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Looking for all opinions on Force Fetching and methods used.

We have a deposit on a new puppy that we will be picking up next month. Ruby, who we lost in August, was our loving family pet and hunting companion. She did very well at both and was the first hunting dog I trained myself. She wasn’t perfect, but she was a joy to hunt with. Our next pup will hopefully pan out to be the same, our family pet and hunting companion. But in addition to that, I plan to pursue hunting titles and dabble in Field Trials, at least at the Derby and Qualifer level. I don’t have asperations of a AFC titles. Derby JAMs or a QAA sometime in his life would be considered a huge success. All of this is more for the fun of it and to supplement training, not to earn titles or ribbons.

I've been wrestling with the idea of force fetching our next pup. It seems there are a couple of different “camps” on this. I have not done it in the past. Ruby never really had an issue but then again, she was never judged or competed with other dogs. If she dropped a bird while hunting, it didn’t make any difference. In a HT or FT, it could end your day, so I can see the reasons for force fetching. I also understand that it if not done correctly, it can ruin a dog. This obviously makes me nervious and if I decide to do it, may have somebody else train him for at least this part. I struggle with this because much of the joy I get out of hunting with my dogs and watching them work comes from the fact that I trained them. I’ve been told by well respected trainers that force fetching is a must and others have told me to take a “wait and see” approach.

What sparked this thread was a comment that "Hotel4Dogs" made in a different post, saying a professional trainer recommended NOT force fetching her GR. I'm really curious to find out the reasons he gave you.

Also looking for opinions from others that have gone through this. I've seen enough Labs and CB Retrievers work and can see how some of them would require it, or even a hard headed Golden, but I'm thinking a wait and see approach may be best. Goldens can be a little different than the other retrievers. Your thoughts?
 

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All of my dogs go through some form of force fetch. With some dogs, it might be just a gentle pressure applied to the ear a couple of times, and that's the end of it. For any dog that I want to do field work with, I go through a more extensive force fetch program. If you've never force fetched a dog before, I do recommend having someone with experience guide you. This doesn't have to mean sending your dog off...see if there is someone local that you are comfortable with that would be willing to schedule a few sessions with you. I would, however, strongly recommend finding someone who has worked with goldens before. Goldens are not Labs with long hair, and they generally are not as tough as Labs. Be willing to take your time....some professional trainers put dogs through "hell week" because they know owners want to see quick results. James Spencer's book Training Retrievers for Marshes and Meadows has a chapter devoted to his method of force fetch. I highly recommend reading it.
 

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Hi --
Hmmmm....well you have obviously done your homework but some of the things you say in your post tell me you don't quite have the whole picture on competitive field work. There is no "dabble" in field trials. Either you make a huge commitment to train at that level or you get left in the dust. You maybe "dabble" in field training and get a WC/WCX/JH but not higher.
I have never heard of ANY respected HT or FT pro suggest a "wait and see" method for FFing a serious HT/FT prospect. It's the industry standard and you'd be hard pressed to find a good pro that doesn't FF every single dog that they put their hands on.
Yes there are some people and some dogs that FF is not necessary. If your aspirations are entry level titles and you have a dog with a natural hold then you absolutely can get away with no FF.
Fisher has a natural hold and I did not FF him because he was dropping birds, mouthing, refusing to pick up, being selective, or all the other reasons FF is good for. FF not only teaches them to retrieve on command, it teaches them to deal with and work through pressure. That is half of it. It gives you a tool to fall back on when the dog starts messing up later. If you don't FF your options are limited.
Goldens are mentally sensitive but NOT physically sensitive! You are more likely to mess up a goldem FFing by having bad timing than by mashing their ear too hard.
If you plan to run FTs you better start looking for a good pro NOW, before you ever get your puppy. That is a real long row to hoe and if you are waffling about FFing your dog, you're gonna need some guidance before you send in that qual entry just yet!!
Field work, at any level, done correctly, is a marvelous process and is tons of fun. Best of luck!!!
 

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Anney pretty much answered it for me...
The pro told me that since my dog is already 2-1/2, very well obedience trained, my only aspirations are a WC and/or a JH, and the dog will go get anything you tell him to and bring it back to hand without hesitation, I should not FF him.
I don't know what he would have recommended had Tito been a puppy. I think a lot of it had to do with his current age/obedience training level.


