partridge and pear pie. It would not be possible to teach just any breed of dog this command; instead, this command would be best suited to working dogs and breeds such as Retrievers, Labradors, and Spaniels. The speed at which the command is picked up depends on the individual and will take a minimum of six weeks, but could take a deal longer, so don’t be disheartened if your pooch doesn’t pick it up immediately. This command is complicated and requires a lot of discipline, therefore it would only be suitable for fully grown dogs above a year, which have had prior training. However, once trained, this is a great exercise of obedience and your dog will find force fetching rewarding.
In order to get started, you’ll need a bird that has been collected from a shoot to practice on, lots of patience and high value treats such as chicken pieces. The dog needs to have a firm understanding of the commands fetch, leave, and give before you can get started. Therefore you will need to get your pooch up to speed on these tricks first and it would be advisable to look at our guides on these tricks or attend training classes. You will need to use some form of head restraint initially in some of the training techniques, this can be made from a collar and rope, and will need to be secured to an immovable object. Make sure this is comfy for your furry friend, therefore not too tight and will not cause them injury--never leave them unattended in the head restraint.
The Experienced Dog Method
Borrow A force fetcher
Locate an owner with a more experienced dog or dogs if possible and get them to do a demonstration and show your pooch how it’s done, with your pup on the lead and the demonstration close by so he can see what’s going on. He’ll want to be part of the pack.
In this instance, use dummies to avoid your pooch eating anything he shouldn’t,. Keep the dummy close by.
Get him to sit
Before you let him have a go at force fetching, get him to start in the ‘sit’ position, so that the motion is controlled.
Tell him to fetch the dummy, which should only be a meter or so in front to begin with.
Leave and give
Once he fetches the dummy, tell him to leave, as you’ve practice before in his basic training with other items, and he should apply less pressure. Then tell him to ‘give’ as he brings it back to you.
Although worth a try, as this method does not require causing any discomfort or using harsh restraint, it may not be successful for this reason. If your dog does not respond to this method and you’re still determined for him to learn, try another method that does involve restraint or study up on the subject. If he really struggles, you could even enlist the help of a professional trainer.
The Dummy Method
First things first, tell your pup to sit, so that he’s in a controlled, obedient position.
Holding the dummy
Place your hand at the top of his muzzle, pinching gently behind the upper canine teeth and lifting his head slightly, but not so as to cause discomfort. This will, however, have to be hard enough to get him to open his mouth. As soon as he opens his mouth, insert the dummy.
If you’re lucky, the dog will accept the dummy quickly, however most dogs will spit the dummy out or resist it entering their mouths. If this happens, correct them with ‘sit’ and this often causes them to then accept the dummy. Be determined and repeat the procedure until they accept the dummy. However, you must be careful that your pooch doesn’t show any signs of aggression. If this happens listen to him and stop the training exercise.
When the pooch accepts the dummy, say ‘leave it’, taking the dummy out of his mouth. Praise him highly and give a delicious treat.
Once the dummy is accepted without a struggle, say ‘hold’. Your pooch will need to know the ‘hold’ command for this one. If he holds it nicely, give him a big rub on the head and tell him he’s a good boy.
Now that the dog knows to hold the dummy, try to teach him to move forward with the dummy in his mouth. Have him on the lead for this, getting him to walk forward a few steps to begin and then gradually increasing the distance. Making sure to restart the process if he drops the dummy.
Handing it over
Finally, when you are happy that he is able to accept, hold and move with the dummy on and off lead, get him to hand it over to you with the ‘give’ command. This part should be easy, as he has learned it in his basic training.
Using the command
Now try to use all of these components of the command on a bird carcass, when he gets this, he is ready to try the command on a shoot. Always ensure on the shoot that your pet is only released when there isn’t risk of gunfire.
The Restraint and Discipline Method
Keep your pooch's head still, by securely restraining it with an appropriate and comfortable halter, which allows him to open his mouth.
Opening his mouth
Apply firm but gentle pressure onto his ear while saying ‘fetch’, ensuring not to harm him until he opens his mouth.
Introduce the bird
Once he opens his mouth, put the bird carcass in and use the ‘leave’ command, to ensure he doesn’t damage the bird.
Tell him to 'give'
Now use the give command to get him to hand the bird back to you.
This time, repeat the process without the head restraint. Once he understands this you can increase the distance the bird is away from his mouth.
It’s time to bring what he’s learned together and hold the bird further away from his mouth, saying ‘fetch’, ‘leave’ and ‘give’. Upon 'leave', he should only be applying gentle pressure to the bird and upon ‘give’, should give it back to you without a struggle.
On the ground
If he has a firm grasp of the command up close, he should now be able to fetch the bird without damaging it and bring it back to you from a distance, but be sure to have him on an extendable lead in case he decides he doesn’t want to give the bird back. The ‘fetch’, ‘leave’ and ‘give’ commands will still need to be used at the appropriate stages.
By Catherine Lee-Smith
Published: 10/13/2017, edited: 01/08/2021