Retrieve on Flat Classroom

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Exercise Discussion

During the Retrieve on Flat (ROF) Exercise, the handler and dog will move to a position directed by the judge and the dog will sit in heel position. On order from the Judge, the handler may give their dog a command and/or signal to stay, then throw the dumbbell (DB) out at least 20’ in front of them. The dog, on command, must go directly to and take the DB, and return to his handler with the DB in his mouth. On his return, the dog must sit directly in front of the handler and hold the dumbbell until the Judge orders the handler to ‘Take it”. The dog must remain sitting in front of the handler until the Judge orders “Finish”. On the handler’s command, the dog must go briskly into heel position and sit.

The DB should fit properly in the dog’s mouth. If the DB is too wide, it will wobble in the dog’s mouth. If the DB is too short, it will be uncomfortable on his cheeks and possibly pinch his mouth. A DB that shows ragged edges, pits from chewing, etc. indicates to the judge that the dog may mouth or chew the DB. Points can be taken off if the dog mouths or chews on the dumbbell while holding it. Mouthing can be common in some breeds.

List of skills that your dog needs:

  • Sit and stay next to their handler until commanded to retrieve the DB.
  • Retrieving the DB includes picking up and holding the DB without mouthing.
  • Return to his handler.
  • Also, a front and finish.

Visualization

When doing the ROF, my dog maintains focus and attention as we line-up for the ROF exercise. On command, my dog waits as I throw the DB. Once thrown, my dog looks back to me for direction. When I give my fetch command, my dog will leave my side, and go directly to the DB. Once at the DB, my dog picks it up quickly and without mouthing, turns to look for my location, and comes back briskly to sit in front. In addition, my dog holds the dumbbell at all times without mouthing and releases it when requested. My dog releases the DB when asked. Lastly, my dog finishes quickly when commanded while maintaining focused on me. The main things I look for while my dog does a retrieve are, look back to me after the throw, fast pick up and immediately looks to me for the return.

What you will need:
• List of items needed for training

_________ Training Log
PDF Points to remember

Questions? Ask DebbyQ

Teaching the retrieve – Key things to remember
• Never wave the dumbbell around in front of the dog, hold it by your side
• Dumbbell at handler’s side, present the dumbbell, TAKE IT
• Never Never move the dumbbell to the dog
• From the beginning, teach the dog to go out fast, pick up the dumbbell, spin, and come back fast – even from very short distances.
• Teach your dog a force retrieve to the dumbbell, toys, articles, and gloves.
• Have a special retrieve word that is used only for the dumbbell, like TAKE IT. Use another word for all other items retrieved (i.e., like GET IT).
• When you initially teach glove retrieves, put a small object into the glove to teach the dog how to really put his mouth around the glove.

Dumbbell Play to Build Drive
When working on drive building games, your dog will be retrieving the dumbbell/toy/food from the floor. Remember, once your dog understands the games, to use an appropriate consequence if your dog chooses not to retrieve. Use praise, play, and/or food rewards when the dog makes the right choice.

You should continue to play these drive building games with the toy/dumbbell on a string depending upon your dog’s retrieve reliability and the circumstances. If you are training with new distractions, in a new environment, or in a new situation, you might want to put the dumbbell on a string even though your dog’s retrieve reliability has been excellent under different circumstances. Remember that your goal is to BUILD DRIVE and RETRIEVE DESIRE, so you want the dog to be successful and see this as a great game.

From the beginning, you want to teach your dog to go out fast, pick up the treat/toy/dumbbell, spin, and come back to you fast – even from very short distances. Below are many play retrieve exercises and games to use to build drive. All of these games can be played with a dumbbell or with a toy.

Cookie Trade/Shaping
Equipment needed – db, chair, treats

Key things to remember when teaching the Cookie Trade/Shaping
 Use a dumbbell that is big enough for the dog to comfortably take as well as big enough for you to handle easily.
 Use high value treats for low to medium food motivated dogs and low value treats for dogs with high food drive.
 Never wave the dumbbell around in front of the dog when teaching the retrieve, hold it by your side and out of sight until you are ready to present or show the dumbbell to your dog.
 The dumbbell starts at the handler’s side, present the dumbbell to your dog by moving it from your side into the dogs view (elbow of arm with dumbbell should be firmly planted into your side or on your leg so the dumbbell will not move.)
 Never EVER move the dumbbell toward the dog, he must learn to move towards the dumbbell.
 When teaching the Cookie Trade, always keep your hand on the bell of the dumbbell so that you know exactly how firmly the dog is holding the dumbbell.
 The *Cookie Trade* method puts a high value on the dumbbell that will increase the dogs *I want* to retrieve.

Cookie Trade or shaping
The “Cookie Trade” phase of the retrieve teaches the dog the dumbbell (DB) is wonderful. The Cookie Trade puts a very ‘high value’ on the dumbbell and increases the dog’s desire to retrieve.

Preparation –
This step is to build the value for the dog wanting the DB in his mouth.
Place db in dog’s mouth. Praise and treat
Do 2-3 reps, and stop and play or interact with your dog … do 1-2 sessions per day for 1-2 days.

