Bird Dogs Afield host Paul Fuller is the gun dog columnist for Northwoods Sporting Journal. The Journal has granted permission to re-print Paul’s articles. Thank you Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Northwoods Sporting Journal

Trained Retrieve Part 1 of 2

To properly train this fetch command, you need a training table. It can be done on the ground but the training becomes harder. Since the trainer will be using their hands to teach this command, there must be a method of restraining the pup. The attached photos show how we do this. Also, you must have a collar on the dog. Each Step is a session. Each session has three repetitions. If the dog is not overly stressed, two sessions per day, separated by three or four hours, is permissible. Remember our theme in this book…love and understand your dog.

Step 1: Over a one-week period, on the training table, hold the puppies collar while touching the pup’s ear. No pinching. After each short session, award with a treat. We want the pup to look forward to having their ear touched because a treat follows. This is learning through association: touching ear produces a treat. Also, the pup becomes familiar with the training table.

Step 2: This is the hand in mouth drill. You might say this is the real starting point for force fetch training. At this age, a pup’s teeth are usually sharp. A leather glove is suggested. With left hand, hold the dog’s collar. Insert right hand (in glove) into the pup’s mouth. You may have to let go of the collar with your left hand to open the dogs mouth. This is why it’s good to have a restraining device attached to the table. If you need to use your left hand to open the dog’s mouth, put your left hand over the dog’s muzzle. Press your thumb on the right side of the mouth and index finger on the left side of the mouth and press against the teeth until the mouth opens. Then place your hand, with glove, in the mouth. Don’t jam or heavily force your hand into the mouth. The mouth will open with gently persuasion. Softly, say “fetch”. After s few seconds, simply remove your hand and say, with enthusiasm, “good girl” (or boy). And then reward with a treat. As with most of our training, we like three repetitions with a session. Important: At this stage, never scold for a mistake. Only praise for a job well done. A substitute for the hand in leather glove approach would be to use a wooden dowel.

Step 3: This is a a new session and a continuation of Step 2. However, you can no longer use your left hand to open the dog’s mouth. Your left hand remains on the collar and delivers the ear pinch. No need to double up the ear for the pinch. The pinch is about half way between the end of the ear and the ear canal. Your thumb is on the underside of the ear. Pinch with your thumb and forefinger. The remaining three fingers hold the collar. Here’s the sequence. Lightly pinch the ear. Insert the right hand with glove in the mouth and simultaneously, say softly “fetch”. Release pinch as soon as your hand is in the mouth. Then quickly remove the glove while saying “drop”. Some use “out” but I like “drop”. This sequence is pressure on then pressure off. Pressure on means take the glove and pressure off is the reward for taking the glove. I then give the additional reward of a treat. Eventually, with pressure on, we want the dog to reach for the glove with the ear pinch. Initially, we are only looking for a slight movement toward the glove. Note: Reaching for the glove is a big step. To encourage the reach for the glove, hesitate briefly after the pinch and before putting the glove in the mouth. Again, three repetitions with a session. Extend each repetition by three to four seconds. Stop if your dog pants which is a sign of stress.

Next month’s column will be Part 2 of teaching the trained retrieve.

Copyright 2022 Paul Fuller

Susan and Paul Fuller host the Bird Dogs Afield TV show. Their website is Contact: