Understanding the Retrieve From the Dog’s Perspective

Some have asked why I teach dogs to retrieve as the last step in their training when conventional training dictates that it should be taught as one of the initial obedience commands for pointing dogs.

When the fetch “command” is taught in the beginning, before the dog learns to be cooperative and steady, it is by definition, obedience. From the dog’s perspective, he is being forced to perform these tasks to avoid trainer induced pressure. However, when the retrieve is encouraged after the dog has learned to trust the owner and understands that being steady leads to success, in his eyes, retrieving is a reward, not an e-collar enforced obedience drill. It is much easier to retain the dog’s natural enthusiasm for retrieving when he does it naturally.

The same holds true for the flush/stop cue for the pointing dogs. In the UK and here at Higgins Gundogs, this style of hunting, where the dog on point is cued to flush the bird for the shooter, then stop on the flush, is practiced. The dogs see this cue in the same way they see a cue to retrieve. Basically, they see it as a cue to procure the prey. Keep in mind why dogs point. It is the pause before the pounce. In conventional training here in the US, the dog is  never allowed to pounce. His entire reason for pointing is taken away and replaced with pressure and obedience. It’s no wonder some of the softer dogs can loose style and intensity in these situations.

It’s interesting that this method of allowing the dogs to pounce, but only on cue, makes them much steadier overall. Enthusiasm, style and intensity increase when he knows  his reason for pointing will be realized, it’s just a matter of waiting for the cue. This is dog work on another level. I call it more than “physically steady”, this is when they become “mentally steady”.

Brad Higgins








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

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