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A dog not retrieving is a major problem that I encounter from lots of handlers and again we must understand why all these faults arise. We should look back at how we play train our pup and normally we get the dog to go and fetch things for us. We throw a ball it comes back; we think we have cracked it and we will not see any issues in our retrieving. It is all down to us to make sure we get all this basic stuff right.  What is your normal reaction when your pup brings you your tea towel, you laugh and say cheeky dog. Then the dog grabs a teddy and it’s a rough voice to it and then it brings your best shoes and has chewed them OMG you naughty dog!!!!!, It’s starting to go wrong now what can we do. The dog now picks up and runs off with anything it is not allowed to have. We are starting the process of turning our dog into a none retriever. But you thought you were just teaching it right from wrong. 

What can we do? Shall we just continue and see how things go? Should we be firmer with the dog and make it do as it is told? The children start to chase the dog when it has picked up their toy.  We now are seeing what is going wrong but only because I’m writing it down for you.

I’m highlighting all the things that happen to every one of us and you will be reading this saying yes, it happened to me.  How do we stop this dog now it knows that if it picks up the wrong thing it gets told off?  It now cannot tell what is the right or the wrong thing to pick up.  Even the dummy or ball could get it a telling off possibly.  When the dog is then asked to pick something up and it does not come back, we shout again.  The dog does not understand all this.  It is confused, is it right or is it wrong. The dog runs and gets the retrieve and then does not come back.  BINGO dog not retrieving.  All this and all you wanted was the dog to do a simple retrieve, it’s all gone wrong, so you then call the local trainer or at worst you say there is something wrong with this dog I’m moving it on.  If you do, or have done all or some of the above we now need to undo it all.

First things first stop the shouting and put up with the dog eating your shoes for a bit, it was your fault your shoes were left where the dog could get them.  Believe me I have had some of my walking boots eaten so I know.  We should try to undo this by letting the dog have the retrieve and we should show no signs of wanting it back for a while. The dog will run out pick up the dummy and proceed to run around us.  Normally the dog will run in front of us taking control of the direction we are walking.  When this happens, we should turn the opposite direction and continue this. 

You will find the distance will decrease very fast then we can start to praise the dog for being close.  When the dog soon clicks onto you not being an issue it will start to come in closer and closer this is when we know we are gaining on our mistakes.  We can then lower our body and encourage the dog in but do not take the retrieve from the dog just praise then get up and walk again.  Eventually the dog will be happy to come to you because you are not steeling its prize. To reduce the chance of the dog passing us try being close to a hedge then we have cut down the running around you first.

When asking the dog to come back don’t call the dog back unless it is heading your way.  If you try to call it back whilst it is running away, you are teaching it to ignore you. When the dog is clearly coming back give some encouraging noises sound happy and welcoming. Try not to look like a rugby player ready to attack your opponent.  The most important part of the retrieve is the dog, if you don’t have the dog, you don’t have the retrieve.  The dummy or item of game is second on our list.  Stay down low and try not to stare at the dog.  Sometimes it is good to have a second item for the dog to see so it comes and investigates what you have. This toy however should be greater value than the one the dog has, this will increase the chance of it coming back to you. When the dog does come back let it touch and smell the item you have but don’t let it have it as this will encourage it to run off again and then you don’t have the greater value t oy. Taking time on this is key and don’t get to upset if it goes wrong, the dog will never want to come to you when you are in a bad mood.  A retrieve does not have to be thrown every time you could put your dog on a lead, drop the dummy and let the dog pick the dummy up.  When the dog does this praise the dog and try to walk a little before taking the dummy from it. Don’t forget to praise what you do want and ignore what you don’t. 

Darren Kirk

Kirkbourne Spaniels


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