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You’re a keen hunter and have been for many years. But you’ve recently decided to strengthen your team by adding a canine component. A Brittany dog is the ideal candidate. These hunting dogs have all the attributes you need. They’re agile, attentive, fast and intelligent. However, despite being a quick learner, yours seems to be having some difficulties mastering the ‘retrieve’. The chasing he can do, but he’s not always so keen on returning things.
Training him to retrieve is an essential if you want a hunting companion that can enhance your performance. It also helps instill discipline into him and paves the way for other commands. It’s also a useful behavior to teach for other reasons. Brittany dogs need a decent amount of exercise. So, if he can retrieve, you can throw balls for him on walks to tire him out.
Because Brittany dogs are fast learners and an intelligent breed, you can definitely teach him to retrieve. The challenging part comes in initially conveying to him what you want him to do. Once you’ve jumped that hurdle you just need to find the right incentive. Brittany dogs, as you probably well know, have a soft spot for anything edible, and for a lot that isn’t.
If he’s a puppy he should be full of energy and eager to please. This means he could respond to training in just a few days. If he’s older and stubborn then you may need a while longer. It could take up to a couple of weeks. Get this training right though, and you’ll be one step closer to taking him out hunting with you. You’ll also find you’ve got a fantastic way to bond with him by playing fetch.
Before work can begin you’ll need a few things. Some multi-colored frisbees will be required. Alternatively, you can use a tennis ball. Both are favorite toys of the Brittany dog.
You’ll then need a generous supply of treats or his favorite food broken into small pieces. Try and find a quiet space where you can practice. A large yard will do the job, as will a local field. You can practice training when you’re on your daily walk.
Once you have the above you just need patience and a pro-active attitude, then training can begin!
The Dual Toy Method
Capture his attention
Head out for your normal walk, make sure your Brittany dog is in tow, along with a couple of frisbees or tennis balls. You’re going to use two toys to teach him not just to chase a toy, but to also bring it back.
Capture his attention and then throw one of the toys. Make sure you throw it so he can see it and then encourage him to run after it. You can point to it, talk in an animated voice and you can even start running after it yourself.
Hold up the other toy
Once he’s got the first toy, hold up the second toy high in the air. If he’s not looking, call his name to get his attention. When he sees the other toy he’ll naturally start chasing towards you. He’ll probably automatically drop the first toy in anticipation of getting the second.
When he does drop the first toy you can launch the second one in the opposite direction. Then you can pick up the first toy and repeat the same process. Practice this on each walk for the next few days.
Down to one
After several days he’ll be into the habit of bringing the toy back and dropping it. This is exactly what you need. Now you can stop throwing one after the other and just stick with one. He knows what to do now. If he doesn’t retrieve the toy when you use just one, go back to the dual toy method for a few more days and then try again.
The Pull Method
Take him out into the yard or to a local field. For some Brittany dogs the problem isn’t just the retrieving, it’s the initial chasing too. So, you need to find a way of encouraging him to dash after the toy.
Throw the toy
Once he’s looking, throw a ball or frisbee for him to chase. Make sure he can see you do it. Also, make sure it’s thrown low enough that it won’t completely vanish from his sight.
Hold his collar
Whilst you throw it, hold onto his collar. The simple fact he can’t run after it will automatically make him want to chase after it. Once he pulls, wait half a second and then release him. Shout in an animated voice to encourage him to go.
Call his name
Once he’s got the toy in his mouth you need to get him back to you. Call his name in a high pitched voice. This will tell him you’re happy and make him more inclined to return to you. At the same time you can also pat your knees and get lower to the ground. This will all encourage him to come back to you.
Repeat the following steps every day until he’s got the hang of it. He’ll soon naturally want to chase after it and you won’t have to hold his collar. If you stay animated then it will become a thoroughly enjoyable game to him. Once he learns to return a toy he’ll be able to retrieve in a hunt.
The Food Lure Method
Take him to the yard or out for a walk. Make sure you have some treats in your pocket and a toy he loves. You can play with the toy for a few minutes each day at home. This will help get him excited by the mere sight of it when you’re outside. You can also use a decoy for this training.
Launch the toy or decoy into the distance. Make sure you have his attention when you throw it and that he can see where it has gone. Then encourage him to chase after it. You can point to it, wave your arms and get him worked up.
Once he’s chased after it and got it in his mouth you need to bring him back. Hold out his favourite smelly food or treat. Brittany dogs have a strong sense of smell so he’ll soon catch on and come charging back. If he doesn’t, throw the toy or decoy a bit closer next time.
Wait for him to drop the toy/decoy and then hand over the treat. You can also shower him in verbal praise. Remember, the more he loves the reward the more likely he’ll be to retrieve the object again next time.
It’s important you practice this as much as you can over the next week or two. It’s also vital he gets a reward every time he brings it back to you. Make sure you hand over the reward within a few seconds otherwise he may not associate it with the action. When he’s got the hang of it you can slowly phase out the treats.
By James Barra
Published: 12/20/2017, edited: 01/08/2021