The photos tell the tale: An example of why we teach our Vizslas to retrieve to hand

Vizsla Kosmo Demonstrates a Perfect "Retrieve to Hand"

This is a brief entry.  Primarily, because the photos below tell the story pretty well on their own.  These photos are perfect examples of why we teach our Vizslas to retrieve to hand.  And, why we put the extra work into proofing their retrieves.  The photos illustrate exactly what can and does happen when testing/trialing at the advanced levels (AKC Master Hunter and Gun Dog Stakes).  We’ve seen this very situation happen during tests/trials and because the dog under judgment hasn’t been taught to hold the bird until the release command has been given, the dog can’t receive a qualifying score.  Another common situation is when the handler does give the dog the release command but then fumbles the bird (as pictured below) and the bird lands on the ground…at the handler’s feet.  The requirements of a retrieve in a Gun Dog stake are the same as those in an AKC Master level hunting test: “After the shot, the handler shall not command or signal the dog to retrieve until the dog’s steadiness to wing and shot has been positively demonstrated. The dog must retrieve promptly, tenderly and absolutely to hand in all retrieving stakes.”  (For the AKC’s “official” description of field trials and hunting tests go to their website and download the Field Trial Rules and Standard Procedure for Pointing Breeds Booklet and the Regulations for AKC Hunting Tests for Pointing Breeds.)

The first photo shows Amante (CH Boulder’s Bolder Amante SH – who is now testing for her Master Hunter title and competing in Gun Dog Stakes) releasing the dummy on Aaron’s command.  It’s possible Aaron gave the release command too soon and so the dummy fell to the ground instead of into Aaron’s outstretched hand.  Not pictured is what happened next.  Aaron stood back up and asked Amante to fetch the dummy lying at his feet.  Sure, he could have easily bent down and picked it up.  After all, it  was his mistake–not Amante’s, right?  Perhaps.  We would need an audio recording to go along with the photo.  It’s also possible Amante was anticipating the release command and tried to be one step ahead, releasing the dummy just before Aaron actually gave the command.  She can be such an overachiever!  ;-)  It would have been a big no-no in retrieve training, had Aaron picked up the dummy.  By doing so, he would have taught Amante that he (or any other person she retrieves to) would pick up an object that didn’t make it “absolutely to hand”.  Instead, by asking Amante to retrieve the dummy, he could reinforce the “fetch “command (meaning fetch can be “pick it up right there at my feet” or “go out 100 yards and pick it up”) as well as the “hold” command (meaning do not release the object until the release command is given).

Amante happily picked up the dummy lying at Aaron’s feet (because her retrieve training has been proofed for this and many other scenarios) and held it until Aaron gave her the release command.  This time, he was careful to collect the dummy she was so nicely holding and she was careful to hold the dummy until she was sure Aaron had a good handle on it.  :-)

The second picture shows both Aaron and Kosmo (CH Derby’s Read Em And Weep MH) getting it right.  See how Aaron has a good hold on the dummy and Kosmo’s mouth is still firmly on the dummy?  Kosmo isn’t “hard-mouthing” the object nor does he have a death grip on it.  He’s just holding it firmly and nicely so as to make sure it’s placed exactly where it belongs–“absolutely to hand.”  :-)

Vizsla Amante tries to retrieve a dummy to hand...but misses the mark.  :-/

Vizsla Amante tries to retrieve a dummy to hand...but misses the mark. :-/

Vizsla Kosmo retrieves the dummy to hand

Vizsla Kosmo retrieves the dummy "absolutely to hand" (as a finished gun dog should).

Written by Mel Reveles and Aaron Davis of  All content is original with the exception of key words/phrases as quoted from the AKC’s Field Trial Rules and Standard Procedure for Pointing Breeds. 

 Note from the authors: We understand the use of “who” in reference to a dog is grammatically incorrect but we’re  just not able to refer to dogs, our beloved companions” as “things”.  :-)

We are proud to be founding members of the Rocky Mountain Vizsla Club–”The Specialty Vizsla Club of Colorado”, and members of the Vizsla Club of America. We are also members of the American Kennel Club’s Breeder of Merit Program.

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