If my dog likes to fetch is it necessary to force fetch?
If my dog likes to fetch is it necessary to force fetch?
“But we are training dogs that have natural drive to retrieve!”
“Why would I want to force my dog to do something he does naturally?” goes the frequently asked question. After all, retrievers are bred to retrieve by instinct, aren’t they? We would all like to think so, but many are bred just to sell, i.e. puppy mills. Many others are bred with objectives other than retrieving, such as those engineered for their appearance alone, i.e. the show ring. But our focus is on working dogs – dogs bred to do the work for which the breed was established, hunting; bringing game to hand. Why would you need to force a dog like that to do the very work he’s been bred for?
You see, it’s the absence of information along with a love for the dog that drives such inquiries. It’s reasonable, and it’s a question that begs to be answered. So, perhaps this insight will help clear up some of the misunderstandings about this very important subject. Certainly, there is nothing new about people seeking an alternative to doing it – frequently because they have just enough information about it to think it’s something that it isn’t. I think it’s that word, force. A new trainer often hears that word and gets an instant mental image that sends them running the other way!
It won’t go away, and for good reason. Let’s start by clearing up what force fetch actually is (or isn’t).
More appropriately, there are more misperceptions than myths surrounding the process of force fetching retrievers. I think it starts with the term force. To the novice trainer/dog lover that word summons visions of a dog being thrashed or brutalized in some way or another. There are stories, some true, some contrived, about harsh measures being used to force fetch, like using bottle openers, pliers, etc. Nothing like that will appear as a suggestion in this text because it has nothing to do with how I approach it. Let’s start there and clear the air about that subject.
Force: In retriever training this is a term that describes the use of pressure to achieve a sure and reliable response. Influence that moves something, says the dictionary. The amount of pressure is specified more by the dog than by the trainer. Often very little actual pressure is needed.
Pressure: something that affects thoughts and behavior in a powerful way, usually in the form of several outside influences working together persuasively.
Nowhere in any definition of these terms is abuse or brutality, nor should it be. Like many things, force and pressure are either good or bad depending on how they are applied.
Another misperception is often the assumption that retrievers do all of their retrieving functions by nature, and shouldn’t need to be forced. Frankly, about all that dogs do by nature is to chase after motion, and follow their curiosity about what they smell. We cultivate the rest, both passively and through the use of pressure. Even the most basic puppy-fetch conditioning we all do to get them started is an act we contrive. These dogs retrieve out of self-centered impulses. Bringing birds to us is not a nature-driven act. Thankfully, it can be easily engineered!
Take a well-bred pup and turn him loose in a fenced yard for three years, or so. Leave him strictly to the influences of nature. Then go out one day and see how well he does on the type of retrieving work that would make him useful in game conservation. Compare his work to even an average gun dog with amateur training. How do you think it would come out? No brainer! Whatever natural gifts a dog may have, without some kind of guidance they will tend to be of little value.
It’s not a negative statement that retrievers need training to do the work we need them to do in the field and marsh. That type of work requires a dog to have good natural abilities, but also to be taught how to put those abilities to work because the skills and functions we require are our idea. We invented them. It’s okay. That’s why dogs and trainers are so often referred to as a team. Both contribute to the effort.
First of all, force fetch is more than just one thing. It is a definable process with clear goals. But, within the process are several steps or phases. Those steps will be laid out later, but first let’s examine the goals.
1. To establish a standard for acceptable mouth habits.
2. To provide the trainer with a tool to maintain those habits.
3. To provide the trainer with a tool to assure compliance with the command to retrieve.
4. To form the foundation for impetus (momentum).
5. Pressure conditioning.
Mouth habits include such important items as fetching on command, even when your dog may be distracted, or moody, or any number of things that might interfere with compliance. Sure, you may get away for years without having such problems, but being smart and being lucky are not the same thing. Force fetch gives you a tool to handle this when it comes up, plus some insurance that it is less likely to come up due to this training.
