Why I Chose To Force Fetch My Bird Dog
A major sunburn, getting over a hangover and being yelled at by my wife. A short list of things I find more enjoyable than when I force fetched my dog. OK maybe I exaggerated the last one a bit.
Full disclaimer: I am not a professional dog trainer. More like a wannabe, but none the less my dog has shaped into a nice little bird dog. The following isn't going to cover my methods, or the process I took in force fetching. I just don't have the experience as a trainer to fully speak on the subject as a whole - plus there is so much information on force fetch across the web from credible sources and trainers. What I am going to cover though is why I chose to force fetch my bird dog.
I tried to put it off as long as I could. I trained, trained and trained fetch some more to my dog. My dog did well, but as time went on I could tell that the trained retrieve just wasn't going to cut it in all situations we face as upland hunters. There was times when my dog got hot or tired, and he didn't feel like retrieving. So he didn't, because he didn't have to. He'd lay there and look at me as I yelled out commands, begging him to bring me a bird or bumper.
As Uplander's, ourselves and dogs face a lot of different situations in the field. Maybe you just dropped a bird into a body of water, or down a steep bank into a creek and the only one capable of going down is your dog. Hell, maybe it's a hot day in the early season and you just dropped a bird in thick cover that would be impossible for you to find with your own eyes. No matter the situation I wanted a dog that will fetch, retrieve and quickly bring game directly back to me on command. Not half way back, not three-quarters of the way back, but all the way back to me. In my opinion, this is where force fetch is a critical training asset and I highly recommend all bird dogs going through the process. It wasn't fun, and it took some time and a lot of patience. But it will make your dog a lot stronger and capable in the field.
Your dog may be confused by the pressure at first, and no one (you or the dog) is going to find the process fun. You may have to take a step back to make sure your dog fully understands what you want it to do, but in the end the bond with your dog will strengthen and you'll have found it 110% worth it.
I'll leave with one piece of advice if you choose to go down the path of force fetch, and it's one at the core of all things bird dog related. Have patience, remember your end goal and don't ever put a timeline on your dog.