On Retrieving

About 6 weeks ago, I acquired a border collie through the local SPCA.

She is about 18-24 months old. I have no idea of her history. All I can say is that “Rosie” is a very smart dog. Rosie is a quick learner and eager to please me. She knows the word “NO”., knows how to sit, is housebroken, comes when commanded to, stays within the borders on my farm, and comes wherever she is when I ring a Tibetan bell.

My Question: Since Rosie is from a working breed, I would like to teach her how to fetch so that she can get as much exercise as possible. How do I go about that, whether it is tennis ball or a Frisbee? I am sure once I have a method, it will take her no time to learn. Could you possibly give me some hints?

PS – I loved your book and use many of your ideas to acclimate Rosie to her new surroundings and ground rules. My friends think I am “nuts” when I spit in my dog’s food bowl and talk about being the alpha dog. However, they have very ill-mannered pets and I have one very nice dog!

I look forward to you reply,

Dear Katharine:

Thanks for the e-mail.

I would suggest re-reading the section in the book on “How to speed up training results by using the ball and food drive!” on page 53.

This will give you the necessary information regarding how to build up the dog’s natural drive to chase the ball (or any other object). This is basically what is known as a “play retrieve”.

If the dog has absolutely NO prey drive, then you won’t be able to do this with her.

The other type of retrieve is called a “trained retrieve,” where you actually teach the dog to formally pick up an object and not release it until give a specific command. Most trainers will use the dog’s natural drive to teach the dog to do this exercise FAST and with a lot of fun and outgoing attitude. And this is the proper way to do it, if you’re teaching a trained retrieve. (This would be appropriate for a service guide dog, for example).

The only problem with the trained retrieve for the purposes of giving the dog some exercise is that, although the trained retrieve CAN be taught to any dog– regardless of the amount of drive– you simply won’t get the dog to run fast if he has no natural ball drive.

Within the next couple of months I will be teaching my dog, Forbes, how to do a trained retrieve so that he can carry items in his mouth for an indefinite period of time.

You’ve probably already read about how Forbes carries my empty McDonald’s bag over to the trash can after breakfast, when we return from our daily McHeroin with Egg, Hash Brown and coffee. This is a play retrieve Forbes is doing. When he gets tired, or is simply disinterested, he spits it out. Once I teach him the trained retrieve, he will be able to carry a bag, or a hammer, or a basket (or any object) in his mouth for the duration of an entire 1 mile walk. You can also build on this behavior by teaching the dog to pick things up… like the phone. Or a can of beer!