Retrieve and Experience in the Field
I HATE THE TERM OF "FORCE BREAK TO RETRIEVE"
Actually it is the word FORCE that I don't like. I do not like to force a dog to do anything but the basics. There is a difference in force and consistence in training. Certainly you must teach the dog to Whoa and other basics; teaching is not forcing. I believe with FIELD EXPERIENCE the dog will teach itself what works and what doesn't work through trial and error on his part.
He learns from a negative response and a positive response from you.
RETRIEVE is one problem all can avoid by beginning the first week of your pups arrival. You begin with PLAY and never quit the game.
Sit on the floor with Pup. Rub the toy around pups neck and ears (get his scent on the toy) in another form of petting Pup. Toss the ball or toy no further than you can lean over and reach for it (this is so you don't wear yourself out trying to get the point of this game across). Toss, reach, toss, and reach, talking to pup and make a great show of the process. Pup sees you and decides he wants that thing and goes for it. GREAT. Now he has to figure out that you want him to bring it back to you! That is not the easy part, because he wants it. Reach for Pup as he gets the toy, rubbing his neck and ears as you gently in the process bring Pup and the toy back to you. Praise him and pet and rub Pup. Gently regain the toy and repeat the process again. About 4 times is a good rule of thumb for most lessons.
WHEN he brings it back to you begin to introduce the word you will ultimately use in the field for a retrieved bird. Most people use the term FETCH. Term usage is not a rule that is set in concrete. Think it over. Use the word that comes most naturally to you. Why did I say to wait to begin the word command? You give the command on a correct action, not on an incorrect action. See what I mean?
Let's go back to Gently regain. There is a trick on your part to this and you will just have to get the hang of it on your own. Sure Pup wants to play 'tug of war'. Keeping the toy for himself is just part of being a pup. They do it all the time in the litter. Don't pull against the pup, which will just initiate his reflex to tug back. Gently open Pup's mouth and remove it. Reach around the muzzle from the top, slip your fingers in the back of his jaw and pry open. As I said this is a lesson for you to get the hang of.
Talk to pup as you play, making all the little baby noises you want, BUT keep commands one (1) word. Do not use that word unless it is at the appropriate time. You will get used to this part.
Why do I consider this game so important? It is really quite simple. When Pup is no longer a pup but is a working dog his main goal will be to find another bird. In fact, he had much rather find another bird than take the time to bring the downed bird back to you. If this game is instilled in Working Dog it will be an automatic response on his part to obey the command and FETCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Do you remember my saying, "I believe with FIELD EXPERIENCE the dog will teach itself what works and what doesn't work through trial and error on his part." It is very difficult to say what is the MOST important aspect of training, but I do know that without taking the pups to a wide open area as soon as control is established has to be right up at the top of all basic training requirements. Let the dog rip and romp ~ let him chase anything & everything that catches his attention. He will learn that he cannot catch the squirrel, butterfly, robin, sparrow, or grasshopper (well maybe the grasshopper, don't worry he will just eat it). Keep control over the pup but DO NOT restrict his distance OR think that he should only be after a game-bird.
An interesting note here is a teaching rule of thumb.
It is said to be a good rule that repeating each lesson 4 times in a row constitutes a session (length of attention span).
Repeat each session 4 times (BEFORE GOING ON TO ANOTHER COMMAND) to establish a learned command. In other words don't try to teach too many things to Pup at the same time.
The trick here is that each of the 4 sessions must be SUCCESSFUL to be considered a learned command.
In other words, it does not constitute a session until each of the 4 retrieves is successful. Don't stress out, after all this is a very young pup. Just be patient and keep it fun and loving.
The main reason to take the young dog out often is that he will be confident that the outings will be often and therefore he will gladly come back to you and load up in the vehicle when you say it is time to go! He will come in for the praise he has grown up with and has learned to expect!
I have to say that the saddest comments I ever get is when a guy reports that the dog pays no attention to him in the field and will not come back to him. This is not the fault of the dog but that of the handler. You owe it to the dog to make sure he has this confidence in you. This is why the Llewellin works with you and for you, not that you have to go where the dog hunts!
NEVER QUIT PLAYING THE RETRIEVE GAME WITH PUP.
AS HE GROWS TAKE THE GAME TO THE YARD.
ENTERTAIN COMPANY WITH YOUR GAMES.
THROW THE TOY INTO THE WATER.
THIS GAME BECOMES THE ACTUAL RETRIEVE OF A BIRD.