How do you teach a dog to retrieve?
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Thread: How do you teach a dog to retrieve?

  1. #1
    IdahoLabs's Avatar
    IdahoLabs is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultHow do you teach a dog to retrieve?

    I've always had Labs, and Lijah is... not even a retrieving breed. LOL. He's still a puppy (1 yr) and, keeping the CDX in mind, I'm thinking it would be easiest to at least introduce the basic principles of this game now. Those of you who teach obedience classes, how do you teach non-retrieving breeds to retrieve? Suggestions, input, advice welcomed. Thanks!
    ~your decisions are only as good as the information you base them on~

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    Belles mom is offline Senior Member
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    Didn't you force fetch Boaz? (He was just 6 months from what I remember when you were posting frequently before, and thinking about entering him in Novice). FF or shaping both work. Depending on Lijah's work ethic, FF (whether ear pinch or collar tug) may produce more reliable results. But I know a lot of people that shape to start and then end up using some sort of force later when the dog has to know fetching is not optional.


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    With play-- toys to begin with (I really wish people would think of this when their pups were babies... much easier, esp w/ teh non-retrieving breeds). Then once you've developed the toy drive, you can start in earnest. I'd recommend the book SmartFetch by Evan Graham, personally. Anne

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    He's an Aussie. Not a Lab. Yes I can FF and I'm good at it - but for an Aussie??? I'd kinda like him to at least learn to retrieve on his own (first?). What do folks with non-retrieving breeds, ie greyhounds, huskies, pomeranians, etc... how do they accomplish this?

    He's a soft dog and he's extremely willing to please; so far the strongest correction I've had to give is a disappointed, quiet, verbal "no" - I think he'll be more than cooperative if I can just convey the concept of retrieving to him. Boaz could take physical and verbal correction and be more than willing to keep working for me. Lijah just might shut down completely - at least at this stage of his life. Maybe when he's a little older correction won't be so big a deal, I don't know.

    Anne - I do have SmartFetch, like the book a lot, what part of it do you recommend for this situation?

    As for toys... okay, so I can count on one hand the number of dog toys I've owned. :P I'm all for it if that's what's needed, but I'm going to need some suggestions. I have no idea what types of toys dogs like or what would be most useful for us.
    Last edited by IdahoLabs; 09-12-2010 at 10:10 PM.
    ~your decisions are only as good as the information you base them on~

    Claire DVM
    Lijah UD GO VER RE CGC TDI ASCA-CD (7/10 UDX, 186/200 OM1 pts, 9/100 OTCH pts + UB/OB wins)
    Zen UD VER GO JH
    Boaz JH CD CGC
    Brie CD CGC
    Tara (future amazingness!)
    www.clairedvm.com

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    HersheyK's Dad's Avatar
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    This isn't going to help you, nor is intended to be mean. I hope to follow the thread and maybe learn something to pass on.

    There are a few Aussie's that come to the dog park we go to during the week. Two of the owners always have a few balls and a Chuckit for retrieving. That sounds like good news, but it isn't. They throw the balls for other dogs to retrieve and give their Aussies the other dog to herd. Honest, I couldn't make it up. They really do.
    Hershey Kisses, In charge of getting Ed out to the dog park so that he gets some exercise.

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    Belles mom is offline Senior Member
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    Well, while I have no desire to get into an FF debate...yes, I know many people with Aussies, Shelties, Chinese Cresteds, Huskies, Border collies, Shorthairs, and any other breed you would care to think of that have FF'd their dogs. Many of these people are however competitive obedience people that have a great deal experience in dog training for the competitive obedience dog, the causal obedience dog and the pet dog. FF'ing does not necessarily mean an ear pinch, or making the dog scream or any of the other negative connotations that are so commonly associated with it (and presumably that you used on Boaz if you took the suggestion so negatively). I also suggested a collar tug. How about a light brush with your fingertip on the back of the head?

    I also suggested shaping the retrieve. That is totally positive. I shape the hold and take it on my dogs. Later I go to the FF for my own reasons to ensure reliability for the distance I want to go with my dogs.
    Last edited by Belles mom; 09-12-2010 at 11:00 PM.


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    Bob Pr. is offline Senior Member
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    FWIW, not sure this will help but below is a post I've frequently made when people ask about teaching fetch and retrieving.
    ================================================== ==============
    Many people assume that a Lab should retrieve automatically, without training.

    While SOME Labs do, probably the majority need some training to retrieve.

    Chasing after a moving object is native and instinctual for almost all dogs but the bringing it back to someone and giving it up is not, so that part of retrieving usually needs training.

