To teach a dog to retrieve, whether he is to be used in the field or as a pet and companion only, the first step is to get the dog to open his mouth.
To get the dog to open his mouth so that you can slip the object into it, jerk his collar quickly as you command “fetch.”
Press his drawn lip against his teeth; this pressure causes the dog to open his mouth. Keep the dog’s collar in the other hand so that the dog can be held in position and jerking by him prevented.
As the dog’s mouth opens, insert quickly some soft object. A roll of cloth two inches in diameter and six inches long, a glove, a stuffed skin, a padded stocking, a corn cob, an old shoe, can be used. Articles bearing strong scent are to be preferred.
It is easier to open a dog’s mouth than to keep it closed, for at once he will attempt to drop the object. Holding his collar with the right hand, slip your left hand under his jaw. Anticipate the dropping and rap him smartly with the palm of the hand under his jaw, commanding “fetch” all the time.
After a number of days, at the command “fetch,” he should of his ; own accord seize the object. Make him hold it in his mouth until you gently speak the command “drop.” Now he may not open his mouth; just press the loose part of his lip, the flew, against his teeth.
The next step is to have the dog hold the object while you and he walk about.
Put a lead on the collar, place the object in his mouth, and start walking with him. He will attempt to drop the object as soon as he starts walking. Press his ear and command “fetch,” to cause him to pick it up again. It is well to press the ear each time the command “fetch” is given until the dog is well on in his training.
We must now train him to pick up the object at some distance. First, place it just within his reach. Command “fetch” and apply pressure to his ear. Then hold it in front of him, slightly above the level of his head, so that he must take one or two steps to seize it. Gradually lower the article’for him to seize so that after a time when he is commanded to fetch, it will be on the ground or floor, with your hand on it.
Gradually the hand should be moved farther and farther away until the dog picks up the object when dropt in front of him.
The next step is the important one; the dog is to go to the object which you have tossed a few feet in front of him, and then bring it to you. At first the trainer or handler should accompany the dog the entire distance to and fro, applying pressure on the ear when any disobedience or hesitation is evident. In the course of time, the object can be thrown to any distance.
The dog, when returning with the object, should not be permitted to drop it at the feet of the master. He must hold it until commanded to “give.” Command “hupp” and, lifting his head high in the air with one hand, command “drop.” The dog should “hupp” before he gives the retrieved object; he should be on his haunches.
For dogs that drop or crouch as they are fired over at the game they have located, give command “hupp,” bring gun to shoulder. After a few lessons, bring gun to shoulder without giving command to “hupp.”
Do not use stones, metal and the like for retrieving as the dog may injure his teeth upon them. They also give the dog a hard mouth, a mouth that holds firmly and bites and tears; a good retriever has a soft mouth and does not leave tooth marks on the object.
If the dog has a hard mouth, is inclined to hold too tightly, drive some nails into the object, preferably a piece of wood the size of a corncob. Clinch the ends of the nails. Then be must bite into them. Dogs dislike the touch of metal on their teeth. Make him retrieve this nailed piece. He will do so with soft mouth. Then go back to use of the usual article.
At first, to teach the dog to bring the article to you, it may be well to take a step or two away so that he will run toward you. Do not forget to pet him and praise him much at all times when be does his work.
There are many ways of teaching retrieving; many books of many chapters have been written about it; most systems do not accomplish the object. The foregoing method requires some time and patience on part of both trainer and dog, but it usually accomplishes the result. It need not be a cruel method and should not be-but it must be a firm, persistent method, based on serious business rather than canine play.
The term breaking has been used for years to denote training of bird dogs (setters and pointers) and other field dogs (spaniels and retrievers). It was truly breaking, marked with cruelty and lack of understanding of dog psychology. Dogs were broken in spirit and feared their trainers. Whipping, starving and shooting with buckshot were common practices.
The “force” system may have had as its symbol and instrument a collar with spikes on its inside. If the dog did not stop promptly on command, the lead was pulled and the sharp metal points sank into the flesh of his neck.
Happily most of these practices and the cruel and ignorant trainers have gone into discard. Cruelty denotes chiefly a lack of ability and understanding on the part of the trainer.