In my last blog post we talked about Fetch, and how to get any dog to play.  Today I want to talk about how to take that game and teach your dog some more fineness.

In an obedience trail and a few other types of canine sports such as hunting trials, or shed hunt, a dog is asked to retrieve to hand.  What this means is that when the dog returns with the retrieved object he will hold on to the object until the person takes it from him, and he will allow the person to take the object with no fuss.

The retrieve to hand is actually two separate behaviors.  One is to continue to hold the object until told to let go, and the other is to let go when you have it in your hand.  To teach a dog how to to retrieve to hand, we start with a toy the dog loves and a pocket full of food.  Depending on your dog you may need to use very high value food at first, especially if your dog is used to playing hard to get when he comes back with the toy.

We teach this a little bit backward by starting with teaching the dog to ‘Take’ an object ‘Hold’ the object and ‘Give’ the object back.

First you present the object, pick something you know your dog likes to hold in his mouth.  You don’t want to start with something your dog might find unpleasant.  I usually start this behavior with something like a stick or a soft toy.  As the dog sniffs at the object or mouths it, praise him and give him a treat.  If he puts his mouth on in, praise him and reward him handsomely.  Once he starts offering to ‘Take’ the object on a regular basis you can begin to name the behavior by saying ‘Take’ as he grips it. Continue to praise him.

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