There are so many ways to teach it. Some will make the dog hold it working up to five minutes. If they mouth they will close the mouth, tap the end of the bell, the bridge of the nose, etc. With the clicker you click while the dog is holding then release on command and feed. I know there are more but these are the most common.
Susan UCDX GRCH Dunn's Marsh Caleb of Waltona UDX3, OM3, RAE Canadian UD, RE FallRiver's Micah of Waltona GN RAE, Canadian CD, RN
We worked on "take-it" for while, so they did that pretty good - from your hand at different angles, from the floor, on a heel, etc. The way my first instructor had Emilu learn hold it, was to lightly hold her lower jaw up with 2 fingers, say "hold it" and after a few seconds give your release word. I say "give" , but most people don't say that. I'm not sure what they say - "release" maybe? I would think you could work this into clicker training. It's not the kind of training where you wait for them to do something kind of like what you want and click for that - you'd be helping him do it and then clicking, but I think it would work. Thank heavens Emilu already knew this when I joined out club, because this instructor teaches a modified clicker style - you use your work (can't think of what we call it right now :-\) instead of the clicker. The dogs in my class have been working on taking the dumbell for over a year now and still haven't got it very well. It would drive me crazy to do it that way (waiting for the dog to "accidently" do what you want it to) I really like the "show them what you mean, give them your word and treat" method that we used. I use it for alot of things. Once they know "hold-it" fairly well, try having them heel with it. I find that Emilu holds it better while heeling than just sitting there. We proofed it by actually reaching out and touching the dumbell, but no command, or actually tugging gently on the bell , but no command. We never graduated to tying fishing line around it and tugging on it, but she could probably do it now.
We placed the dumbbell in her mouth, closed her mouth around it, and praised. In the beginning, we did not require a sit or anything- just five seconds- then "free." We added time. We then added the hold word when she was opening her mouth for it.
Later, we added walking and sitting with it and coming front. We added other objects- dowels, bumpers, gloves. We THEN added retrieving. Seriously, my trainer totally freaked out when I *thought* about retrieving before her hold was amazingly solid.
Our method was similar to Pat's. Sit the dog in front of you while you sit in a chair. Ask the dog to "fetch" or whatever your command will be and insert the DB. You may need to hold your fingers under the jaw to ensure the dog holds for just a few seconds, then say "give" or whatever command you will use. You can also teach this in the reverse by teaching the "give" first so the dog learns that they will be able to spit out the DB at some point. Gradually build up time. What you want is the dog to reach for the DB from your hand when you say "fetch". If they aren't reaching for it on their own, you do not move on to the next step.
Next step is to hold the DB near the floor (dog still in front) and ask for a fetch. Then put it on the floor with just your finger on it. Then on the floor with no fingers on it. Then put the dog in heel position and ask the dog to fetch the DB from near the floor, then on the floor. Then the biggy. Ask the dog to take a step while holding the DB. As soon as the butt comes up, the mouth opens and the DB drops out. It will take awhile to teach the dog that they can heel while carrying something. Once this is successful, you can try tossing the DB a short distance (3-5') while the dog is on leash. Command "fetch" then "front" and help the dog with the lead. The lead should be under the dog's chin so if you correct you pop up into the chin instead of up off the neck which causes the dog to open it's mouth. Keep increasing the distance.
Some people use "hold" for training a hold but I didn't think that made sense. Your command is going to be "fetch" or "take it", not "hold". Why teach "hold" at all? All you need is "fetch" and "give". If the dog is fetching, it shouldn't release until told so hold is unnecessary.