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Did Cash show interest in retrieving as an eight week old puppy? One of the criteria I use in selecting a Poodle is good retrieve drive. One because I like to play fetch with my dogs (it is an easy way to exercise them) but two, because I think it shows good work ethic and a desire to work for and with people. All of my girls retrieved to hand a 8 weeks.

Anyway, does he show interest in retrieving now? Does he like to carry toys around? If so, your job is going to be easier.

You have a couple of choices. You can wing it and see what happens, you can use a clicker to shape behavior, or you can use a traditional forced retrieve method.

If you are going to wing it at home, I'd get a high value toy that he really likes and that is easy for him to hold in his mouth. This could be a tennis ball (good because they roll and get the dog excited) or a stuffie toy. Put Cash on a very thin long line. You can make one by going to the hardware store and getting a nylon cord and putting a snap on the end. This is going to be used to reel him in once he goes after the toy but it will be thin enough that it won't get in his way and discourage him.

Tease Cash with the toy. Get him really worked up and then toss the toy about 3 feet away. When he goes and picks it up, PRAISE PARTY PRAISE!!!!! Encourage him to come back by running backwards away from him. If he does not come back, you can reel him in. Hopefully he will not drop the toy (this is where a stuffie is good). When he gets back, tell him to "give" and release the toy (this should be taught as a separate exercise) and reward him with a treat.

If Cash has no natural desire to chase and retrieve, you will have a long row to hoe.

Teaching a real as opposed to the above play retrieve is another thing. Performance dogs need to be taught that retrieving is compulsory and not optional. You can't have a field dog quit in the middle of a hunt and if your obedience dog does not retrieve on command, you will flunk your test.

This is where systematic training comes in. Most hunt and competition folks use a traditional ear pinch to teach what is called a forced retrieve. You need a highly experienced trainer to show you how to do this and you will need lots of background obedience work before you move on to this step. I don't think you need a "hunting poodle" person. An experienced competition obedience person will do.

I don't know anyone who uses a clicker method to teach a competition retrieve, but I know that there must be folks who successfully do. Contact your local kennel club and ask for the phone numbers of people competing in Utility obedience. Call them and start asking about training opportunities.
 

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I have to say Bella loves to 'fetch' more than any other dog I've known! I won't hunt with her, but it's sure fun to play with them.

We started when we got her at just under 3 months and would just do lots of praise and treats (kibble) when she brought it back to us. We've just started to have success with 'drop it' through similiar techniques. Though not yet if it's contraband we want her to drop. grumble.
Don't teach her to drop it, teach her to "give" as in let you take it out of her mouth. In competition you never want a dog to drop a dumb bell, article or bird.

In fact, all of my dogs are taught to pick things up. They have to hand me the frisbee or ball if they want me to throw it.
 

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cbrand - Thank you for all the information! Right now he only occassionally goes after one specific squeeky toy. I didn't have him at 8 weeks. He was 13 weeks when we got him. I don't necessarily need him to hunt, but I do want to get into advanced obedience, utility, with him eventually. His focus is really good when he's "on" and he is doing a very reliable ON LEASH recall. (I won't try off leash for some time!). He also will "finish" and heal well. When we are not working he is the most laid back puppy I have ever had!
Laid back is good in a house pet, but not necessarily good in a performance dog. If you want to get all the way through Utility, you are going to have to build and develop his drive.

Are you working with a trainer?
 

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First we get the dog liking to retrieve through games such as CBrand described above, then we train them for performance. So far we have never had to use any ear pinch methods. Having said that, we compete for fun rather than for top performance spots - although some who think my mom doesn't take competing seriously have watched her title multiple dogs in a single week-end. So I guess my point is, you can have fun with training and still get good results, it depends on what methods you're comfortable with. :)
I never thought I'd use an ear pinch.

My Sabrina has retrieve drive that would put any Lab or Golden to shame. She also has the work ethic of a Roman Centurian. I NEVER had to use any compulsion training to get her to retrieve. Retrieving was its own reward.

Izze loves to play and retrieve, but she is a softer poodle than Sabrina. I had trouble with her doing dead retrieves on things that did not interest her (i.e she would chase and get a thrown ball, but she would refuse to retrieve or quit if I sent her out to get a metal article that was put out for her.)

I used an ear pinch method but I didn't use it as hard as some trainers do where you pinch until the dog opens his mouth in pain. I simply used a relatively gentle ear pinch so that she had a clear retrieve correction that was differenct from the correction she recieved for not healing or not jumping etc.

