Drive for Gundogs
by Joe Law
4 May 2010
you want to get started with your Gundog in Retrieving Trials or
Retrieving Ability Tests you’ll need a dog with good retrieving drive.
seem obvious, but we’re looking for a dog that will go out hard to
retrieve and come back just as hard. Retrieving has to be the dog’s
total focus. You don’t want a dog that strolls out or back with the
retrieve. Nor do you want a dog that finds but deliberately passes by
the game: this is referred to as “blinking”. Another fault is a dog
that hunts an area that it has already worked or sniffs around other
scents: this is called “pottering”.
So how do we build the
retrieving drive in a dog so that it goes out swiftly, with purpose and
enthusiasm? Firstly, let’s look at a young pup that you are starting
out with around 8- 10 weeks of age. In most Gundogs the retrieving
instinct should be there in the dog and we want to bring this out so
that the dog grows to love retrieving. This is his purpose.
get the young pup by your side, sitting or standing, and get an object
to throw. Retrieving on flat grass at the beginning is best as pup can
see what’s going on; it’s not about scenting at this stage. Make sure
he sees it in your hand. Wave it under his nose if you like. Throw it
out in front and the little guy should take off after it. Use the word
fetch and as you repeat this over the coming weeks he’ll quickly learn
what this means. Don’t worry about the other obedience
at this very early stage. He doesn’t have to sit and stay or even heel
by your side. The idea is to have fun and get him mad keen to go after
the retrieve. The obedience can be put in over the top later, once we
are building the drive.
When your pup has picked up the
item he may just come running back to you. If not, call him. Move
backwards or even run away to get him to follow you. As he comes in to
you, take the item and say “give”.
What to get your pup to
retrieve? It could be almost anything. A puppy size retrieving dummy or
rolled up socks (the ones you have worn all day should be especially
nice) are useful. You may use an old slipper or thong. Be
with the last two as your dog may end up carrying your shoes around all
the time (chewing on them?). I don’t recommend using sticks as when the
dog is out working at a retrieving trial but can’t find their retrieve
it may find a stick and think that will do.
As your pup grows
retrieving dummies can be used and distances can be gradually
increased. At this stage try to get someone out in front to throw the
retrieve item. Let your young dog see clearly what is going on and use
a “watch”, “mark” or similar command. He should be going out and back
fast by now.
If you have an adult gundog that hasn’t had the
retrieving drive brought out, it’s best to start in a similar manner as
you would with a pup. Don’t worry too much with “heel”, “sit”, “stay”.
Get his interest. Throw fun retrieves. Swing a retrieving dummy around
until he really wants it, throw it and let him go. Use a fun up beat
command like “hup hup”. Bring the obedience control over your
after he is going out hard.
It’s all about bringing out the natural
retrieving instinct in your Gundog, and the drive to retrieve. Your dog
will want to do it. And he’ll thank you for it. After all, this is what
he was born to do!
Photo by Rod Drew of
Steve Hall's Labrador "Case", 2013.
This is an edited
version of an article that first appeared in Dogs
page is provided by Working Gundog Club Inc.
(Affiliated with Dogs NSW)