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Teaching Your Labrador Retriever Give & Take

Using clicker training you can teach your Lab many great tricks and commands. One of the easiest and handiest of the tricks is the combination of “give” and “take”. Anyone who has ever raised a puppy knows that sooner or later you will spy your new Lab running around with something he isn’t supposed to have in his mouth. Using the “give” and “take” commands can help you retrieve items your pup shouldn’t have. It can also help you get dangerous items back from him and train the rare reluctant retriever to do his job.


This is easiest taught with two people. One person who clicks and one person who has their hands full with your Labrador Retriever and toys. Gather up a variety of toys and non-food items that your dog likes and is allowed to have to play with. Put your dog on a leash. The person who will be doing the handling of the Lab should be holding the leash. The second person’s job is to click at the correct time. The reason for the second person is that it is hard to hold your dog, toys and accurately click.

Teaching “Take It”

One person sits in front of the dog with the box of toys. Take a toy out of the box and offer it to your dog. Most Labs will immediately reach out and take it. If yours does not seem interested, try making it more attractive by smearing it with a bit of peanut butter or fat or soaking it in chicken broth. You want your Labrador to want the toy that you offer him.

As soon as your dog takes the toy, the second person clicks and you reward him with something that does not require him to drop the toy, so not food. It can be an ear rub and lots of vocal praise. Use some form of affection that your pup enjoys. If your Lab drops the toy that’s fine but do not force him to give it up. Repeat the exercise several times, gradually adding in the verbal command “take it”.

Teaching “Give”

Restock your toy box and rank items from least to most favorite. You want the toys to become noticeably more attractive as you progress from least to most favored item. Put your Lab in a sit position. Offer the least favored item with the “take it” command. Praise but do not click when your dog takes the item. Next, gently take the item back. As soon as your dog begins to let it go and you can remove it, immediately click and reward.

Move on to the next least favorite item. Repeat the exercise with each item, progressing from least to most favorite. Your Lab will begin to associate the click with releasing the item. At the same time, you are establishing that when you take something away you will replace it with something even better. You can gradually add the “give” command to the sequence.

Putting It All Together

Restock your toy box. It’s time for a game of fetch. Toss a toy for your dog and give the “take it” command. Once your dog has the item in his mouth, use the “give” command. As soon as he gives it you, click and reward. You have just created a dog that retrieves to hand. It’s an excellent tool for any Labrador to have whether he simply uses it for games of fetch and playing with his family or he hunts and retrieves birds out in the field.

Photo credit: shehan peruma/Flickr

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