How To Train Your Dog To “Retrieve”
The “Retrieve” must be learned step by step.
First, you should teach your dog to take a very light dumbbell and hold it. Even though a handler has never tried this with his dog he should be able to accomplish it in one lesson. If you are training a dog who refused to retrieve when some other method was used, and he has become stubborn or frightened, it might take two or three lessons. The length of time it takes will depend upon your skill in using your voice as you tighten his collar.
Teaching a dog to retrieve is one of persuasion, and your voice is your most important asset here. You must use your dog’s name repeatedly before each command and do so in a most persuasive tone of voice. Your voice should be kept low, firm, and pleasant, and you should talk to the dog continually as you urge him to take the dumbbell. When your dog takes it, you should immediately sound very pleased and praise him happily and excitedly as you pet him.
Never raise your voice in anger or impatience; if the dog appears to be stubborn, never shove the dumbbell in your dog’s mouth or against his gums, never jerk your dog’s collar, and don’t hit him over the head with the dumbbell. Be gentle but firm with him at all times.
Start your dog in a quiet corner and keep him on a leash for the first three steps. Place the dumbbell under, in front of, and close to, your dog’s upper lip, and as you tell him to “Get it,” put your third finger behind his canine tooth. This will open his mouth slightly and you can gently slide the dumbbell into his mouth. If you can’t use your right hand to open his mouth, use the index finger of your left hand. Quickly tell your dog to “Hold it,” as you stroke his nose on top, in one direction away from his nose, with your right hand, and you stroke him under the chin with your left hand. By stroking him this way you will keep the dumbbell in his mouth. You should be praising him as you do this. Keep the dumbbell in your dog’s mouth for two or three seconds at first so he can get the feel of it.
Most dogs accept the dumbbell gracefully and hold it firmly the first time. This is especially true of puppies who will actually reach out to take it and hold it for you. Make sure the dog first understands the “sit” command.
However, some dogs will put up a struggle, and you will have to hold their jaws closed gently with both hands around their muzzles as you command them firmly, but quietly, to “Hold it.” Generally speaking, the majority of dogs will hold the dumbbell if you are gentle with them and talk to them reassuringly. Be careful not to bang the dog’s teeth with the dumbbell.
After placing the dumbbell in your dog’s mouth two or three times to get his reaction to it, teach him to take it by himself. Slide your dogs medium link chain or heavy nylon choke collar up high on his neck, behind his ears and high under his chin, and hold it in your left hand. Your right hand will be holding the dumbbell. By pushing against the dead ring with your thumb you will be able to draw the collar into the palm of your hand very steadily and smoothly. Do not jerk the collar, just tighten it smoothly and quickly. When the dog takes the dumbbell you should let go of his collar immediately and praise him.