The sharp-eyed have noticed that we’ve had many posts about retrievals. It’s to meet the demand, you could say. 😉 As we’ve mentioned before, many people struggle with their delivery to hand, and it’s so UNNECESSARY.
There are also many different challenges. One of the toughest might be dealing with a dog that has a strong resource guarding instinct. These are the dogs that, for example, growl when you approach them with something valuable or employ a wilder approach to keeping the item, playing a crazy game while carefully avoiding getting close to you as the handler… Maybe two extremes, but then there’s a whole variety of “I want this thing all to myself” behaviors.
The problem that often arises with these dogs is that we, as handlers, also really want the item – so the dog’s fear is confirmed, and it becomes even less willing to come to you with the treasure. Often, we also have very inadequate rewards. We think that sausage and the dog’s regular food should be enough. NEVER, says the dog. 😉
Both Elsa and I (Lena) have had dogs that wanted to keep things to themselves. We’ve experienced the full range, from growling to a dog that subtly tilts its head during the retrieval, showing a tiny bit of hesitation. And of course, we’ve had many, many MANY students who have had retrieval challenges. That’s why the chapter on PLAY (with objects) and DELIVERY TO HAND in Retrieving for All Occasions are so thick. 😉
So here come two tips for the really tough cases. 🙂
The first one is Elsa’s Golden Retriever, Seeker, who had a massive resource guarding issue. Here, you can read about and watch a video of how she worked in all sorts of situations, and she really WORKED hard, and YES, it was actually possible to improve over time. 🙂 I did an interview with Elsa about how she worked on it, and it’s truly a valuable resource for those of you with “difficult cases,” so here you go – a favorite in replay, The Great Delivery Challenge:
Our second tip is about one of Lena’s students (whom we’ve been given permission to share), a lovely hunting Cocker Spaniel who hardly ever accidentally brought items back and always ran off with them. We’ve also written about this dog in Retrieving for All Occasions because he’s a great example of how you can COMBINE various gundog skills and then spice them up with insanely good rewards – and Voila! you have a solution. The handler has excellent training skills and is a very experienced dog trainer but was working with her first Cocker Spaniel. At home, there was also a little girl, and she had been chasing after the little Cocker very agitated when he took her things. So, you could say that running in the opposite direction was learned behavior. 😉
The handler taught a very good hand target that the dog loved running to (without an item). She also taught him to love the placeboard, and he had good stability on the placeboard and a strong recall (without an object). In the video, the handler has moose steak as a reward – and it’s the first time we’ve combined the hand target with the placeboard.
The placeboard as an aid for delivery to hand is truly underrated! If you teach your dog to love the placeboard, it seems like the dog forgets it has an item in its mouth that it wants to keep because it must perform its fun task of jumping onto the placeboard. It adds a bit more control and focus to the dog.
This is what the breakthrough looked like for lovely Bille and his handler. In 20 minutes, we got this far, from him constantly pulling in the opposite direction with no intention of coming back:
If you’ve solved a “difficult case” with delivery to hand in a different way, please feel free to share it with us in the comments. 🙂
For those of you who want training help, we’re here for you, of course. <3 You can book an online lesson with Lena or an online lesson with Elsa if we’re far from you. Or, of course, take our online course on delivery to hand.