It was difficult at first and we struggled and she had melt downs, but we eventually worked through it. Now, she is really enjoying her retrieving work. The compulsion training has given her the confidence to know that yes she can pick up and carry a variety of odd things in a variety of situations.

Also, anyone interested in Competition Hunt work would be smart to find non-Lab people to train with. The Lab folks are really, really hard on their dogs. Many of them don't think that you are doing it right unless your Lab is screaming when you zap it with the E-collar. A Lab will take that kind of abuse, but a Poodle will resent you for it. Try to find a Golden person to work with. They are usually a little kinder to their dogs.
 

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It seems like such an out of date method to use this type of training, but that's just my opinion.
Actually, the whole ear pinch thing is pretty standard. Besides my Sabrina, I don't know anyone competing in high level obedience or hunt trails who didn't use a forced retrieve.

But it's definitely not a primary method for her. We just find from personal experience that especially with softer dogs we get much better results with an upbeat happy approach then a downbeat negative approach. It's all about what works for you and your dog, but it's a personal pet peeve of mine to go to these dog events and see dogs who look unhappy in the ring. I like to see tails up with happy dogs loving what they're doing!
Ugh! Agreed. I hate to see the beaten down look. The thing about the forced retrieve though is that the dog learns that the retrieve is real work, not play. Most dogs who have a "play" retrieve will quit at some point when they get stressed enough or distracted enough.

I'm all about fun, but given the cost of entry fees, travel, lodging and food, you want to make sure that your dog doesn't decide part way through your test that.... "You know, I'm not having fun anymore, I don't think I want to do this."
 

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I do know people putting master hunter titles on their dogs who DO NOT use a forced retrieve, but only two. Obedience is a differnt story, I only know about 4 people who work the retrieve in obedience these days who is not clicker training it. Howie to this day tucks his tail if he see's the dumbell though he WILL retrieve it if he I make him. It isn't happy thing, he does it slowly and you can tell he'd rather not. Ears and tail down the whole time, and he just looks disusted at the whole thing. I'm still working on it many years later in the hopes that he gets better and can do it in the ring. I'm about out of time though, he's a bit of a senior citizen now lol. His ears don't come back up until you put it away. Thats really sad in my opinion.
Now my experience has been very different. The retrieve was totally stressing Izze out UNTIL we went to the forced retrieve. The forced retrieve gave her the confidence to know that she can retrieve anything she is sent for. Her retrieve work is happy, snappy and she rocks it every time.

Note though.... a Tibby is NOT a Poodle. Poodles are historically gundogs who were bred to work for and with people. Tibbies are more independent dogs and they are certainly not natural retrievers. From the beginning you were fighting an uphill battle.

I personly feel that if you have to cause pain to teach your dog something that isn't going to save his life then you are abusing your dog. Plenty of people disagree, and thats ok. I am content to know MY dogs won't have to endure anything I don't approve of. A ribbon, or title, or a bunch of titles are not worth what I was asked to do to my dog or what it did to my relationship with my at the time young show champion who was taking time off to mature enough to be specialed. It brings tears to my eyes even now, 10 years later. No event is worth causing my best friends pain. :(
Using this analogy, people would never ride horses since bits and spurs and whips cause a certain amount of pain.:eek:hwell:

For me, the ear pinch was totally worth it but then I never had to do it so hard that I seriously hurt my dog. A firm squeeze seemed to do it for Izze. People should definitely try the clicker training and see if it works for them. I think Cash is going to have a hard time with clicker training though because he is such a low drive dog. Clicker training is most successful when you have a dog that readily offers up behaviors.
 

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I taught the "take it" , "hold" and "carry" as separate exercises before the ear pinch was ever introduced. The ear pinch came after Izze could put all of the above together but chose not to. The ear pinch forced Izze to take whatever she was sent for regardless of what it was. I will say again that it ultimately the forced retrieve gave her the confidence to know that she COULD take and hold a whole variety of objects.

To test this, I just handed her and told her to take a roll of tape. No problem!

Also, these skills have real world applications..... last night I was reading in bed and needed the back-scratcher. Unfortunately it was on the floor out of my reach. I was comfy and didn't want to get out of bed, so I sent Sabrina for it and she was thrilled to bring it to me (Poodles love having a job). Good girl Sabrina! Now... if I could only teach them to do the laundry.
 
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