We all love to see a dog that retrieves right to hand. This puts the finishing touch on a fine retrieve.
However, many of us have dogs that do a great job finding downed birds, pick them up, and then bring them part of the way to us. This is known as a partial retrieve. I have seen hunters in the field and handlers in field trials nearly “stand on their heads” to get their dog to retrieve to hand. There are a couple of reasons dogs do not complete the retrieve to hand. One, they are anxious to find more birds. Two, and the most probable one, is that we present a wall standing in front of them as they approach. Here are a couple of tips that may be of help to you.
First, during training sessions, turn sideways when the dog approaches. This gives the dog a path past you and it encourages them to continue coming. When they arrive, command WHOA (pointers) or SIT (retrievers/flushers) and let them maintain possession of the dummy/bird for a few seconds. One of the biggest problems is hunter/handlers grabbing the bird from the dog. This creates hard mouth problems as the dog wants to maintain possession. By waiting a few seconds, you allow the dog “ownership” and eventually they will give it up willingly.
The second approach is to move backwards as the dog approaches you. You have trained your dog to come to you and it will continue coming as you are moving away. The trick is for you to move back slower than the dog is approaching. He will catch up to you and you can reach down and praise the dog lavishly while letting your dog maintain possession of the dummy/bird. Again, your dog eventually will release the bird willingly. Patience and repetition are key. See you again next month with another training tip.