Phase I of Cookie Trade/shaping

 Have one hand on the bell of the dumbbell. Once you present the dumbbell to the dog, this hand will not move. (do NOT take your hand off the bell)
 Your dog should be sitting/standing relaxed and facing you when teaching the Cookie Trade
 Have a soft treat (value depending on dog) in the other hand between thumb and index finger with your index finger on top.
 Present the dumbbell in front of and close to your dog. Keep your elbow attached to your side so the dumbbell does not move. Hold a treat behind and a short distance away from the bit of the dumbbell (should be between your face and the DB).
 Shaping is as follows … Here are examples of raising your criteria:
o Looks at the dumbbell
o Dog nudges the dumbbell
o Dog licks the dumbbell
o Dog touches the dumbbell with nose or teeth
o Dog opens his mouth and attempts to take the dumbbell
o Dog places his mouth on the dumbbell

 Initial teaching should be in short increments – no more than 5 Repetitions with play between each rep.
 Reward behaviors when your dog is ‘interacting’ with the dumbbell raising your criteria in small increments as you progress through many training sessions.
 When you reward your dog, slip the cookie UNDER the bar of the dumbbell and into the dog’s lower mouth and remove the DB
 Keep training sessions short and sweet. Give the dog the cookie each time he meets your criteria.
 Give your dog feedback during the process … *good dog* when he is touching or on the right tracks, *ah oh* when he is not.
 Make sure your dog does not lose interest or give up, if you go a few moments without rewarding, try encouraging or taunting your dog with “get it” commands. DO GIVE YOUR DOG AN OPPORTUNITY TO THINK THROUGH WHAT YOU WANT HIM TO DO! DO NOT RUSH OR HELP! You may also need to shorten your training time to keep the dog interested in playing the game with you.

Phase II of Cookie Trade – Teach dog to hold the dumbbell
Once your dog is readily putting his mouth over the dumbbell, add a verbal cue such as *take.* DO NOT use a special word for this behavior (i.e., “HOLD”). TAKE means “Put the dumbbell in your mouth and hold it until I tell you to release it”. At the same time, also add your release word (i.e., “OUT”, “GIVE”) when you do the Cookie Trade
 With the cookie between your thumb and index finger, hold the treat behind and a short distance away from the bit of the dumbbell (should be between your face and the DB).
 When your dog puts his mouth over the bar, calmly but quickly slip the cookie under the dumbbell (which is still in the dog’s mouth) and into the dog’s lower mouth, give your release word (i.e., “OUT”, “GIVE”) then remove the dumbbell. Remember to think of this as you are trading your dog for the dumbbell, he gets the treat in trade for the dumbbell. It is critical that the dog keeps the dumbbell in his mouth until you trade the cookie as this is teaching the initial concept of the dog keeping the dumbbell in his mouth.
 Very gradually and over many training sessions add more duration before trading with your dog by slowing down the delivery of the treat. So the sequence will be; present the dumbbell, say TAKE. When the dog has his mouth over the bar, bring a cookie slowly towards your dog. If at ANY time your dog lets go of the dumbbell, the cookie gets withdrawn from your dog! Say NO or WRONG and see if the dog will retake the dumbbell on his own, if so praise and trade the treat for the dumbbell.
 Always keep your hand on the bell; this will help you feel if the dog is holding onto the dumbbell tightly. If you feel the dog loosening his grip, be pro-active and remind dog to *take*

Phase III
 Once your dog will take the dumbbell and hold it while you trade a with a cookie, you need to start teaching the dog that he can ‘move’ to get the dumbbell and also move with the dumbbell in his mouth. YOUR HAND ALWAYS remains ON THE DUMBBELL AND HELD STILL.
 In each step below, you will Trade the dumbbell for a cookie saying your release word for each release of the dumbbell.
o Have your dog in front of you; present the dumbbell slightly to the right or left side so that he must move a few steps to get the dumbbell and return back to the front of you (no sit!)
o Next have the dog in front of you, present the dumbbell off to the side and higher or lower than the dog’s head (not on the ground) and return back to the front of you (no sit!)
o Hold the dumbbell at random positions around your body and have the dog take it and return back to the front of you (no sit!)
o Lastly, have the dog take the dumbbell and as you hold onto the bell, walk slowly with your dog at your side.
 If at anytime the dog lets go of the dumbbell while moving, tell him *no* or *wrong* and stop all motion, if he takes the dumbbell again, praise and walk a few steps slowly before rewarding with a trade. Give the dog a little time to think about what he is supposed to do after the “NO” or “WRONG” is given. If the dog does not take the dumbbell again, repeat the “TAKE” command.

