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Smart Retrieving Basics - Part 4

How to Teach your Pup to Hold

Start by taking short walks with you new puppy.  As he grows, he will enjoy these walks and automatically pick up things in his mouth and happily bring them to you.  When he is older, a walk with other dogs is good for socialization, but for this exercise, it's just you and your dog.  This time will provide several important facets for his beginning obedience and retrieving.  As you walk, when the puppy picks up a stick, ball, soda can, etc., call him happily to you by saying the command "here".  Usually he'll come right over to you, knowing he'll get a little attention.  When he does, praise him for a moment, and then gently take the object from his mouth with the command "give".  The key here is to immediately say, "fetch" and offer the object back to the puppy's mouth, say good boy and let the pup run off to play again carrying the object.  In a few minutes, do the same thing over again, remembering the commands, give, fetch, and then praise.  You'll find that in just a few days of this fun play, the pup comes to you much easier than before, he will start holding the object until you take it from his mouth, and he learns that "fetch" means to take something into his mouth again and carry/hold it.  As he progresses, add a little more to it.  When he comes up to you, gently hold the collar, tell him to sit, then "good boy", then the give and fetch routine.  Next step is to move this fun game into your yard work, using a bumper for carrying, then doing the give and the fetch.  Once you start throwing marks to practice the retrieve, he'll already know what to do and where to go when he picks something up.  You'll be surprised how much easier they come to you, sit, give, and fetch again and all you did was to take a fun walk in the woods with your dog!

I do this with all my puppies starting at 9-10 weeks on their short walks.  You don't want them ever to drop the bumper/bird or spit it out. The ideal thing is to have the dog return to heel position with the bird held in the mouth until you take it from them but this is taught in several stages. (Having the dog come to heel position is important when you get into multiple marks and handling). Also, if the dog insists on dropping the bumper all the time, try sitting on the ground, teasing and playing with him/her.  With bumper in hand, scurry it around on the ground, getting her to jump at it, grab it and hold it.  Give it a little short fling if necessary to encourage picking it up and holding it--it's a game to them but one that can help teach.  Let the dog hold it a bit, while you rub them and tell them "good dog". Don't be in a rush to take it away from them if they are holding while you rub them.  One reason a smart puppy doesn't come back to you is because they know as soon as they do you take their "prize" away!

Only use One-Word Commands

Heel, sit, give, fetch, and hold, NO, kennel.... Send the dog to retrieve on their name.  Fetch means to take the bumper.  So if the dog drops it, you say "fetch"...that is the command to take it from your hand, off the ground, etc....then you use the word "hold" while the dog is sitting, with little taps up under the chin--this keeps the head up and the dog can't spit out the bumper....lots of praising...don't make the dog hold too long at first.  Once they know give, fetch, hold, then you do the force fetching, which is with the ear pinch and it "only reinforces" the commands that the dog knows.  Too many people force the dog to learn the commands with the ear pinch instead of teaching the commands first and then reinforcing what the dog knows.

Contributed by Jane Pappler
Redlion Chesapeakes and Labradors