See Spot Fetch. Part II.

Variety is the Spice of Life.

Step 1. Taking A Variety of Objects

Prerequisite: A dog that will take and hold one object until commanded to release it. If you are using a food tube, the dog should be taking the tube without any food in it before you proceed.

It's quiz time. For this quiz you will need all of the retrieving articles described in the first column on retrieving. Warm the dog up with a few "takes" of the familiar retrieving object before beginning the quiz. If you have been using a food tube or dowel, begin the quiz with task #1. If you have been using a dumbbell, begin with task #2.

  1. Have the dog take a wooden dumbbell.
  2. Have the dog take the leather article.
  3. Have the dog take the glove.
  4. Have the dog take a metal article.
If your dog can successfully take all four articles, you may skip the rest of Step 1. If not (few dogs will get all four tasks right), you will need to help the dog generalize the concept of taking an object. If you have used a food tube for your initial training, you can easily bridge taking the known object with a new object -- a wooden dowel. Tape the dowel to the food tube, hold the pair so that the food tube is facing the dog. Place the new object in the dog's mouth and have the dog hold the object. If the dog will hold the new object without any fussing, ask the dog to take the tube, hold, and release it. Reward the dog. Repeat several times. Next, slice a piece of your tubing open so that it will fit over the dowel. Repeat the procedure. Now remove the tubing and work with the dowel alone. When you are successful with the dowel, substitute a dumbbell. When the dog will take the wooden dumbbell consistently, introduce to the leather object. Dogs love to chew leather, so it is important that you prevent such behavior. I would start with hold and then proceed with the take. While working with a new article, remember to continue to mix in taking the old objects. When you are successful with the leather object, introduce the glove. Before using the glove, roll it into a cloth rod and rubber band the ends. You want to teach the dog to work with this different texture without allowing the dog to shake and "kill" the glove (an apparently very rewarding behavior to dogs). After the dog learns to hold the rolled glove, open it up and repeat the procedure. When the dog can consistently perform on all the other objects, try your metal object. Some dogs will balk at holding a metal object. Be patient. When the dog will take and hold all of the articles you are ready to proceed. Want a real star? Expand your training to a dollar bill, and envelope with food in it, the newspaper, a slipper, etc.

Step 2. Moving with an Object

Prerequisite: A dog that can consistently take and hold an object.

Even though Phideaux is an expert at grabbing almost any forbidden article belonging to his master and running off to customize it, he won't be able to walk with a dumbbell in his mouth! Most dogs think that they must spit out a dumbbell before they can take a step so you will have to train a moving hold. Start with the dog in a standing position. Have the dog take the dumbbell. Encourage the dog to move forward while reminding the dog to hold the dumbbell. If necessarily tap the dog under the chin as a reminder not to let the jaw drop. Only move a step or two. Slowly increase the distance you move. When the dog can move well with the dumbbell from a standing position, have the dog start from a sit. When the dog can get up and walk, do a recall with the dumbbell. Train the dog to move with the leather, cloth (rolled first then unrolled) and metal articles.

Step 3. Taking the Dumbbell From Anywhere.

Prerequisite: A dog that is comfortable taking and moving with any object presented.

The dog needs to learn to take an object whether you are holding it or not. First, you need to teach the dog that some work will be required to get the dumbbell. I begin holding the dumbbell at different levels so the dog has to bend his neck and reach for the dumbbell (even take a few steps for it). When the dog will take the dumbbell no matter where you hold it (not on the floor yet), the time has come to start removing your hand from the dumbbell. I use a prop for this training -- a chair, or stool or box. Place the dumbbell so that one of the bells is in contact with the prop while you hold the other end up somewhat. Have the dog take the dumbbell. It is usually helpful, to position the dumbbell so that it is somewhat in front of the dog (it is harder to start with the dumbbell straight down from the dog's nose). Lower the bell you are holding closer to the prop over several repetitions until it is lying flat on the prop. With your hand still on the bell, have the dog take it. After you get a few successful takes, move your hand slightly away from the bell and repeat the take. Work on this until you can place the dumbbell and completely remove your hand before asking the dog to take it. When the dog is consistent using this prop, switch to a prop that is closer to the floor. Repeat the process with shorter props until you can move the dumbbell to the floor. Make sure the dog can pick the dumbbell up off each prop with you being in different positions i.e., you should be able to be at the dog's side with the dumbbell in front of the dog, and you should be able to face the dog with the dumbbell between the two of you. To be thorough, you can repeat this process with the other objects. You probably won't need as many increments with the other objects.

Step 4. Chaining the Take from the Floor and the Moving Hold.

Prerequisite: A dog that will consistently pick the dumbbell off of the floor.

With the dog at your side, place the dumbbell on the floor in front of the dog and have the dog pick up the dumbbell off the floor. If necessary remind the dog to hold and have the dog walk with the dumbbell. If the dog can't successfully accomplish this task go back to refresh your training on the part of the exercise that is problematic before combining the two again. Make sure you give the dog lots of positive feed back each time the dog successfully adds a piece to the chain to maintain motivation. Repeat the sequence with the other objects. (for the glove use a rolled and then the unrolled glove). Once your dog has mastered this step, you are ready to start putting the retrieve exercise together. Stay tuned for the next episode.

Direct suggestions, comments, and questions about this page to Arlene Courtney,
Last Modified November 21, 1998