    However, for many Labs, once they learn to retrieve, it's often the thing they most enjoy in life and they often have an endurance for fetching far greater than that of the arm of the person throwing the object.

    That's not bad because most Labs need a lot of daily vigorous exercise to be docile and civil. "Fetch" is a wonderful way of meeting most of those needs.

    However, a few Labs become too obsessed with retrieving and need to have limits imposed.

    And a very few get EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse) and become weak and shaky; this is a genetic fault of a few Labs and was investigated by a consortium of US & Canadian Vet colleges. The Labrador Retriever Club's website has a section on this (behavior, symptoms, recommended treatment) if you're interested.

    Teaching to retrieve --
    For a puppy, if you have a blind hallway, you can start by rolling a ball or toy down the hall toward the blind end. The pup will run after it and has no choice but to come back to you. At that time, praise, and exchange a treat or a bit of kibble for the ball/toy along with more praise. (It's helpful to pre-measure your pup's next meal and use some of that kibble for treats. That's a help in not over-feeding.)

    Repeat 2-3 times. ALWAYS QUIT WHILE IT'S STILL FUN AND INTERESTING TO YOUR PUP/DOG.

    I didn't have a blind hallway and we used a 25 foot/8 m. kite string tied to a rubber toy dumbbell.

    We went out in the front yard and I'd throw it in first one direction, holding on to the bitter end (i.e., the non-toy end) of the line. Puff went after it and when she picked up the toy, I reeled back both Puff and the toy she was holding, praised her, and gave a treat in exchange for the toy. You might also say, "__(name)__, Give!" at the time you're offering the treat and getting the toy delivered to your hand. Then you'll be teaching another VERY useful command: ("Give!").

    I threw it in a different direction next time. Repeated as above
    .

    You do need to vary the directions you throw it and the locations you use because young dogs can easily (too easily) become site-specific in their learning.

    E.g., a woman 5-6 years ago on JL complained that her Lab would retrieve when she sat in a particular chair in her living room and threw a toy from there but would not retrieve any place else. When you vary the locations and directions it helps them easily learn to generalize.

    ALWAYS KEEP THE RETRIEVING FUN, NEVER WORK.

    If your pup's enthusiasm starts lagging after 5 trials, drop to 3 or 4 the next time you try it. If it lags after 3 trials, drop to one for awhile until the interest and enthusiasm builds up.

    If you train just before normal feeding time, your pup's motivation for food will be higher and pieces of kibble exchanged for the toy will have greater reward effect.

    As your pup learns to retrieve and enjoys it, you can gradually increase the # of trials.
    When you switch from fetching a toy to a training dummy, I prefer the 2" x 12" Lucky Dog (brand) vinyl training dummies. I've found them cheapest at gundogsupply.com's website -- a little less than $4 @.


    Puff [YF, AKC field line (from competing HT/FT breeder) 62 lbs, dob: 8-'01]

    Bess [BF, AKC bench line (from competing show breeder) 55 lbs., 1967-1981] "Poor Bess, the Wonder Dog":
    http://forum.justlabradors.com/showt...?p=748#post748

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    IdahoLabs's Avatar
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    Karen - I have nothing against FF; I have multiple books on FF and have watched several videos on it (Lardy, Graham, Tri-Tronics, etc) and have done some FF work for a pro trainer. Yes, I know it doesn't have to involve any of the negative connotations you mentioned - yet many (most) times it does, simply because you reach a point where the dog refuses to work - you get through that, and you have a dog that understands it has to retrieve, every time. If it didn't involve any type of pain or negative pressure on the dog, there would be no need for the generally accepted consensus that you halt retrieving work while FF'ing the dog.

    That said - I am not questioning that FF does produce results, I am only questioning whether to use it on a non-retrieving breed. I don't intend to sound snarky - so hard to read expression over the internet - I genuinely want to know the best route to take with Lijah. Because he's not a retriever I'm hesitant to employ retriever-training methods unless I know it's a standard way of training other breeds too. FF increases drive in a retriever that already loves to retrieve; I have not seen it used on anything other than a retriever and the last thing I want to do is mess up with this pup. We've all seen the dogs that walk slowly over to the object and then walk back - I don't want that.

