Our friend and instructor, Åsa Jacobsson, has kindly let us use this article with her 101 tips about retrieving. Åsa does obedience and rally obedience, but the retrieving and delivery to hand training is the same so you’ll get lots of tips on how to train your dog to retrieve an object. We’ll split them into four blog posts and this is the first one. Enjoy!
If it is really difficult to teach your dog a certain behavior you at least have the advantage of getting a lot of good advice. To all this advice I have then added all the different tips and experiences that I have gathered with dogs I had before this one – so now I have a lot of tips. I have also added tips that I felt didn’t suit my dog and me and therefore the list is even longer now.
I will try to divide the list into different “categories” based on which part of the retrieving you might focus on right now. For me retrieving is a lot of different parts with a lot of variations that the dog must learn to master.
All the tips are based on my own experiences and they are absolutely not the only “truth”. Experiences with four different dogs are not very much, but it’s a start.
Taking and holding an object
I want my dog to hold the object just behind the canine teeth – if the dumb bell is placed there my dogs have held it in a very good and firm way and the risk of chewing is little. I want the dog to take the object in an enthusiastic and cheerful way both from my hand and from the ground, but at the same time, of course, without pawing it or rolling it around in her mouth. I want my dog to hold the object straight and firm.
Different ways to train the dog to take and hold an object:
- Don’t use a cue in the beginning. Showing your dog an object is in itself a cue. When the dog holds the object the way you want, you can use the cue and also train the dog to wait for the cue.
- Let the dummy move away from the dog and shape the dog “to stop” the dummy with her teeth. Shape taking an object from the ground separately by holding the dummy further and further down.
- Start with something completely different than a dummy. Valle started with chewing bones.
- Play tug of war with the object/the dummy.
- Compete with the dog – you can both race to the object. The fastest wins. Play like crazy with the object when/if you win. After racing a few times, try to “cheat” at the start by pushing the dog to the side.
- Let your dog compete with another dog, if your dog doesn’t get the object the other dog will. Let your dog watch the other dog when she plays with the object.
- Start with the favorite toy/a tidbit and say, “ready – steady – your cue” and let the dog win in the beginning. If the dog has to wait she will react quicker. Use objects that are not that interesting to the dog when she has understood what she is supposed to do.
- Use an external reward on the ground. “Take it” = the dog can take the reward (thus releasing the object).
- Have the reward visible in one hand and the dummy in the other. “Take it” = the dog can take the reward from your hand (thus releasing the object).
- Put the dummy on the couch while watching TV and have a bowl of dog treats on the table. Let the dog think about it and do nothing. Shape.
- Encourage the dog every time she takes an object, even if it happens to be things that are forbidden, and switch over to a treat/a toy. This is also a good exercise because the dog will want to switch things instead of running away with objects or maybe swallow them.
- If the dog doesn’t take the object that you show her, give the reward to your other dog, your friend’s dog, or eat it yourself. This requires that you have trained the exercise with the dog for a while.
- Your dog and you can both take the object at the same time, so you can get an idea about the way your dog holds the object.
- Let the dog take a few steps before she takes the object.
- Shape the dog so that she really puts her weight backwards when she takes and holds the object.
- Let the dog jump up and take the object.
- Do the following exercise: throw a toy, click and reward immediately when the dog takes the object.
- Place the dummy next to a wall to avoid the dog pawing the dummy.
- Teach the dog to take the dummy on the way back to avoid the dog pawing the dummy.
- Let the dog have a hard time getting the dummy – put it in a woodpile, bury it in the sand, or something like that. Encourage the dog to find it.
- Tie a rope around the dummy and move it around.
- Try with a large, rather soft “rabbit dummy” so that the dog holds it firmly (otherwise the dog might lose the object).
- The object should always move AWAY from the dog or be motionless. It’s not fun to get something shoved down your throat.
- Play the switching game with your dog. Start with toys that look the same, then different toys, and then with a toy and a dummy.
- Cover the dummy with fur.
- Put the dummy on the hat rack, let your dog take the object before you take walk and when you come back home again.
- Put the dummy next to the sink and let your dog take it before she gets her food.
- The dummy is your “pet” – cuddle with it and talk to it to increase the dog’s interest for it. Give the dummy a feeling of being mysterious.
- Surprise your dog with a jackpot reward now and then.
- Go often back to exercises, where the dog has to take an object, even after you have reached further in your training just to maintain the dog’s desire to take objects.
Siv Svendsen introduces the switch game to Valle and me. Valle is certainly not in the mood! Listen to Siv – she is wise (unfortunately the video is in Norwegian, but hopefully you can get the hang of it anyway).
And we’re working on it! We are doing some exercises where the dog takes the object and we mix them with getting into position by your left side. We still use only toys.
… and here we have introduced an object that looks like a dummy.
Good luck with your training! We’ll be back with the remaining three blog posts soon.