Figured some may appreciate a diary of sorts of the progress of this process. Kilian is a 8 month old GSP. Understands all fundamental obediance commands and for the most part demonstrates obediance nicely. Distractions still come into play but he is a quick study and eager learner. Goal is to hope he has the process down very good for both water and land retrieves by early Junes (5 months).
Session 1: Placed Kilian on the training table a few times to allow him to become comfortable with the table to some extent. Chowed a treat or two and was given lots of love up on the table. Later we spent 5 minutes working the hold command. Kilian has a high pain treshhold and a earpinch did little at this point. To avoid additional not needed stress a Muzzle grip was used to push his teeth against his gums to have him open his muzzle instead( worked nicely). Wood dowel placed in and "hold" commanded. Fortunately he already understands "drop" as we use it in the house when he picks things up (shoes, etc). All and all he held the dowel 3 times with a firm hold before being let off the table. Minimum progress but a great start. Hold will be worked 1-2 times daily for 5-10 minutes until he demonstrates 100% compliance. We will then begin back to the earpinch and "fetch". I suspect a week or so.
Had a little mishap and did not get pictures from session 2. Reality of training, setbacks!
Session Two: Well this session started off with a "bang". Kilian was up on the training table. While i was on the other side of the room obtaining something he was moving around. I commanded him to sit, not paying enough attention he sat and fell straight backwards off the table, "smack, crack" on the cement floor. I thought he cracked his head open and broke his hip. Scared the life out of me. So we just played for a bit and he walked off the limp and all was fine in about an hour. Once back at it we worked "hold" for a minimal 5 minutes. He holds and will let go nicely but has no desire to open his mouth yet. Progress and pictures from session 3. Plan to do two sessions today and tomorrow.
Session Three and Four: Kilian began to hold the dowel in session three with added confidence. He was allowed to drop the dowel on purpose to allow for a "tap" correction on his muzzle. With him being allowed to drop this added responsibility on his part. due to correcton After several mild "tap" corrections on the muzzle he seems more focused to not drop the dowel. Session four progressed nicely with the addition of having him walk forward a step or two at a time without a drop; no commands like heal or such, just a tug on the collar to have him complete another task while not opening his mouth. Several mild corrections the first few attempts. By attempt 4 or 5 he was holding good. We will work this level of responsibility for a few days before moving on.
Session Five and Six: Kilian is now providing less resistance to having his mouth pried open to place the dowel in. Still very hesitant to opne his mouth at the sight of the dowel or the command "fetch". Once in his mouth he will hold the dowel (while sitting) for over 30 seconds without a drop. I have been giving him massive massive amounts of praise. Though a bullheaded dog he seems to thrive off praise vs discipline. Plan is to work the hold, drop combination from the sit position for 3 more days minimum (5-6 sessions) before moving on to walking and running with the dowel in his mouth.
Sessions 7 through 10: Each of these sessions were 5-10 minutes long. Kilian is now holding the dowel in his mouth for 60 seconds with only a soft "hold" command at the 30 second point. Though he is still holding his mouth shut quite firm he does not hardmouth the dowel and his drop is crisp. Tomorrow we will begin to move around with the dowel in his mouth.
Session 11: Today Kilian progressed from a sit or standing hold to walking at heal with the dowel in his mouth. Two more sessions of walking at a close heal and we will progress outdoors to running and more distractions. When this is complete we will move to the forced retrieve.
Session 14: Session 12 and 13 were more work on the hold with distractiong added. Tossed a wing around, a dog treat etc to entice a drop. All was good and the dog was compliant with the hold and drop on command. So now came the phase that the grap is being taught. This is the tough part for the handler and for the dogs ear. Kilian was very reluctant to open his mouth with the pinch. In fact he would not get verbal even with very excessive pressure. Ultimately i backed off the pressure some and just held constant until he did open enough for me to slip the dowel in. After two of these he was much more compliant and let me work a good 20-25 reps of "fetch, hold, drop". We only worked for a little over 5 minutes this first time.
Session 15: Kilian will now quickly open on the command and the pinch. He has even begun to move his head forward to try and grab the dowel after about 10 reps.
Sessions 16 and 17: Kilian now moves his head forward 4-6" to grab the dowel. He is eager to beat the pinch and attempts to grab the dowel even before i command fetch.
Sessions18-20: Kilian is now fully understanding he must have the dowel in his mouth to not be pinched. I have been holding the dowel high, low, to the side and 4" all the way to arms length and he will grab it on "fetch"
Sessions 20-23: Kilian is now fetching the dowel off the ground with my hand lightly supporting one end up.
Session 24: Kilian is a bit hesitant to grab the dowel with my hand completely off the dowel. Took us a good few reps for him to grasp the idea. I have now added blocks to the end of the dowel of different sizes and shapes and color. The next few sessions will be for Kilian to begin to generalize that "fetch" means he must pick-up other objects not just the dowel we began working with. When he has that down we will begin the retrieve.
Sessions 25-27: Worked with my hand off the dowel, but near it. Each session i worked to moving my hand farther away from the dowel. By the start of session 27 Kilian understood what was expected of him.
Session 28: Reinforced the fetch command with my hand off the dowel. I placed the dowel in different places, turned at different angles etc. Complete compliance with little ear pinch needed.
Session 29-30: Began to work the fetch of other objects. Started with the wood dowel with blocks added to the end.
Session 31: Worked the wooden dowel with and without the blocks on end. Progressed to a orange bumper, white bumper and a cloth bumper with wing tied to it. Kilian will now fetch these from across the room in the house. After each fetch he is still expected to heal next to me, sit and then release on command. Less and less ear pinch required with each session.
Session 31-33: Continued work with other objects, pop bottle, wood block, old bumpers, plastic pipe, etc.
Sessions 34-40: Worked with Kilian to pick up the objects and now return to the deliver position. For me this is my left side. He formed the habit of coming around my right side and then standing at my left. I command a sit and he will sit. By session 38 he has begun to sit on his own without the command.
Sessions 41-45: Worked the entire process with Kilian and a Check Cord. He still requires a ear pinch from time to time as he approaches the object but is hesitant to pick up.
Session 46: Condition from ear pinch to E-Collar for correction. In this one Session Kilian formed an understanding of change and what is expected.
Session 47: The transition to EC has done wonders! The correction is quick and quick and Kilian is now bolting full blast to the object!! We continue to work on him ending in a sit.
Session 48-50: FF COMPLETE!!! Kilian understands the entire process now!!!!! He will retrieve all sorts of objects in the house and out front!!! Correction is still needed from time to time. From here out I will transition to frozen birds and more reps in different locations with added distractions a bit at a time. Reps, reps reps to get him fully compliant in all instances!!!!
Feb 13-15: Sessions 51-55: We have been working outside in different locations; yard, field, flooded area, woods. Also longer trials. Ive tossed the items a good 20+ yards with good results.