    Also - I would much rather start this as a game and work into FF later if I have to, when he already knows what retrieving is. I'm not opposed to using FF, but why should I start with it? Also, I'm not so sure it's the best idea with him, and as of right now, I'm a little reluctant to do it if there's any other way around it. Maybe the best way to explain this pup's disposition is to say that in his world, the sun rises and sets on me - and so in his eyes, his life shatters if he thinks I'm at all upset with him. I've never had a dog quite like him. He's happy-go-lucky, head up, tail up, wants to please so badly he can't stand it, but if he doesn't understand what I want or thinks I'm disappointed in him, he just melts. Brain shuts down, head on his paws, etc. No, he doesn't handle pressure well - but that 99/100 in Rally Novice came after only 3 weeks of training, so the way we're training now seems to be working fine. At this stage in his life, I'm not so sure that any form of FF is going to be a good idea with him.

    Hopefully that all comes across somewhat in the manner I'd like it to - I didn't intend to sound like I had a chip on my shoulder - I try to keep in mind that "your decisions are only as good as the information you base them on," and I want to ensure I'm choosing the correct route before I begin anything. As of right now, pup is a blank slate; nothing negative, nothing positive, so I want to be careful.

    I'm not familiar with shaping - what exactly is it?
    Last edited by IdahoLabs; 09-13-2010 at 10:54 PM.
    ~your decisions are only as good as the information you base them on~

    Claire DVM
    Lijah UD GO VER RE CGC TDI ASCA-CD (7/10 UDX, 186/200 OM1 pts, 9/100 OTCH pts + UB/OB wins)
    Zen UD VER GO JH
    Boaz JH CD CGC
    Brie CD CGC
    Tara (future amazingness!)
    www.clairedvm.com

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    windycanyon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by IdahoLabs View Post
    He's an Aussie. Not a Lab. Yes I can FF and I'm good at it - but for an Aussie??? I'd kinda like him to at least learn to retrieve on his own (first?). What do folks with non-retrieving breeds, ie greyhounds, huskies, pomeranians, etc... how do they accomplish this?
    As I mentioned in my first post... the easiest way to teach a retrieve is by developing toy/prey drive when still young and playful. There is no reason whatsoever that an Aussie can't learn to love to retrieve! My agility instructor had an Aussie a few years back that retrieved birds and bumpers-- came out to a hunt test fun day with a few of us and that dog did better than many of the retrievers there. She's done CDX's. Another gal came into our Open obed class w/ NO retrieve on her long haired chihuahua in January, and by the 4th wk, had a solid play retrieve going (much better than several others in the class, I might add). By April, she was IN THE RING, nearly Q'ing!!!!! I see lots of different breeds that chase balls, toys, frisbees and dumbbells just fine, all built on prey/play drive--- no FF either, but it's nice to have some way of correcting the dog when they pop you the bird later-- note I didn't say IF, but WHEN).

    There are loads of hints you can use in obed if you read between the lines of Evan's SmartFetch book. The Hold is a very fundamental part of the process (yet I've seen some clicker folks who never teach the hold... very confusing to me how they handle it later when the dog drops...). Just having your dog work w/ a long line is pressure aplenty to some dogs. Teaching them the drop on recall w/ the long line wrapped around the post (vs the sit to whistle that he's really teaching). Use your imagination! I loaned the book to a judge friend w/ Tervs and he found it to be useful as well! I FF my dogs fairly thoroughly, and would even if I had a breed other than a retrieving breed because I want them to be able to handle a little pressure in life, and I want to have a way to deal w/ non-compliance as well.

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    Belles mom is offline Senior Member
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    I'm not familiar with shaping - what exactly is it?
    Shaping is clicker training essentially. In short (very short) you reward the dog (click) for progressive behaviors which lead toward the behavior you want. Dog looks at dumbell..."click" and reward. Dog sniffs dumbell..."click" and reward. Dog touches dumbell..."click" and reward. Google clicker training on the internet. You will probably come up with how to clicker training the retrieve. There is a book by Kay Laurence called "Learning about Dogs:Learning games" that has clicker training pretty well laid out for all sorts of games and things you can teach your dog. I have not totally gone though it, but it looks good if clicker training is you cup of tea, or the way you want to approach teaching something.

    ...FF either, but it's nice to have some way of correcting the dog when they pop you the bird later-- note I didn't say IF, but WHEN
    Ya, I was against FF for many years, until I saw a softer FF approach...and when my dogs "blinked"/gave me the paw about retrieving eventually. Purely positive fetch training may be fine for pet dogs, or those trainers that do not want to 'insist' on it, but I think that if you want to "go the distance" in obedience or field training, FF will be necessary in some form. I am not sure I totally buy into the "build drive" argument for FF yet, but do believe in the WHEN the dog "gives you the paw" and if you are willing to accept that....(with a smile on your face and cookie in your hand)...or not.


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