Dog Only Retrieves Birds

A5 Sweet 16

This question was posed in a facebook group I'm part of. I've been very, VERY surprised by the answers. Here's my version of the question:
Your bird dog (a hunter only - no competitions) retrieves birds to hand flawlessly 100% of the time.
But he refuses to retrieve dummies, sticks, tennis balls, frisbees, or anything else on command.
Are you OK with that? Why or why not?
Remember, he retrieves (& will continue to retrieve) birds 100% of the time.


Active member
I had a male Brittany that was like that. One of the best bird retrievers I ever had but he had no interest in dummies, balls or anything else. Heck, that was just fine with me. I had him as a bird dog, not as a dog to retrieve non-bird items.

Matt D

Wouldn’t bother me a bit. His job is to bring back birds. Everything else is just for fun IMO.


Active member
More than OK, that's perfect. I don't need sticks, tennis balls, or socks... My last couple dogs have been great bird retrievers, but wouldn't chase a tennis ball more than 2 steps. Priorities.


Not ok, your dog doesn't get to "choose" what and when it will retrieve/hold and what/when it won't. This is why you force fetch/collar condition in the course of it's training program. Changes retrieving from a game it does when and how it wants into a task to be done properly on command.
Not ok, your dog doesn't get to "choose" what and when it will retrieve/hold and what/when it won't. This is why you force fetch/collar condition in the course of it's training program. Changes retrieving from a game it does when and how it wants into a task to be done properly on command.
To each their own and if that is what ye expectations are, so be it. I am with Lab's school o' thought on the matter. Me retrievers and the client dogs I work with are HOLD and FORCE FETCH conditioned. As part o' the entire process, the retrieve upon command is taught and further conditioned as a matter o' compulsion and is generalized to include many items upon command. A well trained retriever is trained to retrieve upon command and only when sent by his / her owner handler. T'is meself that decides when the dog is sent upon retrieve, I don't let the retriever make that decision on their own. That same principal applies to any other item I decide to send the retriever to make retrieve on, if I send him on it, he must and will retrieve it as commanded to. T'is not a request, t'is a command. I am the owner/ trainer/handler, and so the decision is me own, NOT the dogs. To let one's dog make those decisions is to allow them to be an "independent contractor" o' sorts, that usually results from the handler / trainer not providing the leadership that K9's require. T'is a matter o' lead or be led. If ye don't lead ye dog, the time will come when ye dog wants to lead ye. The dogs I work with are part of a tightly bonded team, a relationship built upon total trust. I give me dogs solid training focused on building success and to achieving a clearly defined standard. In turn, the dogs I work with have a clear understanding of the expectations of what each command I issue to them means. if I send them to make a retrieve of any object, they will in fact retrieve it without question as a matter of their training or conditioning process. The result ? A retriever of unquestionable dependability👍. I have included herein a few photographic examples o' me retrievers un questioning willingness to retrieve as commanded to.

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This is totally unacceptable, I have much higher expectations for my dogs.
PS have you ever dropped your car keys, hand towel, ball peen hammer, or a 6pack??? My dogs will pick them up on command and place in my hand. Also when they are done eating they pick up there bowl and hand them to me. When I was a kid my parents expected me to clear the table after supper. I expect my dogs to do the same, and they love it.


New member
Knew a guy who tied a towel on the handle to his refrigerator. His dog would open the fridge, grab a beer, shut the door and bring the beer to wherever he was. I personally saw this in action while the guy was mowing his yard...he refused to sell me the dog.


Long time ago I was given a show line Labrador that had grown too big for the show standards. Too tall, too heavy. He had been hunted by his previous owner who could no longer keep him. I was told he was a pointing lab with a great nose.

I took him rather than see him go to the pound. I soon found out he would not retrieve a dummy. He just ignored it. It was hunting season and I was going to take him the pound myself. My brother convinced me to take him hunting at least one time. I did.

Went to NE, a private piece with great cover. Short story: He did have an INCREDIBLE nose. He pointed so many pheasant I lost count. He retrieved to heel and hand flawlessly. Except a couple of times he paused in mid-retrieve to point another bird with one in his mouth. He trailed a cripple a young boy shot about 400 yards through a CRP patch and brought it to hand. At the end of the day, my brother offered to take the dog if I still didn't want him.

One of the best pointing/retrieving Labs I ever had the pleasure to own. Great family dog; happy all the time. Wife, kids and I just loved him. Never would work dummies. He did bring my hunting wallet out of a field with him after I had dropped it without knowing it. Very sad day for all of us when he died.

Yeah, I know. He was an imperfect Lab. Yeah, I know...trainer/collar/whatever.

That dog was an incredible pheasant and duck dog. So glad he shared his life with me.