Retrieve To Hand
Fetch is an oldie, but still a goodie. Many dogs enjoy chasing a toy, and being able to do that in conjunction with your human family as part of a game is a lovely way to enjoy a walk together. In order to play the game, our dog needs to learn a few skills and cues so that we can get started.
Most people are content to have their dog drop the toy at their feet so they get to throw it again. I know plenty of people who are happy with this, but my question to you is - when we can teach dogs to be guides for blind people, why wouldn’t teach them this basic rule of the game?!
I love my dogs dearly, but I like to think of myself as their human parent - not their butler. Adding this rule in saves your back in reaching to pick up your toy, and speeds up the training process by getting the game going again quicker.
Watch this clip from the amazing late Dr Sophia Yin explaining how she teaches a reliable retrieve to hand - she is using a Manners Minder, but you can use a clicker and some treats instead:
NB: “Throwing sticks for dogs to chase can result in horrific injuries and each year, many dogs are killed retrieving sticks which are thrown for them. The most common injury is caused by the stick tearing through the throat and ripping the oesophagus” Karen Booth, Senior Veterinary Surgeon at Vets Now, Telford.
‘Get it’ & ‘Give’ me your toy/ object
1. Begin somewhere quiet and fairly enclosed – the corner of a room can be a good place to start
2. Start by getting your dog interested in the toy you’d like them to fetch
3. Once you know they’re happy to hold the object in their mouth, you can name this behaviour with words such as ‘Get it’
4. Then offer them something else you know they like – a treat or another toy
5. As they go to open their mouth, click and reward - incidentally, the reward they choose at that point might be a game of tuggy rather than a treat. That's quite often why people struggle to teach this because they look to reward the dog with something it doesn't want at that point.
6. Get them interested in the toy you’d like them to fetch again and pair with your new cue ‘Get it’
7. Repeat a few times until they are reliably taking and ‘swopping’ their treasure
8. Now you can name the behaviour of opening their mouth – I like to use ‘Give’ but anything that makes sense to you is fine