I. GOALS
Visualization for each skill. Not only the manner the skill should be performed but also the attitude in which the dog should perform it.
We want the students to understand the importance of building drive and focus through games as well as the importance of proofing skills and exercises.
A. Retrieve (take means- “take” “hold” and “come”) dog should look at DB when thrown and back to handler for command. On pick-up dog should look #1 for handler and never look around.
1. Teach fast out—spin pick up and fast back:
• Get it game
• Cookie toss
• Restraining
• On leash with treat or toy and later with db, article or glove
2. Teaching the retrieve
• Cookie take it.
• Collar twist.
• Ear pinch. (Intro articles at the same time)
• Use a variety of objects to reinforce retrieve such as Toys, dumbbells, articles and gloves.
3. Have the dog look back to handler before retrieving
4. Games
• Hiding eyes
• Throw behind
• Run away
• Changing spots
• Crate games
• Proofing book
5. Inadvertent training
• Toy retrieves
o Mouthing
o Wide returns
o Slow inattentive retrieve or returns
Use Play Retrieves to Build Drive and desire
Play retrieves should be done with food and toys before/or while progressing with the ‘cookie Trade’ retrieve. Play retrieves, especially with puppies, build drive and desire for the dog to run out quickly, grab the item, spin, and return quickly to you.
Things to remember about Play Retrieve Games
When teaching your dog to tug and play with you, never tug harder or faster than your dog is tugging. You do not want to ‘pull’ or ‘jerk’ the toy from the dog’s mouth.
From the beginning, you want to teach your dog to go out fast, pick-up the treat/toy/dumbbell, spin, and come back to you fast.
When using treats in Play Retrieves, make sure that the treats are large enough for the dog to easily see. You do not want the dog shopping for the treat. If you play these games in grass, make sure you use a treat that is visible in the grass and that will not ‘sink’ into the grass; string cheese works great for this.
The dog should get HIGHER VALUE treats when he returns to you.
When using a toy, have the toy on a string to build more drive.
Continue to play retrieve games with treats and toys throughout the dog’s career.
Cookie Trade training with a dumbbell can be started once the dog is driven for the toy on a string.
You can do Cookie Trade and Play Retrieves during the same timeframe but NOT in the same training session.
When using a dumbbell in the building drive games, always have it on a string. Do not rush to throw the dumbbell as if in a “retrieve.” A good foundation on taking, holding and carrying the dumbbell needs to be learned before it is ever thrown and the dog sent as in the “retrieve.”
Key things to remember when teaching the Cookie Trade
Use a dumbbell that is big enough for the dog to comfortably take as well as big enough for you to handle easily.
Use high value treats for low to medium food motivated dogs and low value treats for dogs with high food drive.
Never wave the dumbbell around in front of the dog when teaching the retrieve, hold it by your side and out of sight until you are ready to present or show the dumbbell to your dog.
The dumbbell starts at the handler’s side, present the dumbbell to your dog by moving it from your side into the dogs view (elbow of arm with dumbbell should be firmly planted into your side or on your leg so the dumbbell will not move.)
Never EVER move the dumbbell toward the dog, he must learn to move towards the dumbbell.
When teaching the Cookie Trade, always keep your hand on the bell of the dumbbell so that you know exactly how firmly the dog is holding the dumbbell.
The *Cookie Trade* method puts a high value on the dumbbell that will increase the dogs *I want* to retrieve.
Cookie Trade
The “Cookie Trade” phase of the retrieve teaches the dog to take the dumbbell in his mouth and keep the dumbbell in his mouth UNTIL you tell him to release it. The Cookie Trade puts a very ‘high value’ on the dumbbell and increases the dog’s desire to retrieve.
Phase I of Cookie Trade – teach dog to put his mouth over the ‘bit’
Have one hand on the bell of the dumbbell (once you present the dumbbell to the dog, this hand will not move. At this stage, do NOT take your hand off the bell)
Have a soft treat (value depending on dog) in the other hand between thumb and index finger with your index finger on top.
Your dog should be sitting/standing relaxed and facing you when teaching the Cookie Trade
Present the dumbbell in front of and close to your dog. Keep your elbow attached to your side so the dumbbell does not move. Your other hand has a soft treat between thumb and index finger, index finger up. Hold the treat right behind the bar of the dumbbell keeping the treat opposite from the dog’s mouth.
Initial teaching should be in short increments – no more than 5 Repetitions
Reward behaviors where the dog is ‘interacting’ with the dumbbell raising your criteria in small increments as you progress through many training sessions.
When you reward the dog, slip the cookie UNDER the bar of the dumbbell and into the dog’s lower mouth.
Keep training sessions short and sweet. Give the dog the cookie each time he meets your criteria. Here are examples of raising your criteria:
o Dog looks at the dumbbell
o Dog touches the dumbbell with his nose
o Dog holds his nose on the dumbbell
o Dog licks the dumbbell
o Dog touches the dumbbell with his teeth
o Dog opens his mouth and attempts to take the dumbbell
o Dog places his mouth on the dumbbell
Make sure you give your dog feedback during the process … *good dog* when he is touching or on the right tracks, *ah oh* when he is not.
 Make sure the dog does not lose interest or give up, if you go a few moments without rewarding, try encouraging or taunting your dog with “get it” commands. DO GIVE YOUR DOG AN OPPORTUNITY TO THINK THROUGH WHAT YOU WANT HIM TO DO! DO NOT RUSH OR HELP! You may also need to shorten your training time to keep the dog interested in playing the game with you.
Phase II of Cookie Trade – Teach dog to hold the dumbbell
 Once your dog is readily putting his mouth over the dumbbell, add a verbal cue such as *take.* At the same time, also add your release word (i.e., “OUT”, “GIVE”) when you do the Cookie Trade
Once your dog will put his mouth over the bit, you must teach him to hold the dumbbell. DO NOT use a special word for this behavior (i.e., “HOLD”). TAKE means “Put the dumbbell in your mouth and hold it until I tell you to release it”.
When you are teaching your dog to hold the dumbbell, your dog should continue to be sitting or standing in front of you facing you.
With the cookie between your thumb and index finger, hold the treat behind and a short distance away from the bit of the dumbbell (approx 1-2 inches).
When your dog puts his mouth over the bar, calmly but quickly slip the cookie under the dumbbell (which is still in the dog’s mouth) and into the dog’s lower mouth, give you release word (i.e., “OUT”, “GIVE”) then remove the dumbbell. Remember to think of this as you are trading your dog for the dumbbell, he gets the treat in trade for the dumbbell.
It is critical that the dog keeps the dumbbell in his mouth until you trade the cookie as this is teaching the initial concept of the dog keeping the dumbbell in his mouth. Do not be slow with delivery of the cookie. After the cookie is in the dog’s mouth, say your release word and remove the dumbbell so the dog can eat the cookie. We do not want the dog chewing on the dumbbell.
Very gradually and over many training sessions (1-2 inches at a time) add more distance between the cookie and the dumbbell bar. As you are adding more distance, move the cookie along an imaginary line running between the dumbbell and your mouth.
