| WHY FORCE FETCH?
There has been quite a bit of feedback from one of my articles about force fetch ---some good, some not so good and some downright dangerous for beginners to read. So, I
thought perhaps a deeper exploration of force in general as well as force fetch in particular would be in order to clear things up for those of you who are having a problem
accepting what you feel are such draconian training methods.
First, I would like to explain one of the main reasons why it is necessary for a professional dog trainer to use force to train his dogs. When a hunter brings me a pup for training I
explain to him what he can expect from his dog once he has completed the basic four-month training course here at Reibar. That speech goes something like this: “Your dog will
be taught to heel and sit, he will be force fetched, which means he will pick up a bird or bumper on command. He will be taught to come on command using both verbal and
whistle commands and finally he will be steadied to shot. Your dog will also have over a hundred live birds shot for him during this time as well as having run through well
placed decoys many times”. To accomplish all this I must apply force to get the job done thoroughly---using the “endless repetition” method would take at least twice the time
and could actually be much harder on the dog. A professional trainer must do a much more solid training job on a dog he is being paid to train compared to a hunter who is
training a dog for himself. The reason for this is because the professional must transfer the dog to his owner once the four-month program is over. It’s a process I call
“transferring the respect”, which can be very difficult to accomplish, depending upon the experience of the owner. Any time a new person handles a hunting dog, whether it’s his
dog or not, the animal will test him out to determine just how well he must perform. The dog wants to know how much this new person knows about dog behavior, which will
ultimately determine the level of performance he gets from the animal. Dogs want to do things their way, which is not necessarily the way they were trained to perform---that’s
one of the better reasons the use of force becomes necessary to properly train a hunting dog. When a knowledgeable owner trains his own dog, the respect level is naturally
gained through the everyday process of educating the animal. It becomes unnecessary for him to get each and every command super solid, but it is mandatory for the
|Here is a typical email from a reader who in my opinion is beyond the beginner stage of dog training, but still reluctant to accept force as a proper method to reinforce
commands.“I was reading your article in Western Outdoor News where you said all dogs should be force fetched. I do agree that all dogs should be forced to fetch/hold. I think
your implication is that the only way to do this is using pain or discomfort to the dog. If this is true I disagree. The pain method I believe is definitely the quickest and most
reliable but not the only way. I currently own a four-year-old Lab that was able to be forced to fetch through repetition rather than pain. I first taught him to pick up whatever I
wanted. After that it was fairly easy to teach him to hold. I will admit that it took a long time and was frustrating at times but I now have a dog that will absolutely not let go until I
command him to. I am currently training another young lab and am considering how I will force fetch her. I do not have the time I had with the last dog and am considering
getting professional help with this”.
Now, this hunter’s email is somewhat typical of the majority that I received, he’s come to conclude that the long frustrating way he trained his first dog is an option to force--- and
it is. However, I want everyone to understand that when force is properly used it’s only applied after a command has been thoroughly taught to the dog and is of short duration.
Endless repetition is not without it’s faults, it is more time consuming, if overdone can be very depressing for some dogs and of course there are those dogs who flatly refuse to
submit to repetition. Repetition is a wonderful method for teaching a dog his necessary hunting skills, but it will not solidify each learned command to the point of consistency
and dependability. Force should be used to make a trainee understand that each command given requires mandatory compliance---it’s not optional. If you can get your student
to accept that fact of life then respect is no problem and the team is forged in the process. Cajun dog training rule #1 is: If you want to teach a dog something and make it stick
for a lifetime, teach it to him while he is under pressure. I have trained many fine animals that later became champions using that philosophy; needless to say, it has served
The word force is usually not well understood or accepted by most amateur dog trainers; it can conjure up some horrid visions in their minds. Some guys have it in their minds
that dogs should not be trained with force of any kind and since force fetch is the first drill witness by a novice trainer that demands compliance by a trainee, it’s the one they
generally choose to vent their opposition to force in general. Force fetch is an important skill that should be learned by all hunting dogs, but what is rarely understood by novice
trainers is that it is also a step on the ladder for a dog to become a better overall disciplined hunter.
I should explain that extreme repetition can be a mind-bending process for an animal, in fact, it can becomes a “war of attrition” and can lead to some serious side effects that
amateur trainers should avoid. Attrition training is successfully used by professional trainers of highly skilled competition dogs where they have advanced well beyond normal
force training. It’s a whole topic in of itself and a subject best avoided here.
I know that many of you who read this article will not agree with the message that I am putting forth. That’s OK; you must remain true to your feelings about such a controversial
subject. Never allow anyone to convince you that using stricter discipline is the answer to training your dog if it does not feel right. However, as you grow as a trainer and begin to
wonder why someone else’s dog is performing at a level that you wish your dog did ,the difference could be, Cajun dog training rules # 1.
Always have fun training
|Many hunting dog owners want to believe that simple explanation and lots of repetition can train their dog.
That certainly can be done to some extent; however, I doubt that many owners would want to pay the bill for
such a long, arduous, and surface training job, which will require quite a bit of maintenance on the part of
the owner/handler once the dog goes home. Some hunters believe that good breeding and bonding with
your dog will cure all unwanted behavior problems, or prevent them from occurring in the first place. There is
no doubt in my mind that proper breeding and developing a personal relationship with your hunting dog will
certainly make the team of man and beast more productive in the field, but do not deceive yourself by
believing that it takes the place of proper training. Everyone who has ever trained a dog goes through growth
periods as they continue to learn more about just exactly what it takes to train a hunting dog. However, that
growth can be interrupted when an owner/trainer prematurely accepts a lower than can be accomplished
training level of his dog as good enough. The thing that is missing from most of these hunters’ education is
prolonged exposure to a well-bred, well-trained and talented hunting dog. In order to advance their
education, every hunter/trainer should take the time necessary to observe such a dog work on a consistent
basis, but, more important they need to understand what it took to get this highly trained dog to perform at
such an elevated level.