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The switching game is one of our favorite games. We use it to train everything from taking and holding to the full retrieve. Sometimes it can be a bit difficult to show and explain the game – particularly when we don’t have our own dogs with us – so when we were presenting at Clicker Expo in Denmark last fall, we tried something that worked out really well. We simply showed the whole game with a ”human dog” instead, and in that way we could show precisely the parts that we wanted.

The first thing you need is a dog that is happy to play tug with you. When this is established, you bring out two identical toys, preferably fluffy and nice to hold on to, and begin playing with the dog. You then:

  1. Teach the dog to voluntarily switch between the two toys – and to always play with the toy that you’re playing with
  2. Add the cue AS the dog switches toys
  3. Give the cue just before the dog switches toys
  4. Only let the dog switch toys if you have given the cue (otherwise, hide the toy that the dog wasn’t supposed to switch to and keep playing with the correct one)
  5. Put one of the toys on the ground and let the dog switch to that one (on cue). As soon as the dog takes the toy, give your switch cue
  6. Put one of the toys on the ground and let the dog switch to that one (on cue). Wait a bit longer before you give your switch cue.
  7. Put one of the toys on the ground and let the dog switch to that one (on cue). Give your switch cue when the dog has come all the way back to you – that’s a full retrieve!

As said, we really like this game and we’ve written about it before:

There are many different versions of the switching game and we’re not quite sure of its exact origin. We believe it was Maria Brandel who introduced it to Lena the first time, and we’ve then kept working on it. However, we think it’s an invaluable game, regardless of origin!


Retrieving for All Occasions - Foundations for Excellence in Gun Dog Training
Retrieving for All Occasions - Foundations for Excellence in Gun Dog Training

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