Your goal is to be able to take the cookie from your mouth and slowly trade for the dumbbell. So the sequence will be; present the dumbbell, say TAKE. When the dog has his mouth over the bar, bring a cookie from your mouth down to the dog. If at ANY time the dog lets go of the dumbbell, the cookie goes back into your mouth! Say NO or WRONG and see if the dog will retake the dumbbell on his own, if so praise and quickly trade the treat for the dumbbell. If the dog does not retake the dumbbell on his own, repeat TAKE command. Remember to say your release word (i.e. “OUT”, “GIVE”) after each Cookie Trade as this is teaching your dog the release command.
Always keep your hand on the bell; this will help you feel if the dog is holding onto the dumbbell tightly. If you feel the dog loosening his grip, be pro-active and remind dog to *take*
 Once the dog will take the dumbbell and hold it while you bring a cookie from your mouth to the dog’s mouth, you need to start teaching the dog that he can ‘move’ to get the dumbbell and also move with the dumbbell in his mouth. YOUR HAND ALWAYS remains ON THE DUMBBELL AND HELD STILL. In each step below, you will Trade the dumbbell for a cookie saying your release word for each release of the dumbbell.
o Have the dog in front of you; present the dumbbell slightly to the right or left side so that he must move a few steps to get the dumbbell.
o Next have the dog in front of you, present the dumbbell off to the side and higher or lower than the dog’s head (not on the ground)
o Hold the dumbbell at random positions around your body and have the dog take it.
o Lastly, have the dog take the dumbbell and as you hold onto the bell, walk slowly with your dog at your side.
If at anytime the dog lets go of the dumbbell while moving, tell him *no* or *wrong* and stop all motion, if he takes the dumbbell again, praise and walk a few steps slowly before rewarding with a trade. Give the dog a little time to think about what he is supposed to do after the “NO” or “WRONG” is given. If the dog does not take the dumbbell again, repeat the “TAKE” command.
Introducing Consequences
Key things to remember about Consequences
When training a new behavior, it is natural for a dog to make a wrong choice or a mistake. Consequences used in an appropriate way enable your dog to learn to respond in a confident and desirable manner.
 Using a suitable consequence following an inappropriate choice will send a distinct message to your dog. He will likely repeat the behavior you reinforce in a positive manner. On the other hand, if your dog views the consequence as undesirable, he will be less likely to repeat the incorrect behavior.
As you are teaching the retrieve, you MUST decide on a consequence to use if your dog chooses not to retrieve. While teaching the retrieve foundations, it is important to teach the dog that choosing not to retrieve has a consequence.
There are many possible consequences that can be used. Some people use a collar pop, others use a collar twist, while some use ear pressure as a consequence.
Your dog must understand that whether he is retrieving a dumbbell, a toy, a glove, or an article, it is important for him to choose to retrieve.
When teaching consequences, keep the training sessions short (a few repetitions) and unemotional. If at any time you get upset or angry or too frustrated, stop the session.
When teaching consequences, watch your dog’s stress level (ears back, panting, eyes wide, etc.). If your dog becomes too stressed, stop the training session for a few minutes and ‘de-stress’ your dog by playing, etc.
Collar Twist
The purpose of the collar twist step after the “cookie trade” is to teach the dog how fast he must move to take the dumbbell. The collar twist is a very important part of the learning phase. You can initially teach the collar twist using a treat and/or a toy before the dumbbell.
Insert one hand into the dog’s buckle collar from back to front, the back of your hand should be next to the dog’s neck and slightly under the dog’s jaw line. Do not remove your hand from the collar until you have completed this retrieve training session.
Present the dumbbell with your other hand, and then give your retrieve command (i.e. TAKE ) make sure your dog sees the dumbbell BEFORE giving the take command or starting the collar twist. (It is critical that you hold the dumbbell still and do not move the dumbbell towards the dog or away from the dog.) The elbow of the arm with the dumbbell should be firmly planted into your side or on your leg so that you will not move the dumbbell.
After giving your retrieve command (i.e., TAKE ), push the dog’s head towards the dumbbell with the hand in the collar and as you move the dog forward twist the collar (so it is push and then twist)
The minute the dog takes the dumbbell, release the collar twist but DO NOT remove your hand from the dog’s collar.
Have the dog hold the dumbbell for a few seconds, and then trade with a treat giving your release command (i.e., “OUT”, “GIVE”) telling the dog that it is OK to release the dumbbell.
Place the dumbbell out of sight for a few seconds keeping your hand in the collar. Quietly talk/pet/praise your dog. You want to keep the dog calm during the training session.
Present the dumbbell again and give your retrieve command. Remember to present the dumbbell before giving your retrieve command or twisting the collar. If the dog moves very quickly to the dumbbell, he will beat the twist. If the dog does not move quickly, the collar twist will give a reminder of the importance of the retrieve. Release the collar twist the minute the dog takes the dumbbell but keep your hand in the collar.
Continue the Collar Twist phase until the dog will move quickly to get the dumbbell when you give your retrieve command (“TAKE”). The number of training sessions will vary depending upon the dog.
Ear Pressure
Ear pressure is another consequence that can be used when your dog chooses not to retrieve an item on your command. When using this consequence, you will apply pressure to the dog’s ear when the dog chooses not to retrieve. You can initially teach the ear pressure consequence using a treat or toy and then apply the consequence to the dumbbell
Insert one hand into dog’s collar from back to front with back of hand next to the dog’s neck as you did with collar twist. Hold the collar between last three fingers on your hand.
Place your index finger behind the lower part of the dog’s ear and place the fleshy part of your thumb inside the dog’s ear. DO NOT apply pressure; just hold your finger there.
 When you present the dumbbell, have it very close to the dog’s mouth again, no matter how far you have progressed in distance in the above two steps.
Present the dumbbell, and give your retrieve command (i.e., TAKE ). It is critical that you hold the dumbbell still and do not move the dumbbell towards or away from the dog. The elbow of the arm with the dumbbell should be firmly planted into your side or firmly against your leg so the dumbbell does not move. NEVER EVER move the dumbbell to the dog. If the dog does NOT move towards the dumbbell immediately, apply pressure on the ear with your fingers but you will NOT push the head forward, it is the dog’s choice to move towards the dumbbell.
The minute the dog takes the dumbbell, release the ear pressure — but DO NOT remove your fingers from the dog’s ear or your hand from the dog’s collar. It is essential that the dog learn at this level that the minute he takes the dumbbell, the ear pressure STOPS … timing is everything.
Have the dog hold the dumbbell for a few seconds, then trade for a treat as you give your release word (GIVE, OUT, etc.)
Place the dumbbell out of sight for a few seconds but DO NOT remove your fingers from the dog’s ear or your hand from the dog’s collar. Quietly talk/pet/praise your dog. You want to keep the dog calm during the training session.
Present the dumbbell again and give your retrieve command. If the dog does NOT move towards the dumbbell immediately, apply pressure to the ear. The minute the dog takes the dumbbell, release the pressure on the ear — but DO NOT remove your fingers from the dog’s ear or your hand from the dog’s collar.
 Continue the ear pressure phase until the dog will move quickly to get the dumbbell when you give your retrieve command (“TAKE”). The number of training sessions will vary depending upon the dog.

