But the retrieve is actually quite a complex behaviour. It is a chain of separate behaviours that are joined together to form one smooth process.
This section is intended to clarify the components of the retrieving process.
It can help you to overcome any problems you may have with retrieving by identifying the part of the retrieving chain that has ‘broken down’.
The retrieving chain
Here is the finished retrieving chain for a marked (seen) retrieve
- The dog ‘marks’ the falling item
- The dog desires the falling item
- The dog waits to be given permission to fetch the item
- The dog races to the area of fall
- The dog picks up the item
- The dog returns to his handler
- The dog holds the item in his mouth until instructed to release it
You can see that the complexity of this behaviour means that there is plenty of scope for things to go wrong. Nor do we train the dog to carry out each of the links in the chain in the order in which they appear in the finished behaviour.
First things first
Whilst the ability mark the fall of a dummy is first on the list it is not our first priority when we train a gundog puppy. It does not matter how well the dog can ‘mark’ if he has no desire to ‘chase and capture’ the falling object. Therefore building desire must come first.
This ‘desire’ is so important, and so easily squashed, that we need to take steps to ensure it’s survival in our young gundog puppies. That may mean delaying number 3. (steadiness) whilst number 2. (desire) is increased.
You can read about building desire on this page: Building retrieving desire,
Once you have built up your dog’s passion for retrieving then you can focus your attention on any aspects of his retrieving behaviour that are not appropriate. Maybe your puppy is not coming straight back to you? Check out our article on Playing Keep Away.
But what if he spits out the dummy before you get chance to take it from him? Or runs around you with the dummy instead of delivering it nicely?
There is a lot can go wrong even when your dog has the desire and ‘drive’ to chase after the dummy
Traditional gundog training
Traditionally at least in the UK, the ‘finished retrieve’ in our working gundogs has always been developed by carefully nurturing inbuilt instincts and moulding the various component parts of the retrieve using the handler’s skill and experience.
This is not always a straightforward process to teach and explain to a beginner.
With the experience gained through training many dogs we learn to overcome most of the problems that can arise throughout the early stages in retrieve training.
What about the inexperienced trainer?
But if you are not a professional trainer, you may not have opportunity to train more than a handful of gundogs throughout your entire life. So how are you supposed to overcome problems without the professional trainer’s experience?
What should you do if your dog starts ‘spitting out’ the dummy, or running away with it. How will you cope if your dog loses interest in retrieving? How can you stop your dog running around you in circles with the retrieve, or refusing to pick it up at all?
These are problems that can be annoying even for the most experienced of trainers. And each trainer has their own, often different, approach to dealing with each problem.
There is an interesting solution that deals single-handedly with quite a wide range of retrieving problems and that is the clicker version of the ‘trained retrieve’. It is not in widespread use within the working gundog community, and you may struggle to find a gundog trainer that understands it.
It is called the clicker retrieve. And you can learn how to teach it to your dog right here. On this website:The Clicker Retrieve
I hope you find it helpful. But remember, get that puppy retrieving with passion first. The rest can be taught later if necessary.
If you enjoy my articles, you might like my new book: The Happy Puppy Handbook – a definitive guide to early puppy care and training.