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Dog won't retrieve woodcock

I have a 10 month old GSP who is progressing with bird training very well. He is pointing and holding well, but will only retrieve downed grouse. Funny as it seems, he turns his nose up at the sight and smell of a downed woodcock - although he will point them. How do I correct this problem?

Also, he has recently began to ignore the "come" command in the field at times. There is no doubt he understands the command as he obeys the voice and whistle about 70% of the time. It just seems like he's started to hunt for himself now instead of for me. Should I add an electronic collar to the outings?

Thanks - Patrick


70% for who, and 30% for who?

I really don't know why both dogs and people have to go through adolescence, but I think it has something to do with the fact that we live in an imperfect world. Whether or not you realize it, your 10 month old pup (or your 8-14 month old pup for that matter) is in this less than ideal stage. This is truly a delicate stage, because both the dog and child alike desperately need to disciplined for inappropriate behaviors, but on the other hand, this is the age where bird dogs and teenagers alike often have their love for learning "killed". The point to be noted here is that with any type of training there is a balance. Not to despair however, every outstanding example of near perfection in both human and canine circles was once an adolescent. So on to the issue at hand.

Pick any three dog training books, and most likely two of them will mention difficulty when dealing with a dog of 12 months old. So does your adolescent need from you? Let's break it up into parts and see if we can figure it out:

70%/30% means,"we're not through w/ school yet boss".

I. Man's view of 70/30 (obeying 70%/ignoring 30%)
    A. Most people's dogs don't obey 30% of the time.
    B. My dog obeys 70% of the time.
    C. He's basically a good dog, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt the other 30% of the time (isn't 70% a passing score on a test?).
    D. Why won't he just cooperate and do it 100% of the time?

II. Dog's view of 70/30 (obeying 70%/ignoring 30%)
    A. This bird hunting is sure fun.
    B. I like (retrieving/pointing/flushing) those birds when my master tells me to.
    C. Shoot, I guess I might as well (fill in your command here) as long as I don't have anything better to do.

III. Reconciling man and dog.
    A. My dog can't do percentages (or Math for that matter). Can yours?
      1. Your dog is either working for you 100%, or he is working for himself 100%.
      2. While no dog is perfect "100%" of the time, if you can't figure out whether your dog doesn't understand what's expected of him, or whether he is testing you, chances are that he is working for himself and not you.

IV. Suggestions...
    A. Don't shock him with voltage.
      1. I'd hold off on the shock collar.
      2. You may have to force fetch, but hold off on that too.
      3. Try going back to basic drills (5 min a day)
        a. drill until your dog is (heeling/whoaing/coming/kenneling/etc.) 100% of the time, on command, for you.
        b. you need a high level of control (pinch/choke collar, fence, checkcord, etc.) until you can count on 100%
        c. if your dog slips in obedience, up the control again.
        d. don't forget to refresh these lessons on an as needed basis.
    B. What about the woodcock?
      1. If it were my dog, I'd lay off the woodcock.
        a. your dog likes to retrieve other birds to hand.
        b. you are not in a position to force your dog to bring you the woodcock. (i.e.-force fetch)
        c. if you push this issue right now (during adolescence), you may very well "kill" your dog's love for retrieving.
      2. Work on the 100% for you for a while (hence the 70 for who, and 30 for who?-the question is a non-sequitur)
      3. Given some time (as in developmental-about 1 yr to 1-1/2yrs), as well as your time (as in daily obedience training), this problem may cure itself.
      4. Get him crazy about retrieving what he will retrieve.
    C. If this doesn't straighten him out by the time he is 2-1/2, you might reevaluate force fetch training. You would be better off doing it after this developmental period.
    D. None of my dogs are trained to retrieve by the force fetch method.
      1. I'm not saying it isn't necessary sometimes.
      2. I am saying you should be careful in this area.
      3. I may have to force fetch a dog in the future, but I would try the aforementioned strategies/timelines before I did.
    E. I use the shock collar as a TOOL (not as a training method) with SOME of my dogs. See related point D,3 directly above-it applies to shock collars too. The shock collar is sometimes a necessary tool, but when something is broken you use the least intrusive/dangerous tools first.
V. Good luck and Happy Hunting!

Grover Swick
Grove's/Von Swick's GSP's
For more information on force fetching, try:
What is the "Forced Retrieve"? - BIll Corcoran

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