Games – Getting the most out of Training

SOLID foundations are the best way to an awesome retrieve! The “Get It” and “Cookie Toss” Games are wonderful ways to increase your dog’s desire to immediately look for the tossed object, pick it up, and run back to you. To teach a fast out, pick up with a spin and fast back, review both the
“Get it” Game and the “Cookie Toss” Game and NEW is the “Foundation to Retrieve” games page.

Once your dog understands the retrieve, start adding games and fun ways to keep retrieving fun.

Hiding eyes. Toss your Dumbbell (DB) and then cover your dog’s eyes. Say “ready” in an exciting voice then send your dog for the DB. Once your dog understands the game, cover your dog’s eyes BEFORE the throw. Yes! He must listen to where the DB lands. Again use an exciting “ready” and send your dog for the DB.

Throw behind. Instead of throwing the DB in front of you, throw it behind you or off to your right or left side.

Run away. After sending your dog for the DB, turn and run away. Once your dog catches up with you, play a great game of tug or the “KrazyKookie” Game. Do not worry if you dog drops the DB initially. Once your dog becomes excited and runs after you, remind him that he has to bring the DB too.

Different objects. After your dog understands the Retrieve on the Flat (ROF), add in other objects to retrieve. Toss a toy, article, water bottle, etc. The exercise is to teach your dog to retrieve anything you throw.

Video Notes: In this video, we are working on the ROF. Our dog does a great job looking back to us after each throw. Note when we toss the DB behind us, how our dog stays in position but looks behind to see DB and back to us for direction. Lastly, we work on our dog retrieving different objects. I find this is such an import way to make retrieving fun and helps our dog learn to generalize the retrieve!

Challenge

  • Add games to your ROF.
  • Video trying the above ideas (hiding your dog’s eyes, throwing the DB behind you, etc.).
  • Compare how is your dog’s attitude and desire before adding the games to the after you have added games.
  • Where there any problems?
  • Did your dog stay focused on his task the entire time?
  • What do you see that can be improved?

