Teach your dog to carry while she is young. Carrying, and retrieving do not have to be associated entirely with a dog's adult life, or with Obedience Trials. Even a young puppy can be taught to hold and carry if you place something in her mouth and encourage her with "Take it to so-and-so!" Carrying from one person to another thus becomes a game, and with it, comes a chance to show off.
These early attempts at carrying will teach your dog, with a minimum of effort, the basic steps of the RETRIEVE exercise, one of the most difficult in advanced training.
If your dog is a natural retriever, take advantage! Make a game of retrieving objects, both in the house and out-of-doors. Concentrate on getting your dog excited so she will chase things, then just before she reaches the object, give the retrieve command ONCE. While she is picking up the object, say "Good Girl!" and say it as though you meant it. Praise will encourage a dog to take things from the floor or the ground when she might otherwise refuse.
If your dog starts for an object and comes back without it, or if she doesn't start at all, run to the object, pick it up, scuff it between her paws in a teasing manner, drag it along the floor, or kick it around; then place it in her mouth (unless she reaches for it herself), and turn and run. If she follows, clap your hands, squeal with delight, but DON'T REACH FOR WHAT SHE IS HOLDING.
Let her strut around proudly, then, after a few moments, call her, quietly take the object away, and throw it again. If she won't give you the article when you say "Out!" gently loosen it from her mouth and after she lets go, tell her "Good Girl!" and pat her.
Make your dog understand that after every retrieve she must bring the article back to you. For best results, kneel when you call her and give praise in a happy, high-pitched tone. If she starts ruining around with the article, change to a demanding "COME!" (coax her to come close by tapping the floor or the ground. When she comes, pat her before you take the article so she will learn to expect a pleasant reward for delivering things.
Train your dog to retrieve playfully while on leash. This will prepare her for leash corrections, which later may be necessary. While you hold the handle of the leash, make a game of throwing objects, letting the dog run after them. When she picks them up, don't forget the praise! If she sniffs the object, then walks away, kick it around like you would a football. Kick it first away from her, then toward her paws. Talk to her at the same time in a cajoling tone of voice to give encouragement. If she still won't pick it up, hand it to her, then try again.
RETRIEVE IN PLAY lessons should be short so your dog won't get tired of the game. You fail in your objective if the dog gets bored and refuses to pick up thrown articles in play. Another thingódon't always make your dog sit after she picks up the article. The steady-ing-down process required for Obedience Trials can be applied AFTER the dog has learned to retrieve on command. For the play training, keep things exciting.
When practicing RETRIEVE IN PLAY, use an assortment of articles for your games, and among them include the dumbbell. The retrieve exercise should not be associated with any one object. It is also important that you give the retrieve command just before your dog reaches for the article and that you praise enthusiastically while she is picking it up. Afterward, quietly but firmly insist that she bring the article to you.
Things To Remember When Teaching The RETRIEVE IN PLAY
Play games every chance you have.
Use an assortment of articles, and include the dumbbell.
Practice RETRIEVE IN PLAY, both on and off leash.
Keep the retrieve command a happy one.
Give the command ONCE.
Give praise while your dog is taking the article from the floor or the ground.
Allow your dog to chase articles without waiting for them to stop rolling.
Don't insist that the dog sit every time she returns. When you take the object from your dog, never pull on it.
As the dog progresses, delay the praise until she is on her way back WITH the article.
- Train often, but keep the lessons short.