Retriever Training Tip: To force or not to force by Pro Trainer Matt Duncan
Force fetch is one of the most misunderstood and controversial topics in retriever training today. This week I want to address some common misconceptions and what your retriever can gain if he is properly put through a force program. Misconception #1 regarding force fetch is that it’s purpose is to get a dog to deliver a bird to hand. It is true that a solid delivery is a product of a force program but there is so much more to it than that. In a force program the dog is taught how to work through and under pressure. Thus, being the foundation on which we will build on when moving a dog through a yard program to eventually running blind retrieves. Misconceptions #2 is “I don’t want my dog to have to be forced to retrieve”. Although it is called force fetch that idea couldn’t be further from the truth. Once a dog is through a proper force program he still has desire and most times a higher level of confidence about retrieving. During force fetch we are simply conditioning the dog to retrieve on command. Once you are through force you are done with it and you will come out the other side with a retriever that is more businesslike when it comes to retrieving. Misconception #3 is “In force you are hurting the dog”. If you are properly moving through a force program you are not hurting the dog. Yes you are putting pressure on the dog but we are not inflicting pain on them we are simply looking for enough pressure to draw a reaction. That level of pressure varies greatly from dog to dog. Misconception # 4 is that force fetching your dog will hurt the relationship you have with your retriever. If you approach any kind of training including force fetch in an unfair manner you and your retrievers relationship will suffer. If done properly you will develop a relationship with your dog that is based on trust, fairness and respect. Misconception #5 is force fetch will get a dog that doesn’t want to retrieve to do so reliably. If your dog doesn’t like retrieving before force fetch chances are he isn’t going to like it afterwards either. My suggestion is to get the dog as crazy about retrieving as possible before beginning a force program or any other formal training. Now this article is not going to tell you how to force fetch your retriever but hopefully answer some questions that some of you may have on the topic. If you are going to force fetch your dog I strongly suggest finding literature and seeking out someone experienced to help you along the way. Now is it possible to have a reliable dog without a force program? Of course it is but depending on your goals for your retriever it can be one of the best training decisions you may make. Until next week, happy training!!
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