Use Play and Retrieve Games to Build Drive
When working on drive building games, your dog will be retrieving the dumbbell/toy/food from the floor. Remember, once your dog understands the games, to use an appropriate consequence if your dog chooses not to retrieve. Use praise, play, and/or food consequences when the dog makes the right choice.
You can continue to play these drive building games with the toy/dumbbell on a string depending upon your dog’s retrieve reliability and the circumstances. If you are training with new distractions, in a new environment, or in a new situation, you might want to put the dumbbell on a string even though your dog’s retrieve reliability has been excellent under different circumstances. Remember that your goal is to BUILD DRIVE and RETRIEVE DESIRE, so you want the dog to be successful and see this as a great game.
From the beginning, you want to teach your dog to go out fast, pick up the treat/toy/dumbbell, spin, and come back to you fast – even from very short distances. Below are many play retrieve exercises and games to use to build drive. All of these games can be played with a dumbbell or with a toy.
Retrieve games
Have several food treats in your mouth or pocket before starting the game.
Holding your dog by the collar, toss a dumbbell close to you, 3-6 feet.
Tell your dog to “TAKE”. Once your dog has picked up the dumbbell, tell your dog to “come” and start moving away from him.
When the dog is back to you, take food from your mouth while the dog still has dumbbell. The dog should continue to firmly hold the dumbbell in his mouth until you give your release command.
o Place a hand on the bell of the dumbbell and with your free hand trade a food treat by slipping it under the dumbbell bar and into the dog’s lower mouth.
o Immediately after you deliver the cookie, give your release command (“OUT”, “GIVE”) and take the dumbbell. You do not want the dog to chew the treat while the dumbbell is in his mouth.
Play with your dog and build some excitement. Toss the dumbbell again building excitement for the dog to get the dumbbell and come back quickly for a game of tug.
More Retrieve Games
To get your dog really excited, do 2 cookie toss retrieves, then toss the dumbbell and give your retrieve command. Make sure that the dog is speeding out, getting the cookie/dumbbell, spinning, and then returning quickly to you. Once again, you can back up and/or run away as the dog returns to you to build more drive and desire to return.
Have your dog sitting in front of you looking at you. With one hand, gently hold the dog’s muzzle so he can’t turn his head, toss the dumbbell out in front of you, rev the dog while holding his muzzle (ready, ready), then tell the dog “TAKE” and release the muzzle. The dog must turn around, quickly find the dumbbell, retrieve it and come back quickly
Have your dog sitting/standing in front of you or in heel position, cover the dog’s eyes, and then toss the dumbbell. Give your retrieve command (TAKE) and then uncover your dog’s eyes. He must quickly find the dumbbell, retrieve it, and come back quickly.
Have your dog sitting in heel position paying attention to you, drop dumbbell right behind you, and then give your retrieve command (TAKE). The dog must quickly find the dumbbell, retrieve it and come back quickly.
Have your dog standing beside you, gently pull back on the dog’s collar with one hand and toss the dumbbell with the other. While still holding the dog’s collar, REV the dog and then give your retrieve command (Ready, Ready, TAKE)
In any of the above games, as the dog gets to the dumbbell turn and run away to build more drive and desire to get back to you.

When starting to Sequence the skills needed for a ROF, the first thing taught is that the command to “take” actually means to “take” and “hold”. This is taught up close to your dog, and continues to be close until your dog is proficient with the skill and concept. Your dog’s understanding can be tested in various ways. One way is to put the dumbbell (DB) in your dog’s mouth, and move backwards as your dog moves towards your. Another way is to heel your dog with the DB in your dog’s mouth. Testing before adding skills together will save you loads of grief down the road.

Once your dog understands and is confident moving with and holding the DB, add placing your dog on a sit with the DB in his mouth. Leave your dog in a sit, walk various distances, and practice recalls. No fronts! NOTE: for high drive dogs, I add placing the DB between the handler and the dog. The dog is released to run straight to DB, pick it up, and come directly to me. Many times this step will eliminate a dog playing or hitting the DB with his feet.

Examples:

  • Start to practice throwing the DB for your dog. Toss the DB a few feet from you. Send your dog for the DB. Watch the manner in which your dog goes to, picks up, and returns with the DB. Catch inconsistencies at this stage of training.
  • Toss your DB a short distance and send your dog. As your dog picks up the DB, turn and run away from your dog. Greet your dog when he catches up to you.
  • Only when your dog meets your criteria 80% or more of the time, will you increase the distance that you throw the DB.
  • Note: as a fail safe, I teach my dogs to look back to me for a command and direction after the DB throw.
  • As you throw your DB further away, continue to watch how your dog picks up the DB and his intent to returning to you. When your dog picks up the DB, your dog should #1 look for you and never look around, and #2 show maximum intent and effort to come back to you.

Video Notes: In this video, Riker is learning the “Look Back” to me after I have tossed a toy. Anytime I start to teach this concept, or any new concept for that matter to my dog, I always try to take it out of the actual skill or exercise. In this case, I will use a toy or treat. Riker is on a slip lead, but you can also use a leash. The lead is so that Riker can not self-release and get the tossed object. In the beginning of the video, Riker clearly is having a hard time looking away from the toy. When he does not “Look Back” to me within 30-60 seconds, I simply pick up the toy and drop it again. Eventually, he does “Look Back” to me and as long as he maintains his gaze, I will release him to the toy. In the last clip, Riker does a great job at looking back to me when I drop the toy. BUT he is still thinking about the toy. Marker 2.53. You can see his intent in his body posture. Instead of releasing him to the toy, I move and expect him to move with me. Once he does and is thinking about me. I will release him to the toy. While training this skill, I do not use any verbals, rather I wait the dog out, and let my dog make good choices.

To teach a fast out, pick up with a spin and fast back, review the following games:

Get it Game
Cookie Toss

Add more distance to your DB throw ONLY when your dog is confident and meeting your criteria.

Video Notes: In this video, we demonstrate the steps to sequence the ROF exercise. We keep the progressions easy to make sure the dog understands his job. At the end of the video, when the DB is thrown, the dog does a GREAT job looking back to his handler for direction and a retrieve command. Games and rewards are added throughout the session.

Challenge

  • Write down each skill of the ROF exercise and then document YOUR criteria for each skill. The list may be as long as you want.
  • How should your dog should do each skill?
  • What will your dog look like while doing a ROF?
  • Your criteria and vision should be as detailed as possible. The more detailed the better since this will be the vision you want to achieve and train.
Typical problems/answers

Listed below are the common issues seen on the Retrieve on the Flat Exercise (ROF) and possible solutions to the problems. The following are typical issues that could happen during training or while in the show ring. It is not a list of EVERYTHING that could happen. If there has been a situation that has happened to you when training or in the show ring, PLEASE post it in the FaceBook Group.

Problem
Your dog anticipates your retrieve command. In other words, your dog leaves before your command is given.

