My dog switches dummies, how do I teach him not to?

A while ago I got a question about how I teach the dog not to switch one dummy for another when retrieving, and I decided to share some of the answers with you.

I train delivery to hand, delivery to hand, and some more delivery to hand, so that the first thing the dog does when it has something in its mouth, is running straight to me. I start with the dog close to me by letting the dog grab the dummy (or toy) from my hand, then I back away from the dog and reward it when it instantly turns and comes to me.

Then I add distractions. For instance; someone says “Hello”, another dummy is laying on the ground, or other dogs are nearby. I reward the dog for ignoring the distractions and choosing me instead. Should the dog fail, I remove the distraction before the dog reaches it (or better yet, have an assistant who does it for me) and try again.

When it works well with distractions at close range, I increase the distance a bit, starting over by adding distractions as before. For instance, I could place a distraction dummy slightly askew to the right of me and throw the dummy I want the dog to retrieve to the left (just a couple of feet the first few times). When retrieving, the dog will almost pass the distraction dummy on the way back. I then move the distraction dummy closer and closer to the dog’s path so that it eventually runs right over it, but because I taught it to run straight to me to get the reward, it will ignore the distraction dummy and come to me instead. Great, don´t you think?!

In other words, I build a lot of value into coming to me with things and I reward it immensely! Sausage, soft cheese, balls, tug of war… you name it. Anything the dog really enjoys, so that it learns that it pays off to come to me with whatever it’s got in its mouth.

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