Hi --
Yes there are some people and some dogs that FF is not necessary. If your aspirations are entry level titles and you have a dog with a natural hold then you absolutely can get away with no FF.
 

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I trained two other Goldens before Dooley without using a FF "system" at the time I was young just learning. Dooley is a very smart, however hard headed boy that in the end I realized I needed help. His problem was not the fetch, it was the hold and I sent him out for professional help. I know he won't make a field trial dog, but I am sure with a lot of work, he can get at least a Senior hunter, maybe even Master, but time will tell.

Just because you seek help from a pro does not mean that you cannot take pride in knowing you trained your dog, but rather understood you had areas that needed help. In my experience FF was one of those areas. Other than that, I have done all the training and am proud of what Dooley can do.

My trainer loves to work Doo as his obedience is far superior then his other clients dogs and that makes me feel good in itself.Don't be discouraged, but don't be hesitant to seek help and advise. But as mentioned earlier, make sure your advise comes from someone who can see beyond breed and train the dog they are training.

Good luck and keep us posted on the puppy! What lines is he/she?
 

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Looking for all opinions on Force Fetching and methods used.

...I plan to pursue hunting titles and dabble in Field Trials, at least at the Derby and Qualifer level. I don’t have asperations of a AFC titles. Derby JAMs or a QAA sometime in his life would be considered a huge success. All of this is more for the fun of it and to supplement training, not to earn titles or ribbons.
I'm going to be blunt about this because white washing the issue would not serve you. As a retired field trial pro, one of the lessons I learned was that if you want to win a Derby, prepare your dog so that he's doing solid Qualifying work before wasting entry fees on a Derby. If you want to win a Qual, get him working solidly on Open-level work, and so on.

My own patented saying that I repeat at every seminar I give is to "Prepare your dog in such a manner that the work he is normally called upon to do underwhelms him, not overwhelms him." Take this to the bank! Field trial judges know how to overwhelm competition dogs, and I mean good ones! If it were easy, where would the honor be in it? That's why it's so special to win those events! Go the distance.
I’ve been told by well respected trainers that force fetching is a must and others have told me to take a “wait and see” approach.
The "wait and see" advice usually comes from people who don't understand the real goals and purposes of force fetch. It's not just something trainers do to fix a problem. It's a fundamental building block in virtually all modern methods, and is the core of momentum.
What sparked this thread was a comment that "Hotel4Dogs" made in a different post, saying a professional trainer recommended NOT force fetching her GR. I'm really curious to find out the reasons he gave you.
Again, being frank here, what it means to be a pro is that you take money for it. Being a pro doesn't necessarily mean you're good at it. I know, that sounds pretty harsh. But...been there, done that.

You've stated high goals for your pup. My hat's off to you. I respect and admire you for setting good goals for your dog. The last year I ran the circuit I put 5 dogs on the National Derby list, all of which were QAA as Derby dogs. Do it all. Do your best. Give your pup all the skills. He has a big job to do, and both of you should have a great time doing it! Doing it with less than the best tools is like someone asking you to build a bridge with a chisel.
Also looking for opinions from others that have gone through this. I've seen enough Labs and CB Retrievers work and can see how some of them would require it, or even a hard headed Golden, but I'm thinking a wait and see approach may be best. Goldens can be a little different than the other retrievers. Your thoughts?

My boy, "Moose"

I've owned about 80% Labs, 20% Goldens as my personal dogs. I've trained dogs of every retriever breed. I force fetched every one of them; the full course. I recommend it for all dogs that will be trained to perform high level fieldwork.



But, I will stipulate that you should study this skill set well. Learn to understand how it's done, and what are the goals and purposes of it. My system is very detailed, and I've fielded so many questions on this subject over the years that I wrote a book entirely devoted to it called SmartFetch. I subsequently made a 2 disc, 2 hour & 18 minute DVD of the same name. It's surely up to you which program you follow. But follow one fully. You'll always be glad you did. You will always regret it if you don't.

Best of luck. Please let me know if I can be of help.