Solution
Use a slip leash to stop your dog’s anticipating the release. A slip leash is a string or shoe lace that will slip under your dog’s collar. Hold both ends of the leash and when ready to send your dog, let go of one end of the leash.

Another or additional option, is teach your dog to look back to you before you send your dog to any retrieve. I train this by tossing a toy, treat, dumbbell (DB), etc. a few feet in front of me. Wait until your dog looks back at you before sending your dog to the object. Do NOT command or ask your dog to look at you, rather just wait your dog out. Eventually, he will look back. The send is the reward for your dog looking back at you. A video on the “Look Back” can be found in Week One of this class under the “Retrieve Flat” tab.

Video Notes: Sly demonstrates the “slip line”. Note that we are using a toy and not a DB. Anytime I introduce a “NEW” technique to my dog, I always do it out of the skill or exercise that it will lead too. This gives me the opportunity to perfect my handling as well as my dog’s meeting my criteria for the skill. Also, even though I am not doing an exercise, I still require Sly to look at my face when putting on a slip line (leash) or tossing a toy (DB).

Problem
Your dog does not leave or go to the DB on the first command.

Solution
Questions to ask yourself?

  • Is your dog looking at something other than the DB when thrown?
  • Is there a distraction out or near the DB that your dog might not have the confidence to run towards?
  • Are you looking down at your dog when you give your command?

In any case, decrease your distance to the DB. Resist correcting your dog out to the DB unless you are 100% sure that your dog is not giving you effort.

Problem
When training the retrieve on flat, your dog takes a jump, usually the High Jump, on the way out to get the DB.

Solution
Teach your dog to “Look Back” to you before you send your dog to any retrieve. This will help your dog “hear” the “take” on flat command.

The “Look Back” is reviewed in Week 1. I train this by tossing a toy, treat, DB, etc. a few feet in front of me. I then wait until my dog looks back at me before sending him to the object. Do NOT command or ask your dog to look at you just wait your dog out. Eventually, he will look back at you. The send is your dog’s reward for looking at you.

NOTE: I use different commands for my retrieves. “Take” means retrieve on the flat. “Hup” means to take the jump for the retrieve.

Problem
Your dog takes the jump while coming back to you after the retrieve.

Solution
When adding a jump to the ROF site picture, stand equal and 10’ to the side of the jump. Toss your DB a short distance in front of you and standing next to the jump. As your dog gains confidence and understanding retrieving correctly, move closer to the jump OR further away from the side line of the jump. Once you can throw your DB and your dog will come to you with confidence, alternate a ROF retrieve and then a Retrieve Over the High (ROH) retrieve and again back to ROF retrieve. Over time, and with patience, your dog will understand the difference between the two commands.

Problem
Your dog bobbles or drops the DB when picking it up, as he returns to you or while in front.

Solution
If it happens once, it might be a fluke. If it happens twice, it is a problem. Review your foundation skills first. Make sure your dog remembers how you expect him to pick up and carry the DB. Place the DB in your dog’s mouth and do a few short recalls. Then toss the DB a short distance away and send your dog to retrieve it. Is he picking it up correctly? Turning back to you with purpose? Running back and holding the DB the entire time?

Problem
Your dog mouths the DB or does not have intent to get back to you.

Solution
Beware of inadvertent training. When letting your dog play with a toy or doing “fun” retrieves. This sometimes happens when you are throwing a ball or toy for your dog. Most often the dog will be mouthing, turning wide or showing off his “prize”. Many times changing your criteria for your “play” will solve the issues in the DB retrieves.

Training Tip – Anytime I introduce a “NEW” technique to my dog, I always do it out of the skill or exercise that it will lead too. In this case I substitute a toy for the DB. This gives me the opportunity to perfect my handling as well as my dog’s meeting my criteria for the skill.

Challenge

  • Video and analyze your dog’s retrieve.
  • What problems do you see?
  • Note any inconsistencies or issues you are having. Example if the pickup is wide, your dog goes out much quicker than he comes back, mouthing the DB.
  • Does it meet your criteria?
  • Are there any skills that need improvement?

