We often lean on our ProStaff when we run into difficulty training. ProStaffer Ben Busby has provided insight on training the critical “Retrieve to Hand” in this week’s blog.
I have heard of different gun dog owners making the statement that their dogs have been retrieving but sometimes will stop short of placing it in your hand. The fix is easier than what you are thinking it could be. This technique has worked for puppies, seasoned gun dogs, flushers and pointers. When training your dog, working him in the offseason or during season, if you will kneel down on one knee, hook your finger in his collar and leave the dummy or bird in his mouth while you pet and praise him for retrieving the dummy or bird for you with your other hand underneath his jaw so he cannot drop the bird prematurely.
You can then begin to walk backwards near the end of the retrieve while using the inviting gestures and verbal encouragement for your dog to come completely in to you. When you are encouraging him to come in with the inviting gestures and encouraging words, your dog will completely forget to drop the dummy or bird short of your hand. Make sure your bird dog enjoys the moments of having success for you in the field and periodically challenge him with differences in terrain you train in and mix up the dummies and birds that you training him with.
Also, remember not to not take the prize away too fast from him after a retrieve and give him a lot of praise to look forward to the next time you take him in the field to work or hunt him. Depending on the age of your hunting partner, you do not want to have long training sessions. If he is a young pup, his attention span is not going to be very long anyway. For the older dogs, they have a longer attention span but you also have to keep your sessions short and to the point. If you have long training sessions for the older dogs, they could possibly start going through the motion and doing things in a lackadaisical manner, which can cause some other unwanted problems during a retrieve to hand. When you are finishing up your training session, you want him to want more and to have fun while you are training him.
With the upland hunting seasons coming to an end, if your seasoned gun dog or puppy is needing work, now will be the time to tackle this task.