Force Fetch or Natural Retrieve

Recently I was asked if I force fetch dogs. Here is my response.


Hello ****,

No, I don’t need force fetch. That would work against the foundation of my method. My training is based on what naturally motives the dogs, trust and success. It’s why dogs, wolves, lions, social predators in general, form hunting groups or packs. I didn’t make this stuff up, it’s just the nature of the beasts. I don’t fight the truth, I accept it and work within their rules.

There are two very important things to remember here. One is that for dogs, all learning is based on association. It’s how the predator mind is wired. The other thing to remember is that dog’s see the retrieve as chasing birds. That’s why I only teach if after a dog is steady. Even then, in the beginning, he is not allowed every retrieve. Some, I go out and get while he remains steady. I then bring it back to him and share it. I don’t want him associating the retrieve (chase) with the drop of the bird. When the bird hits the ground, I want him to wonder if it might be his turn. Basically, the only consistent association to retrieving (chasing the bird) he has left, is the word “fetch”. When I say that, he knows he always gets to go.

Here is a link to an article I wrote a while ago. It describes how I help dogs learn to choose to retrieve.

Hope this helps.
Brad Higgins

Higgins Gundogs hunting etiquette

Dogs: Stay in touch and handle well. Always honor another dog’s point, be steady when necessary and manage the birds for the gun.
Handlers: Be silent in the hunt. Allow the dog the freedom to do his work. Nurture the natural retrieve.

About the author
Brad Higgins, professional dog trainer and creator of the unique Higgins Method of dog/handler training.

One Comment on "Force Fetch or Natural Retrieve"

  1. Brad,
    I just discovered your site and method. I was immediately drawn to it because your methods are very close to what I instinctively do. I was amazed because I had never heard of anyone who uses the psychology of the natural predatory drive and guides the natural instincts without “traditional” training. Then, I read you were a falconer and understood how you developed your methods.
    I got my first bird when I was 14 in 1971. I was a self trained falconer (to this day, I have never met my sponsor) The first time I met another falconer was the Alamosa NAFA meet in 1977.
    I only fly passage long wings and massage my dogs like a Prairie or Richardson Merlin.
    I am in the process of letting a Brittany pup experience the joy that many generations of breeding has imparted. I am excited to spend time researching your site and am sure I will have some questions for you. I will gun hunt this pup for a few years before using him for falconry.

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