A dog that won't drop the bird

Bob Peters

Well-known member
My main hunting buddy is a field bred golden. She never went through formal training although she hunts well and I am very happy with her. The one problem I have is that she won't drop the pheasant when we get one. The last one I got we got into a little tug of war and that ain't good. In general she is soft mouthed, but just won't drop the bird. I realize it's my fault for not figuring this out ahead of time and for trying to pull the rooster away from her. Are there any positive reinforcement tips to get her to drop it? I know it's the same way when the kids throw a tennis ball for her to retrieve. Thanks for any advice!!
 

remy3424

Well-known member
Not a dog trainer, but don't start a tug-o-war with her. Just get a finger between her gums and open her jaws. Get her on as many birds as possible, she will learn she will get more and learn she is not going to get to keep them. My neighbor has a golden, that dog loves to retreive, but I think she loves the tug-o-war just as much....gun shy, so not a field dog. The actual trainers here should provide you some good tips.
 

Gatzby

Active member
I don't know of any positive reinforcement tricks to fix you problem except maybe trade a Ribeye for the bird :). I am a firm believer in using all four quadrants of operant conditioning and could likely resolve the issue rather easily but not just with positive reinforcement.
Either way don't play tug of war because that's just what the dog wants.
 

G-Texan

Member
Two options that work. First, pinch her flank, she will react and release the bird. Second, never pull or pry a bird from a dogs mouth, just the opposite, gently shove it into their throat and the dog will release.
 
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A5 Sweet 16

Well-known member
Been there. That's frustrating. I agree w/ no tug-o-war. It's so easy to get furious when these things happen. But in my opinion, you can't. She's found the bird & brought it to you, exactly as you wish. Don't want to accidentally make that seem like a bad thing to her.

I'm guessing you've already commanded "drop" or "give" or whatever a couple/few times & it just isn't happening. STOP commanding as soon as it doesn't immediately happen!! Then what I've done is wrap my fingers up around the lower jaw & squeeze the lower gums down onto his sharp teeth until he drops the bird/object, commanding "drop" once more AT THE POINT HE RELEASES THE OBJECT. THEN heavy praise. That has worked for me. Good luck.
 
Im there with my golden right now. To hell with positive reinforcement for every situation. I roughly demand she release the bird or whatever she is carrying that I want if she trys otherwise. She has fetched two birds so far and I wont put up with her trying to keep them. I worked with her on it with frozen pigeons as well. She is not yet cured but at 10 months I am not worried that it will be a long term problem. She is thick headed and positive reinforcement just doesnt get it done in every situation. Now if I could just get her to stop eating feathers.....
 

Labs

Active member
Two words:. Force Fetch...
 
force fetch..... but wait until after the season or end your season now... It's been recommended to not do any hunting while going through the 3 to 4 weeks of force fetching..
 

Munster927

Well-known member
Have you ever tried clicker training? That's how I trained my young dog on everything and she releases the bird every time. Of course it was a slow build up to where she is now so it's hard to jump into it when your dogs older. But you could try the following:

At home use a dummy or whatever your dog will pick up when you toss it. Once they bring it back make them give it up (using your command, give, out, release, whatever you use) even if you have to force it out by opening their mouth. Once they give it up, click on the clicker and give them a treat. Repeat this successfully about 5 times at first then stop for the day or come back to it much later in the day. (Such as train early in the day and again late in the day if you want, but just give them time to think about what the hell you're trying to teach them) Try and end your training sessions on a successful attempt every time if possible.

Do the same thing the next day, but trying to get the amount of successful attempts to 10 or so.

Repeat again the next day, but being more forceful in demanding they perform the action without you intervening. Not physically demanding (since this is positive reinforcement) but don't grab it from them, try and get them to give on their own because they should start to figure out what your command means.

Slowly build up in that fashion until you stop with the clicker altogether, and you're just repeating the command and giving them a treat. After that's successful a few days go to just a giving a command and no treat.

It also helps to have high quality treats when doing positive reinforcement. I used chunks of hot dogs instead of just regular dog treats she gets just because. Your dog will figure out you got something they REALLY want and will try and do what you want so they can have it.

If the above is successful, transition the training to different objects, other items they'll pick up or if they'll fetch anything you tell them to, use odd objects. When I trained my dog in fetch I knew she was ready to transition what she learned to dead birds when I could throw empty water bottles, pop cans, just about anything I said and she'd do what I asked.