EvanG
www.rushcreekpress.com
 

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I've seen enough Labs and CB Retrievers work and can see how some of them would require it, or even a hard headed Golden, but I'm thinking a wait and see approach may be best. Goldens can be a little different than the other retrievers

I've had labs and now goldens. I think the differences between them as a breed tend to be overblown by people - it's more important to look at each dog as an individual than believe in the typical "goldens are much more sensitive than labs" stuff. I can tell you that my Lab would shut down way before my Golden boy does.

Also, force fetching is wonderful for regular old obedience as well as a must for field trial work.
 

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Hey Evan, I know you are responding to the OP, and his goals etc. are very different from mine but I'm curious what you would suggest/would have suggested with my boy.
Now remember, I don't know this "pro" from Adam, no clue if he's any good, etc. and I certainly don't take his word as gospel truth. I just add any advice I get to my collection of mental information, and weigh it up when I think there's enough there to do something with it.
So here's the question...
2-1/2 year old golden, well obedience trained. VERY reliable on the "take it, bring it, hold it, out, return to heel" sequence. Loves the darned duck and flies out to take it happily. Searches around until he finds it (that's going to be in a different thread in a minute) and comes flying back with it. Doesn't mouth the duck. (or his obedience items, either).
We haven't tried a water retrieve with a duck, since we just got our very first duck yesterday! He'll retrieve anything else (so far) from water. Loves dock diving, LOL.
Personal goals... a WC, *possibly* a JH.
Would you or would you not recommend FF with this particular dog?
Thanks!
PS, I am NOT opposed to the idea of FF in field training if it's a necessary tool. I told the "pro" that yesterday as well. I didn't use it in obedience with him; never had to.



, being frank here, what it means to be a pro is that you take money for it. Being a pro doesn't necessarily mean you're good at it. I know, that sounds pretty harsh. But...been there, done that.

EvanG
www.rushcreekpress.com
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
All good advice. Thank you! It is exactly what I was wondering... whether FF was necessary to move on to higher levels, which is sounds like it is. It sounds like, if done right, is never a bad route to go and can avoid problems down the road, regardless of whether you are hunting, hunt testing, or doing Field Trials.

There are some professional trainers that are members of the same club I belong to. One in particular is a great guy and popular trainer in this area. He has worked with many dogs in the club, most of which are Master Hunters. He's great about giving advice and has offered up his services to FF my dog and/or help me do it. I’m going to take him up on his offer. I think it would be a wise investment, short term and long term, regardless of how far we decide to take this.

I've never been involved in Field Competition or attempted any type of hunting title. Our next dog will be our first, though he will be my hunting companion, above all else. I'm excited to jump into that world. Though I have grown up with and hunted behind gun dogs (mostly retrievers) my whole life and my first Golden turned out to be a very good upland dog, my experience has solely been with hunting dogs, not Field Trial dogs. From the 3 Trials I’ve been to, I believe our last dog would have done well in that space, if she would have been trained with that purpose in mind. Incredible marks and took to a whistle and casting very well.

As for the lab comment, I apologize for generalizing. I live in an area, probably not unlike most of the country, where labs out number golden’s probably 50 to 1 in the field and in trials. Most of the hard headed dogs I have hunted behind were labs, but in fairness, most of all dogs I’ve hunted behind were labs too so probably not such a great generalization. On the other hand, most of the lab owners generalize the goldens too, about how slow they are or how they would rather stay home by the fire than hunt, so I’m kinda used to “giving it back” to them.

Thanks again for all the info. I'm sure I will have a million more questions as I get further into this.
 

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It seems like you got it! Good thread.
 

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Yes. For this dog, and for any retriever that will retrieve for a living, I suggest a full course of force fetch. Below is an important quote from SmartFetch:

The Myths

More appropriately, there are more misperceptions than myths surrounding the process of force fetching retrievers. I think it starts with the term force. To the novice trainer/dog lover that word summons visions of a dog being thrashed or brutalized in some way or another. There are stories, some true, some contrived, about harsh measures being used to force fetch, like using bottle openers, pliers, etc. Nothing like that will appear as a suggestion in this text because it has nothing to do with how I approach it. Let’s start there and clear the air about that subject.

Ø Force: In retriever training this is a term that describes the use of pressure to achieve a sure and reliable response. Influence that moves something, says the dictionary. The amount of pressure is specified more by the dog than by the trainer. Often very little actual pressure is needed.
Ø Pressure: something that affects thoughts and behavior in a powerful way, usually in the form of several outside influences working together persuasively.

