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 2 of 2

In last month’s column, we presented Part 1 of the trained retrieve. Here is part 2.

Step 4: Once we have movement toward the glove, we continue the exercise until the dog clearly reaches for the glove. The dog goes from just tolerating the glove to actually wanting the glove. He wants the glove because it knows that by taking the glove the pressure is off. It’s in Step 4 that I introduce the “hold” command. The dog reaches for the glove. When the glove is in the mouth, as always, I release the ear pinch and also say “hold”. The dog needs to remain holding until the drop command is given. If holding is a problem, continue the ear pinch into the hold but only for another three or four seconds. I don’t like an extended ear pinch. The dog will understand what you want with the hold command. If need be, tap the under chin of the dog while saying “hold”. This means we are now using all three commands: fetch, hold and drop. Continue to give a treat reward for a job well done.

Step 5: With this step, we replace the glove with new objects: dummies, plastic bottles, etc. Simply make sure there are no sharp edges which can cut or harm the dog’s mouth. Each repetition should be at a different distance. We continue with three repetitions per session.

Step 6: At this point, we should be ready for retrieving birds. Ideally, we have frozen birds (quail or chukar) in the freezer. We put out a place board and heel our dog to the place board. We then softly give the “whoa” command. With the dog standing still, we throw the frozen bird and shoot our training pistol. Since we’ve worked on whoa on a place board earlier, the dog should remain steady with the throw of the frozen bird and the shot. After the shot, we give the command “fetch”. Immediately upon picking up the bird, we give the recall command. Don’t let the dog play with the bird. The dog needs to come to you directly. Hold out your hand, as you did with teaching the “drop” command, and when your dog has reached you, give the “drop” command. If you’ve taught your dog to sit first, then that’s fine. After receiving the bird from your dog, say “thank you, good girl”. Another point here. Frozen birds for training help prevent chewing. Another point. Frozen birds have very little, if any, scent. Therefore, initially, throw the bird where your dog can see where the bird lands. You want to promote early success. In later sessions, if you throw the bird into heavy cover, don’t be alarmed if it takes awhile for the dog to locate the bird. Locating the bird is entirely by sight.

One step I’ve omitted from this description on teaching forced fetch (trained retrieve), is the use of an ecollar. An e-collar is often used by professional trainers to solidify the process. However, I’m afraid to use it in a written “how to” description of forced fetch. Too much can go wrong. If you feel you need to use an e-collar, visit a professional trainer for “live” training.

In this training lesson for forced fetch, we’ve used negative reinforcement. The ear pinch is negative reinforcement. Many pro-trainers feel it is still the best method for ensuring a quality retrieve. Early in this book, we discussed that the more modern thinking is that positive reinforcement is just as effective as negative reinforcement. If you choose positive reinforcement, do everything we cover above, however, simply delete the ear pinch. Another positive reinforcement technique is to put peanut butter on the glove (or wooden dowel) …also deleting the ear pinch.

Good luck with your retriever training. A good retrieve makes for a much more enjoyable hunt. Plus, the chances of losing a wounded bird are much less.

Copyright 2022 Paul Fuller

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