Friday, February 4, 2011

Retrieve To Hand - It's Really Only a Trick!

(You’ll need this for NEXT WEEKS Trick!) 

First off, a disclaimer.  There are MANY ways to teach a retrieve.  This is just the way that’s worked for me.  If you have a different method, WONDERFUL!!  Just make it fun for BOTH you, and the DOG!

(The video will get you started.......)

Does your dog know how to retrieve?  I’m sure the majority of you are going to say, ‘YES’.  If you were to throw a ball, Frisbee, or a toy, your dog will go get it and bring it back to you, is that a retrieve?  I think that’s GREAT, but to me, it’s not a true retrieve.

My definition of a ‘True Retrieve’ is a dog that will happily and willingly pick up anything, and deliver it to hand.  It could be a glove, spool of thread, car keys, ruler, dollar bill, ANYTHING!  Now, let me clarify here that it should be ‘safe’ for the dog to pick up.  For instance, if you drop a steak knife, it’s probably NOT a good idea to ask your dog to pick it up.  There should be some ‘common sense’ used here. 

Often time’s dogs will go and get something, because it’s moving.  It’s their natural prey drive at work.  If the object isn’t moving, there’s no reason to pick it up.  So, this is where we’re going to begin, picking up a stationary object.

You’ll need a dog, a clicker, treats, and an object to pick up.  I like to start with something soft, and smaller in size.  A couple suggestions, puppy hunting bumper, or those green Zanie moon soft dog toys, they are both a great shape!  You may need to take into account your dog’s size, and the object you are working with.  For a little dog, you may want something smaller.  It really doesn’t matter what it is, only that it’s easy to pick up. A sock tied into a knot will work too! 

I start by sitting, or kneeling on the floor.  I present the object by setting it in front of me.  Most dogs’ natural curiosity is going to cause them to head toward it.  C/T and place your reward on the object.  C/T each time your dog approaches sniffs object.  You are building interest her.  Do not give any verbal information at this point; do c/t any interest in the object.  Reward OFTEN! 

Once you’re dog is going immediately to the object and ‘nosing it’, you’re ready to get MORE!  Wait for the slightest indication that they are going to open their mouth, C/T.  You should be pretty good at watching your dog’s behavior if you’ve worked through the prior tricks.  The progression will be, mouth opening, picking up object, then to hand.  Although some dogs might move through these steps quickly, be patient. 

If your dog is tempted to grab and run away with the object, you haven’t been rewarding the dog for touching object enough.   He shouldn’t want to grab and run, he should want to stay and get rewarded.  If he does grab and run, simply ignore him and put your treats away.  When he gets bored with the object, put it away as well.  Don’t make a game out of chasing him down.  As a last resort, you can tie a line on the object, but I don’t think you should need to do this.

Once your dog is reliably bringing the object to you while sitting or kneeling, you can stand and repeat the same process.  The object is literally at your feet.  When the dog is brilliant at picking it up and bringing to your hand when you’re standing, you can “name it”.  I say ‘Fetch’, some people say ‘Take It’…you can call it what ever you’d like. 

Now, slowly start ‘placing’ (not throwing) the object a short distance away from you, maybe just a foot at first.  SLOWLY move the object out, and reward often!  I personally don’t use a ‘hold it’ command – I never have.  If the dog is dropping the object on the way back, I don’t say anything and wait for them to pick it up again and verbally praise.  For me a retrieve is held until I ask for it, so no reason to add another command.  This is totally up to you.

When the dog is able to retrieve a stationary object 15’ away, you can throw it.  Begin with a toss 1’ away, then 6’, then 1’, then 10’, etc.  This way, the dog understands that you don’t need to throw something ‘Chuck-It’ distance in order for them to retrieve it. 

Then move to more complicated objects of different shapes, sizes, or weights.  You can start back at square one at first.  You’ll be amazed how quickly they catch on. 

This is such a handy ‘trick’ for your dog to learn!  Soon they can be transporting objects back and forth between people.  Last night, Mad took our Garmin, named “Sybil” to Bill.  Mad, ‘fetch’, then, go to Poppa.  Why would I want to walk 15’ if I didn’t have to!! 


Would it be quicker to just grab that ear and give it PINCH!!  OUCH!  Why would you want to?  I don’t see that as fun for dog or handler.  There’s a better way!  


Have fun!

It’s only a trick!


  1. HA HA! I'm excited to try this! I've been trying to teach retrieve FOREVER. (: Thanks!

  2. I've been going through your blog, and found this. I have huge problems with my dog not retrieving or being interested in toys, so am going to give this a go!! :)