By admin Posted in Advanced /

Many handlers are exasperated by the lack of interest their dogs show in retrieving, especially also since the dog refuses to take or carry anything in its mouth. Making use of a clicker may be the best way to solve the problem because the clicker enables you to MARK THE MOMENT of success. You take a “Photo” (Click) of that moment and the dog is rewarded for his efforts instead of being punished for not performing. 


Start with the last behaviour first i.e. to get the dog to hold something in its mouth right in front of you. Smear some peanut butter or doggy juice on the shaft of a dumbbell or on a piece of dowel etc. Sit down with the dog standing or sitting in front of you and hold the article near the dog’s face. C&T when the dog sniffs it. Repeat a few times.

Next withhold the click and wait while the dog works out why you are not clicking any more. The dog is likely to become frustrated and bump it with its nose. C&T. Repeat this behaviour a few times. Withhold the click again until the dog touches the article with its teeth. C&T Give a jackpot reward and repeat a few times. (Jackpot = all the food in your hand)

Remember to take a break after 5 minutes of training!

Continue the procedure of withholding the click until you now get a light bite on the article. C&T. Repeat until the dog willingly bites at it. Repeat and take a break etc. Next you C&T him for grabbing or taking the article in the mouth and holding it for a second or two before dropping it. Jackpot him! 

Always end a session on a high note. Play with the dog for a while. End session.

During the following short sessions the aim will be to repeat what was achieved in the previous sessions and to get the dog to hold it for a short while. Always have a hand ready under his chin to take the article as or before he drops it. Dropping the retrieve article is a bad habit and must be avoided at all costs. Gradually also extend the time the dog must “hold” the article.

Now stand up and see if he will reach for the article. The slightest head movement towards the article deserves a C&T. Make a big fuss and continue the game while you encourage/reward him for reaching for the article. Let him reach in all directions. Start another session by inching the article away from your body with the aim of getting him to pick the article off the floor. C&T Jackpot. Continue in this way until the dog will consistently “fetch” and hold the article placed anywhere up to 3 metres away. When he willingly brings the article placed on the floor and will hold it for some time, the front sit can be introduced.

Some dogs may become impatient when they have to sit and wait for the dumbbell to be placed. However, do not be in a hurry to toss the dumbbell. Getting the dog keen to “fetch” is an important part of the training.

If you have been working indoors, now is the time to begin working outside. Place the dumbbell some 3 metres away and return to the dog in the heel position. Do NOT send the dog. C&T for not going out. The point here is that the dog must learn to wait for the verbal command “Fetch” and not simply retrieve because he can see the dumbbell. Heeling past the dumbbell can be a good exercise.

After some days it should be possible to throw the dumbbell and have the dog bringing it back to you; the position where you started the exercise. Next you C&T for improved behaviour as you increase your standards/demands; e.g.:


  • C&T for waiting or not anticipating.
  • C&T for a fast out movement.
  • C&T for a close straight sit.
  • C&T for a good “finish” with him looking up at your face.

By the end of a week you could have him retrieving other articles such as a ball, toy, glove etc.  You are now ready to make a deal with your dog, “Retrieve the article quickly and I will let you play with your favourite toy”. If you are training for the obedience ring then you need to add distractions. Start at a lower level by letting him retrieve over a much shorter distance. If he does not want to retrieve in front of other dogs it could be that you were in too much of a hurry and went too fast or skipped reliability exercises.


See other articles on retrieving in “Advanced”

Comments are closed.

Copyright © 2002 - 2014 Jan Meyer (all rights reserved) | Website by : imediate.web.