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Is force fetching with negative reinforcement necessary?

Every article I've read about "force fetching", involves inflicting pain to the dog. I'm no psychologist, but I do know that anything learned under negative conditioning has a tendency to extinguish itself long before that which was learned using positive conditioning. My queries to others have have been answered, "you get quicker results". Often these quick studies have resulted in "he's back-in for a refresher course" or a reluctance to bring back a snappy retrieve plus a myriad of other problems. If it were not for my huntin' buddy I wouldn't find as many birds as I do or rather I wouldn.t have bagged the game I did , so finally my question...........


hello wkp,

I believe you are under some misconceptions so I will see if my explanation works better for you. you said "I'm no psychologist, but I do know that anything learned under negative conditioning has a tendency to extinguish itself long before that which was learned using positive conditioning. "

Let's look at that a little closer. What happens if you don't show up for work? You get fired! Sounds pretty negative to me. Works pretty well though, doesn't it? What happens if you try to rob a bank? You get thrown in jail! again pretty negative, but works well for the folks I know.

Now, I know we are talking something different here but it has the same basis. Dogs that are force fetched correctly do not have to take refresher courses. That's the problem though. Was he force fetched correctly?

There are 2 types of retrieves. One that is natural and one that is done out of obedience. A natural retrieve is always the best as far as I am concerned but what if your dog is not a natural retriever? Do you just forget about it? I don't!

If your dog is a natural retriever then use that drive and build on it. It can be made just as fast and reliable as a force fetch.

If your dog has no interest in retrieving then you must use another method. I really don't care for the term force fetch because to me it implies something that is brutal and I must admit, in some cases, that is necessary. Let's look at this this term a little closer. The fetch is no more forced than a forced sit, down or stay. If I told you you had to use a forced stay on your dog I am sure it would be just as objectionable to you. Never the less, when you think about it, you are forcing the dog to stay because if you didn't he would get up and leave. Do you have to be "brutal" and "inflict pain" to get a stay? Sometimes. More often than not it just takes some firm commitment on your part. If you teach the fetch in the same manner you will get the same result.

Trainers are paid by the hour. They have to work in a speedy fashion or you won't pay them. If I told you I could train your dog to fetch but it would take 6 months to a year and cost $5000 I doubt I would get your business. When you are doing it yourself there is not time or money limit. I forced fetched one of my dogs over the summer. The training periods were always short and, although she was sometimes uncomfortable, I wouldn't call them painful. I did this over a 4 month period and when it came to fall and I shot the first chukker over her she was so excited she ran out, scooped it up and brough it back so fast we were both astonished. She still has a problem with big birds, like planted pheasants that weigh 5 lbs, but she sure gives it her best shot. She is only 2 and I know with more practice she will get better.

The question you have to ask yourself is how much time are you willing to devote to this. If you want it done in a week you will have to put a lot of pressure on the dog and, although the dog will get over it very quickly, I am not sure you will. If that is the case, then take your time, use slower and less uncomfortable pressure, albeit, enough to get the point across, and expect a longer period to see results. When your dog is 5 and working and retrieveing like a champ, will it matter to you then how long it took?

Decide what method is best for you and your dog and the heck with the experts! I have trained over 4, 000 dogs and an equal amount of handlers. My success came from finding something that worked for them. Not what worked for me.

Best of luck to you!

Terry Germany
JC&T Shooting Sports
For more information on force fetching, try:
What is the "Forced Retrieve"?
Force retriving with an E-Collar
More on force fetching
Beginner's force fetching
Introducting live birds on Force Fetching
The Hold: The first step in force fetching
When force fetching doesn't work

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