The gloved hand, or lack thereof, is not the cause of your problem, nor is it the solution. Many, many dogs with great mouths have been force fetched without it.
I watched Mike Lardy take a dog with mouthing issues and work him on walking fetch with very soft 3" bumpers with the valves open (tried with dead birds first). Lots of heeling while dog had bumper in mouth. The softness and open valve made the bumper extremely easy to squeeze and you could hear the air rushing in and out so there was no doubt. He tried cuffing under chin, indirect pressure sit+nick, maybe a here+nick, and other things - I can't recall them all. Someone asked him if he normally did that (don't remember what "that" was-maybe the here nick) and he said, "No, I've never tried that."
You may need to try some of a variety of things to see what works. I can tell you that there is no one thing that works for all dogs. Some are mouthy wanting you to take the bird. Some have anxiety that causes the mouthing. Some are wanting to play. Some are wanting to really eat the bird and without intervention probably would eat it. I'll also say that you should seek a perfect hold, but know when to say when and accept a hold that's good enough.
Lots of good advise, I just wanted to point out that "hard mouth" and "high prey drive" have nothing to do with each other. You can have a lackadaisical hunting dog crunch birds and an over the top high drive with a very soft mouth. Back to your problem. To me it sounds like an excited young dog who hasn't figured out the work aspect of this yet. He's still halfway in play mode when he should be developing a work ethic. Tricky part is finding that balance between work and play without taking the fun out. I think you are figuring it out. Work can be fun, too. You just need to make the structure very clear when you're working your hold high standards vs throwing some fun bumpers to blow off steam. Don't mix the two.
I also have a high drive BLM that is now 19 months old, I have the same kind of problem with mouthing bumpers, not bringing bird back all the way and mouthing it when he does bring it back. I work on hold every day with him, but he just wants to squeeze everything. The training I do during summer is 3 times as hard as the actual hunt test and we've failed the last 3 started hunt tests because he dropped the bird at the edge of water and tried to drown it. We did FF, but I could not get him past the point of walk and hold. He would hold great, but would not walk and hold. I sent him to a guy that had FF'd before the guy I got him from and he couldn't get past that point either. Wonderful dog, very athletic, would be winning me ribbons if I could get past this bird issue. I'm going to go back and try FF again in December probably. I don't have $ to send him off to Professional trainer. This dog has champion bloodlines and I just can't get past the mouthing issue.
As you’re training your dog, there two very basic things you always have to keep in mind. The “what” and the “where”.
First – WHAT are we trying to train?
We have two basic types of behavior. I call them “simple” and “complex”.
Sitting is a good example of a “simple” behavior:
A finished retrieve is a “complex” behavior:
1. Heel to position
2. Sit/stay/wait your turn
3. Mark the fall
4. Go away
5. Hunt for the bird
6. Bird in mouth
7. Return to handler
8. Get to heel position note: 1-10 are very good with bumpers/Dokkens
9. Sit 6-10 are not with ducks
10. Deliver to hand
A complex behavior is a chain of simple behaviors. Each simple behavior can be viewed as a link in the chain. Each link needs to be solid for the chain to hold together under stress. We train each simple behavior separately and then build the chain when the dog is ready. You can’t build a strong chain without solid links.
When we pull on a chain to the point of breaking, we find the “weakest link”. Once that link is identified we can work on strengthening that simple behavior for better overall performance. Training is the process whereby we create links and put them together into chains. Trials/tests/hunting are places we pull on those chains and see if they hold up or break. Sometimes, training groups can be like trials/tests/hunting to our dogs. Even though we are training in those environments, the chain and its individual links are strengthened away from that environment. This is what is commonly referred to as “yard work” vs. “field work”.
One of the biggest “stress factors” on our chain is the environment we are working in at any given moment. We must keep this in mind as we advance our dogs toward competition.
The second thing must always considered is – WHERE are we trying to train?
As you have probably seen, your dog performs much better in a quiet environment where there are few, if any distractions. It’s easy for him to pay attention to you there. As the noise in the environment increases his performance likely weakens. Generally, more noise = less attention to handler/task = less performance. This is the “stress” on the chain.
Think about reading a book or this paper. It is much easier to focus on the information in quiet space than it would be if you were in the middle of a rock concert. The noise in the concert hall is very distracting and would make it difficult for you to concentrate. This is what happens to your dog when you take him out into the field.
With enough training/muscle memory, you could learn to block the noises out and concentrate on your work, The same goes for your dog. The more practice he has the better his focus is going to be. The more he understands how to get rewarded, the more motivated he will be for the task at hand. Keeping things simple and success rates high in early training will go a long way to helping with this.
Rating various places from quiet (low distraction) to noisy (high distraction) might look something like this:
1. 1:1with handler inside the house – very quiet
we are here with ducks (high impedance (not good) - doing sit, fetch, hold & out
note: Gigi is working in the field with bumpers - wagon wheel, initial 3HC,
beginning ladder pile work (six bumpers), "stand alone/send back"
singles in Y-Drills (bumpers/Dokkens) and has run simple triples
2. 1:1 with handler in the garden/pasture - yes
3. 1:1 with handler at the park - yes
4. 1:1 with handler in the town center - no
5. 1:1 with handler in the field - yes
6. Many dogs/handlers in the field – very noisy no
Taking these two concepts together, it could be said that:
“Training complex behavior in a noisy environment requires us to first teach our dog to perform simple behaviors in a quiet environment”.
A finished retrieve in the hunt field is a very complex behavior, performed in the noisiest environment possible for your dog. It’s like you trying to study for a math test in a concert hall.
So, we start with baby steps like retrieving to hand in the hallway, sitting before eating, coming in from the garden and heeling in proper position on lead. We take each of these baby steps and put them together. Our dog begins to walk. We teach our dog to walk in the living room before we ask them to go for a stroll in the park.
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Gigi's Retrieving Perspective
Mouth Issues - The Search - Retriever Training Forum