We are Losing Legendary Methods (Retrieves)– by T. Mostert


Tok Mostert, a Professional Hunter from South Africa, now living in Sweden,  is sharing his writings on dog training with us. You can start  reading them from Part 1 here.

Part 2: We are Losing Legendary Methods (Retrieves) – by T. Mostert

Arne played a major role in training Flake for water retrieves, but before a dog can retrieve in water, he has to be able to do this perfectly on land! So, let’s take a step back. Too many folks have opinions on which method is the best, force fetch or the natural fetch training method. Dogs react to movement: you throw a ball and the dog wants to chase, or catch, or fetch it (that’s why hare and rabbit are so hard to proof against), movement is a trigger, it is a natural thing for them. To me it breaks down to what works for a particular dog and I use a hybrid system between natural retrieve and a forced fetch.

Both, or a mix of the systems,  however, are useless if you cannot have your dog off leash sitting by your side without moving to a cast, or a false cast (I use false casts to steady a dog). One thing to keep in mind is that with a force fetch the dog will retrieve everything you tell him to retrieve, whereas a natural retriever will, at some point, refuse to take a retrieve, especially to pick up predatory animals.

Casting Flake

Flake would sit on command and I would start with a wooden dummy wrapped in a towel in front of her, sometimes getting her a bit excited, or worked up. Some dogs need encouragement, others need to be held firm. On command I would give her the dummy in her mouth and tell her to stand steady. To release the dummy, I would simply say thank you and take it. Sounds pretty easy doesn’t it? Well, it’s not, I just skipped over hours of frustration and swearing (silent swearing). Make up your own mind on what works for you and stick to it. Once she takes the dummy there is no chewing or playing, this is not an option. A lot of praise (95% praise -5% correction rule) and stroking her under the chin while she holds the dummy. Some folks say never pat the head, as it encourages them to bite into the dummy, hard mouth dogs do not need any encouragement, but I can’t say yes or no, because I have not had a hard mouth dog.

Start slow, 3-4 seconds is a good hold for a young dog and work your way up to a time that suites you, I get bored after a minute. If Flake helds for a minute, I would start walking her on leash with the dummy in her mouth, only a few steps at first, then stop, sit and thank you. I did not let her drop the dummy into my hand, they tend to do that when your hand goes to the dummy. Only after I say thank you, she must release. I also took time to falsely take the dummy away without a thank you, to make sure she understood the whole process.

A few reminders:

  1. Have fun training, if it is work for you or the dog, you are doing it wrong.
    2. Never end a training session with a failure, go back a step until the dog gets it right and finish there.
    3. A dogs mind gets tired before the body does, keep sessions short but focused.
    4. Dogs do not speak human language, but “fuck you” is “fuck you” even in dog language, do not ever let a dog say fuck you and leave it there, you will fail again and again.
    5. Sometimes you need to take a step back to go forward.
    6. If you get it right all the time, you are not doing it right.
    7. Even a bad trainer can teach you something, even if it is only the difference between good and bad. Take what you need from a training session and leave what you do not appreciate.
    8. A good dog will make a bad trainer look good, a good trainer will make a bad dog look good.
    9. It is never about the quantity of time, it is about the quality of the time.
    10. Protect your dog from dogs that have no discipline, it builds trust.

Final few words, a HPR dog does play games that are not some form of training. I smoke, and every time I went out of the house to light up Flake would follow.

Thanking Flake

I would send her out in the garden tell her to sit and throw a tennis ball at her to catch, simple innocent game? Wrong! The next time I sent her out in the field to search for a retrieve she sat down and waited for me to cast that bloody ball! Took me three weeks to break that habit I created.
Think, think, think, structure everything and plan it, then stand in front of the mirror and repeat it, if it still makes sense teach the dog. This brings me back to Legends like Arne, get help we are all blind to our own mistakes, even if we see mistakes done by other handlers or dogs!

To read the second part of the article click here.


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