Along with compulsion issues we need to mention a proper hold, and delivery on command. If my pheasant is punctured I want it to be from pellets, not teeth. That actually covers some ground in all of the first three categories.
Let’s spend a little time on number four. Lots of people use the terms momentum and style interchangeably. I think it’s important to distinguish between the two because of how they relate to this subject. Force fetch is the foundation of trained momentum, and provides a springboard into subsequent steps of basic development. Style has little to do with this. Here’s why.
Style: A combination of speed, enthusiasm, and just plain hustle that you see in a dog going toward a fall. Style is the product of natural desire and athleticism.
Momentum: In a retriever, the compulsion from the dog’s point of origin; defined in the dictionary as “the force possessed by a body in motion, Measure of movement: a quantity that expresses the motion of a body and its resistance to slowing down. It is equal to the product of the body’s mass and velocity”.
Clearly, this quality is a tremendously valuable asset in the running of blinds and overcoming diversion pressure. It even applies to running long marks, and/or marks through tough cover or terrain. When you need a dog to drive hundreds of yards against the draining influences of terrain, cover, re-entries, and all of the real and perceived factors that are so commonly momentum-robbing, having a dog with a reservoir of momentum is immensely valuable. Force fetch is where that reservoir is established, and can be built upon.
From the foundation of a forced fetch most modern methods progress through stages that continue to build on this principle. Stick fetch, Collar Condition to fetch, Walking fetch, Force to pile, and Water force are all extensions of the work we do in ear pinch or toe hitch, which are popular means to get it all going. When a dog has finished such a course the result is an animal far more driven, with much more resolve to overcome obstacles and distance and distractions.
Lest we forget ~
I am not suggesting that we harm or abuse dogs in any of this force work I’ve spoken of. The late Jim Kappes said, “A properly forced dog shouldn’t look forced”. I completely agree. Momentum and style are distinct terms, each with their own meanings, as pertains to retrievers. I firmly believe that both are traits that should co-exist in a well-trained retriever.
"Prepare your dog in such a manner that the work he is normally called upon to do under-whelms him, not overwhelms him." ~ Evan Graham
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
― George Bernard Shaw
The Smartwork System for Retriever Training (link)
think i'll go with Evan's post
Short answer. Yes it is necessary IMHO.'
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When a non ff dog wins a national maybe I will change my thoughts on ff but until then, its ff.
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You don't need to Force Fetch your dog, he is your dog.
I FF mine for the same reason, he is my dog. I also want that retrieve, in my hand, every time. I also like the rest of the OB stuff that tightens up as a result of the control FF gives me. Just my opinion. Don
Bigcasinogator, I'm going to come at this a bit differently. I would ask what your objective is? Many on this site train their dogs to highest level and compete in high level competion. If you want to train to the fullest potential your dog has then ff should be considered. However, I have hunted friends dogs who never were ff and they were fine Retreivers fun to be with in the duck blind. I for one because I participate in hunt tests and I learned tough lessons not having ff my first dog, now I do ff my dogs. As was mentioned ff is more then fetching and is foundational for solid obedience. So I would asses what your objective is and work a process towards that goal keeping in mind that eventually short cuts or avoidance usually comes back to bit you - I know I have been bitten.
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"How you do anything is how you will do everything".
It would be no more appropriate to tell you that you should FF your dog than it would to tell you what you should do for a living, what you should study in school, or who you should choose for a spouse.
It's a personal decision.
Your end goals and your aspirations could help determine how you should train your dog.
Have fun and good luck!
( I doubt that I will ever have a retriever that I don't Force Break. Heck, I have a couple pitbull shelter dogs in the house and I have Force Broken them)
"Determining and applying the criteria for when and when not to use correction is the essence of the art of dog training. I make a distinction between a mistake and a lack of effort." - Mike Lardy - Volume I "After Collar Conditioning"