Then transition to dead birds.

Hopefully my little book will help should you decide to give that method a go.
 

jonnyB

Well-known member
Golden's are showoffs and very possessive.

When mine decides to prance around and display his find, one word is given - DROP. If he decides to continue this antic, he gets the juice. This works.
 

gimruis

Well-known member
Bob, are you hunting with other dogs? Sometimes if that's the case a dog may be more reluctant to give up their "prize" because they think the other dog will take it.
 

JMc

Super Moderator
You can do some of the above suggestions but it's just easier to carry a couple of dog treats in your pockets. When the dog comes back from retrieve, present the treat, give a drop command and after the dog releases the bird for the treat...praise, praise, praise. I've trained a zillion GSP, never force fetched one.
 

goldenboy

Well-known member
She is bred to retrieve, now she needs to learn to release. force fetch or collar conditioning is the answer. They will always pick something up and bring it to you the issue is with obedience. That starts in the yard. Lots of good advise here, I suggest you sit with someone who has trained dogs before and can help with specifics with your dog. Each on is different!
 

Kismet

UPH Guru
Bob? Might just try what I think of as "kitchen training."
I confine the dog, with short leash attached, to kitchen and take out some fetchable thing...toy, old winter sock tied in knots, etc. I sit on the floor.
Then we play fetch, but not tug-of-war. Lavish praise, congratulations each and every time. Inevitably, the pup tired of it and doesn't follow through, and then I just get a hold of the leash and tug it back, take the sock and tease the pup briefly and toss it out. Wash rinse and repeat. Great praise.
Throughout the day, I do the same with other stuff, stocking cap I might be wearing, glove, dropped pen--whatever. Same deal lotta praise, minimal criticism.
The sessions are short and always fun for the pup. Later, I introduce a pheasant wing and go through the same routine. With Mick, added a frozen quail because he seemed to be mouthing and almost chewing on a pheasant wing. In this instance, I just raised my voice and firmly said, "NO."
Then we'd continue. That poor quail got refrozen many times, but served valiantly.

Worked out, although throughout most of his 11 years with me, Mick would make fantastic retrieves, and then put the bird down 6-15 feet away from me, and then come back to me. Usually took about 3 encouragements for him to (grudgingly) bring the bird all the way. I didn't make a fuss, just accepted his token reluctance as part of our ritual. Then again, I mostly hunt alone.

Others here are wiser and more professional than I, but kitchen training works.

Be safe.
 

Munster927

Well-known member
Bob? Might just try what I think of as "kitchen training."
I confine the dog, with short leash attached, to kitchen and take out some fetchable thing...toy, old winter sock tied in knots, etc. I sit on the floor.
Then we play fetch, but not tug-of-war. Lavish praise, congratulations each and every time. Inevitably, the pup tired of it and doesn't follow through, and then I just get a hold of the leash and tug it back, take the sock and tease the pup briefly and toss it out. Wash rinse and repeat. Great praise.
Throughout the day, I do the same with other stuff, stocking cap I might be wearing, glove, dropped pen--whatever. Same deal lotta praise, minimal criticism.
The sessions are short and always fun for the pup. Later, I introduce a pheasant wing and go through the same routine. With Mick, added a frozen quail because he seemed to be mouthing and almost chewing on a pheasant wing. In this instance, I just raised my voice and firmly said, "NO."
Then we'd continue. That poor quail got refrozen many times, but served valiantly.

Worked out, although throughout most of his 11 years with me, Mick would make fantastic retrieves, and then put the bird down 6-15 feet away from me, and then come back to me. Usually took about 3 encouragements for him to (grudgingly) bring the bird all the way. I didn't make a fuss, just accepted his token reluctance as part of our ritual. Then again, I mostly hunt alone.

Others here are wiser and more professional than I, but kitchen training works.

Be safe.
I agree with your "kitchen training" method. I do the same with mine just wherever we are and whatever drops or I toss just to drive home that the command means anywhere. She's getting there. Im having the same problem with mine bringing it back all the way. About 5 feet is where she's getting 30% of the time. Others she brings it to hand. Next summer there's gonna be alot of work done to clean that up. I'm ecstatic with where she's at because my 9 year old won't pick up a bird period. She'll find me the damn bird but won't pick it up. So having a dog that brings it to me most of the time, I can live with for this year haha
 
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