Imagine, you and your best hunting buddies are out in the marsh and someone (obviously not you) shoots a cripple. You puff your chest out as your polished gun dog returns with the very much alive duck. As your dog returns from the retrieve, they drop the wounded bird for a quick shake, and Poof – Adios! The duck is off running/half flying and your gun dog is in hot pursuit. This is a scenario most of us want to avoid, not only for fear of embarrassment, but for fear of losing a wounded bird. Scott Shafer of Final Flight Retrievers provides a detailed explanation for teaching the HOLD command. This will prepare you for Force Fetching your gun dog.
Scott explains “Before you start teaching your pup to hold, there are a few things to look out for. First and foremost, the dog needs to have their permanent adult teeth. The adult teeth must be in for at least one month prior to teaching hold. The dog should be 6 to 7 months of age or older. They should have a solid understanding of basic obedience:
Here, Heal, Sit, and Kennel. The most important command is SIT. Your gun dog must fully understand that sit means SIT and they better not move until they’re given another command!
The items you’ll need to start teaching hold are as follows: a flat collar, a leather glove, and a new standard size paint roller. You will want to go to a quiet place with no distractions. Most people don’t have a force fetch table so grab a small stool or a 5-gallon bucket to sit on. Have the dog heal to your left or right side. I prefer to use my left hand to steady the dog and use my right hand to teach hold.
Put the flat collar on your pup. The collar should be loose enough so you can slip your left hand underneath the collar, this will give you full control of the pups head. Make sure it’s not too tight; you don’t want to choke the dog. Never let go of the dog with your left hand until this session is over. Now with the leather glove on your right hand command FETCH. Insert your fingers behind the dog’s K9s until your whole hand is in the pup’s mouth. You want the dog’s tongue to be hitting the palm of your hand with your thumb on one side and your fingers on the other. Then, gently grab a hold of the lower jaw. At this point, the dog is going to try to do whatever it can to get your hand out of its mouth. DO NOT LET GO OF THE LOWER JAW and continue to say HOLD. They will eventually give in and accept your hand being in their mouth. This could take 5, 15, 30 seconds or longer but they will give in and once they stop struggling, wait an additional 2 to 3 seconds and command release, give, drop etc. Remove your right hand from the dog’s mouth. At this point you can praise the dog with “good dog” if needed. Wait 10 seconds or so and repeat this process 5 to 6 more times, each time making the dog hold your hand a little bit longer than the previous. Once the dog is comfortable with your hand in their mouth for roughly 10 to 15 seconds it’s time to move onto the paint roller.
The process stays the same except you are now using a paint roller instead of your hand. Your left hand is used to steady the dogs head. Place your right hand in front of the dog’s mouth with the paint roller in the palm of your hand. Command FETCH. Now, work your fingers into the dog’s mouth. Once the dog opens its mouth push the paint roller into their mouth with your thumb. This takes some hand-eye coordination but it’s the best way I have found to get them to accept the paint roller. Once the paint roller is inside the dog’s mouth, hold the dogs mouth closed with your right hand until they stop struggling. DO NOT LET THEM SPIT THE PAINT ROLLER OUT! They will eventually give in and accept the paint roller being in their mouth, like they did with the glove. Continue to say HOLD. Once they stop struggling to spit out the roller, slowly start to take your hand away. Keep saying HOLD; be ready to push the roller back into their mouth if needed. Once your gun dog holds the roller for 2 or 3 seconds with no issue, give your release command, and take the roller from their mouth. At this point you can praise the dog again with “good dog” if needed, repeat like before.
Once your dog will accept the paint roller in their mouth and will hold it continuously for 15 to 20 seconds without any drops you are now ready for the next step in force training.
Your session should be short, maybe 5 to 10 minutes. The sessions should be taught twice a day. This whole process from start to finish can be taught in 3 to 4 days but don’t be afraid if it takes longer, every dog progresses differently!”
For more information, you can contact Scott at: www.finalflightretrievers.com