Nowhere in any definition of these terms is abuse or brutality, nor should it be. Like many things, force and pressure are either good or bad depending on how they are applied.

Another misperception is often the assumption that retrievers do all of their retrieving functions by nature, and shouldn’t need to be forced. Frankly, about all that dogs do by nature is to chase after motion, and follow their curiosity about what they smell. We cultivate the rest, both passively and through the use of pressure. Even the most basic puppy-fetch conditioning we all do to get them started is an act we contrive. These dogs retrieve out of self-centered impulses. Bringing birds to us is not a nature-driven act. Thankfully, it can be easily engineered!

Take a well-bred pup and turn him loose in a fenced yard for three years, or so. Leave him strictly to the influences of nature. Then go out one day and see how well he does on the type of retrieving work that would make him useful in game conservation. Compare his work to even an average gun dog with amateur training. How do you think it would come out? No brainer! Whatever natural gifts a dog may have, without some kind of guidance they will tend to be of little value.

It’s not a negative statement that retrievers need training to do the work we need them to do in the field and marsh. That type of work requires a dog to have good natural abilities, but also to be taught how to put those abilities to work because the skills and functions we require are our idea. We invented them. It’s okay. That’s why dogs and trainers are so often referred to as a team. Both contribute to the effort.

The Reality


First of all, force fetch is more than just one thing. It is a definable process with clear goals. But, within the process are several steps or phases. Those steps will be laid out later, but first let’s examine the goals.
  • To establish a standard for acceptable mouth habits.
  • To provide the trainer with a tool to maintain those habits.
  • To provide the trainer with a tool to assure compliance with the command to retrieve.
  • To form the foundation for impetus (momentum).
  • Pressure conditioning.
Mouth habits include such important items as fetching on command, even when your dog may be distracted, or moody, or any number of things that might interfere with compliance. Sure, you may get away for years without having such problems, but being smart and being lucky are not the same thing. Force fetch gives you a tool to handle this when it comes up, plus some insurance that it is less likely to come up due to this training.

Along with compulsion issues we need to mention a proper hold, and delivery on command. If my pheasant is punctured I want it to be from pellets, not teeth. That actually covers some ground in all of the first three categories.

Let’s spend a little time on number four. Lots of people use the terms momentum and style interchangeably. I think it’s important to distinguish between the two because of how they relate to this subject. Force fetch is the foundation of trained momentum, and provides a springboard into subsequent steps of basic development. Style has little to do with this. Here’s why.

Ø Style: A combination of speed, enthusiasm, and just plain hustle that you see in a dog going toward a fall. Style is the product of natural desire and athleticism.
Ø Momentum: In a retriever, the compulsion from the dog’s point of origin; defined in the dictionary as “the force possessed by a body in motion, Measure of movement: a quantity that expresses the motion of a body and its resistance to slowing down. It is equal to the product of the body’s mass and velocity”.

Clearly, this quality is a tremendously valuable asset in the running of blinds and overcoming diversion pressure. It even applies to running long marks, and/or marks through tough cover or terrain. When you need a dog to drive hundreds of yards against the draining influences of terrain, cover, re-entries, and all of the real and perceived factors that are so commonly momentum-robbing, having a dog with a reservoir of momentum is immensely valuable. Force fetch is where that reservoir is established, and can be built upon.

From the foundation of a forced fetch most modern methods progress through stages that continue to build on this principle. Stick fetch, Collar Condition to fetch, Walking fetch, Force to pile, and Water force are all extensions of the work we do in ear pinch or toe hitch, which are popular means to get it all going. When a dog has finished such a course the result is an animal far more driven, with much more resolve to overcome obstacles and distance and distractions.

Lest we forget ~

I am not suggesting that we harm or abuse dogs in any of this force work I’ve spoken of. The late Jim Kappes said, “A properly forced dog shouldn’t look forced”. I completely agree. Momentum and style are distinct terms, each with their own meanings, as pertains to retrievers. I firmly believe that both are traits that should co-exist in a well-trained retriever.

This is why I say that it's important to learn about what force fetch really is, and what are its goals and purposes. It helps field trainers so much in so many ways over a dog's entire career. All advanced skill work is built on it.

EvanG
 

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thanks, Evan, I need to read that several times to properly digest it.
 
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