Perfecting the Delivery
By Joe Law
8 September 2010
of the many things that set a gundog apart from other breeds is that
all gundogs must have a “soft mouth”. Put simply, this means that a
gundog has been genetically designed not to mark or damage in anyway
the game which it retrieves.
With this in mind
one could think
that getting your gundog to deliver the game back to you the handler
will be easy, and for some it is, but this area is one which has
created major problems for many handlers.
Delivery can pose many
problems to a new handler, they can intentionally or unintentionally
put that much pressure on the dog that the dog tightens its jaws and
thus damages the game. In this instance the fault is with the handler
not the dog. Delivery doesn’t need to be stressful for the handler or
problem is snatching the item of game
from the dog, this can again have the dog tightening its grip or can
have the dog spitting the game at the handler on return. Again the
fault is with the handler not the dog.
So take the time to
evaluate your gundog, does it like to carry things? Does it willingly
bring anything it picks up straight back to you or does it parade
around? Does the dog spit an item out at your feet and demand you throw
If you have a dog
which naturally holds and always
brings the item back directly to you, all you have to do is polish this
natural reaction into the finished response, and make sure that in the
process your handling ability isn’t teaching the dogs bad habits like
the ones mentioned above. But in many cases this will not be where you
are starting from with your dog.
The formal delivery
the recall, you want the dog coming back when called (or whistled)
straight to you and sit in front. Whilst a sit is not required for
retrieving trials it is best for the novice dog to complete the
delivery from a sitting position as it proved the dog is stationary at
the delivery and looks far tidier.
From the recall we
have a hold, this as mentioned the dog may do naturally if not you may
have to condition the dog to hold. The simplest way this is achieved is
to GENTLY open your dog’s mouth, put a soft dummy into its mouth and
gently press up on the bottom jaw. The pressure you apply should be
just enough to prevent your dog from opening its mouth. Gently stroke
your dog with your other hand and quietly give the command hold.
Initially just wait until the dog is not resisting then gently command
This exercise can be
done whilst you’re inside of an
evening. Please don’t over do it, short sessions but frequent will
always give better results than long occasional sessions. In a very
short period the dog will take the dummy by itself and sit there
holding it whilst you’re stroking its head. Make sure you don’t snatch
it from the dog, ask the dog to give it to you and then gently take it
from the dog and praise profusely.
making holding part of a retrieval game. Throw out the dummy, the dog
retrieves it and you ask it to hold, only if the dog does hold will you
throw the dummy for the dog again, this too can be built up into a
As with all
training, praise a correct response
lavishly, leave no doubt in the dogs mind what is right and what is
wrong. In this manner the dog can modify its own behaviour to obtain
the reward (praise).
trials the dog is required
to a) deliver in front of the handler (as opposed to delivery at the
side like some of the US trials) and b) the dog MUST be stationary at
the time of delivery (unlike the UK field trials). So make sure that
your final training result keeps these two important factors clearly in
Photo by Lara Sedgmen
This is an edited
version of an article that first appeared in Dogs
NSW magazine, November 2010.
page is provided by Working Gundog Club Inc.
(Affiliated with Dogs NSW)