Problem Solving – Retrieves
Ways to fix dog going around the dumbbell to get it
• Put wire on both sides so the dog only has one choice
• Keep dog on a leash
For wide returns
• Toss something to the side of the path
• As the dog’s head goes down for the turn, watch the way the dog is going to turn to know where to toss the item
• Slide leash, keys, etc down the path
• DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT hit the dog!!!!
• For wide returns, this usually happens on toys too, so you can cleanup the problem on toys and keep the dumbbell positive!
MOUTHING THE DUMBBELL
With a dog that mouths the dumbbell (or dummy or whatever you happen to be using for retrieving), there are a couple of things you can do to cure this behavior. First, review the “hold” command. Start with a short hold and praise (verbally) for holding steady and not mouthing… first periods should be very short. Over a period of a couple of weeks increase this behavior of steady non-mouthing behavior until you are able to do it for 10-15 minutes or better as you walk around the block or wherever. In the process..anytime you see any mouthing, stop and repeat the hold command which the dog should now recognize as hold still — based on the earlier practice above. Have him do this hold all sorts of times and places…for instance, put him on a long sit while you’re running back and forth in the house doing chores. After a few weeks, you should have a dog that will happily hold the object (whichever one you chose to use…dumbell, dummy, etc.) steady and for as long as you want. When kept positive, it is a very pleasant process and the dog’s attitude will remain up and hopefully, the tail wagging throughout.
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Go back and teach the dog to “hold it”. With him at your side, tell him ‘take it’ (or whatever your retrieve command is) and hand him the dumbell. Step in front of him, and when he starts to mouth, use both hands, one underneath the lower jaw, one over the top of the muzzle, and kind of squeeze him mouth together, repeating the command “hold it”. You can also use just one hand to tap him under the jaw, if that works for him. From this point you can use a flexi to get further away, and can flip the leash under his chin as a correction. Try to keep this positive, by starting with short periods of time required to “hold it” and lots of rewarding.
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One thing that can really help is switching from a wooden dumbell to a plastic (and heavier) dumbell. Also try having the dog sit by you, fetching it from your hand, and having him hold it (correcting if he starts mouthing). This is great to play when the ads come up on TV!
POUNCING ON THE DUMBBELL
Pouncing on the retrieve is usually the result of a dog with very high prey drive. One thing that might work ot correct this is to use a piece of clear vinyl ‘carpet protector.’ This product has molded in ‘points’ on the back side, to anchor it in carpeting. If you feel it yourself, you’ll get an idea of the level of correction it gives. A bit of an OUCH, but not really hurtful – the vinyl points will bend before puncturing the skin. Use a piece upside down, throwing the dumbell on it. It sure takes the fun out of the pounce! At matches, have the judge kick the dumbell onto the vinyl before sending the dog. The vinyl is available at Home Depot – there are 3 grades, soft, medium, and stiff. The stiffest grade seems to work best.
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Using about a 2 ft. by 3 ft. section of chicken wire or 4×4 welded wire. Gently curve it and place it on the ground. Toss the dumbbell on it, or have someone place it on after you’ve thrown it. Really hype up your dog before sending… let him fly! They throw on the brakes, gently pick it up, and run back!!! This keeps YOU out of the picture as being the bad guy! You just need to carry the wire where ever you may go. The only time they don’t get the wire out there is in the ring. At matches, if you can, use the wire. The piece can get smaller and smaller as well as the dumbbell being just beside the wire instead of on top of it.
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Ok, this fix is for all of you with “pouncers”. The beauty of this method is that it not only works, but it doesn’t involve any props. That means that you not only have nothing to wean off of, but you don’t have to lug equipment where ever you go.
When the dog pounces the dumbbell, he’s in “drive”, and that is what you want. So the answer isn’t to kill his drive, it’s to control it. Now, of course, this will not cure every dog…but it should work for most.
1. Place Rover in a sit/stay. Walk out about 3 feet, and turn to face Rover as for a recall. Place the dumbbell on the ground between the two of you. Give your retrieve command. Don’t be surprised if you have to give two commands to get Rover to retrieve at this point. You have just taken the prey drive out of the game. Slowly gain distance until you are at full length of the ring. Always place the dumbbell and turn to face your dog.
2. After Rover will successfully retrieve a placed dumbbell at full distance, then you may start to throw it. Place Rover in a sit/stay. Throw the dumbbell a few feet. Walk out past the dumbbell and turn to face Rover as in a recall, just like you’ve been doing. Tell Rover to retrieve. Slowly gain distance until you are at full length of the ring.
3. When Rover is again successful, with the throw/recall, then put Rover in a sit/stay and walk out and place the dumbbell a few feet away. Return to Rover and stand in heel position. Send Rover to retrieve. Slowly gain distance.
4. Final step is to throw the dumbbell a few feet, stay in heel position, and send Rover to retrieve. Slowly gain distance.
If Rover ever forgets himself, just go back to the place/recall step for a few retrieves.
This method can and does work. It quickly changes the dog’s perception of the exercise. This fix will probably not take more than a couple of weeks to complete.

Proofing – the last Steps to Success

The following ideas are just a few that you can find in the PDF Book “Success is in the Proofing”. Proofing performed and taught correctly will enhance your dog’s confidence and help you to become successful in the ring!

  • While your dog sits in heel position, throw the Dumbbell (DB). Instead of giving your retrieve command, twitch your shoulders, bend your knees, or take a deep breath. Praise your dog for waiting and for his reward send him to the DB.
  • With your dog in heel position, throw your DB. Wait an unusually long time before sending him. For more advanced training, add a friend saying your retrieve word. Your dog continually anticipates the retrieve? Use a “slip line” to prevent your dog from leaving before your command.
  • As your dog sits in heel position, throw the DB. Instead of giving your fetch command, say a word that is similar to your fetch command and take a step forward or pivot with your dog. Use a “slip line” to prevent anticipation if needed. When your dog is thinking about what you are doing, reward him with some treats or a game of tug. Do not ALWAYS send your dog.
  • With your dog sitting in heel position, place the DB to the left, right or behind your dog. Without turning toward the DB, give your retrieve command. Placing it to your left will be easier than to your right. Have a party with a jackpot of treats or great game of tug when your dog is correct.
  • Throw your DB so that it lands under a table, chair, a shrub, baby gate, etc. Send your dog to retrieve it. Simplify by throwing the DB closer to your position if necessary. For instance, instead of tossing your DB 20 feet, only toss it 5 feet. Increase the distance a few feet at a time so your dog is confident.
  • Tell your dog to retrieve in a voice that is unusual and different from your usual tone. For example, give your command in a high, squeaky tone, a deep tone, or a whisper.

Video Notes: In the first clip, handlers are working on Changes of Positions or commands other than their retrieve command before sending their dogs for the DB. During the second clip, distractions are added out where the DB is being thrown. Lastly, a handler and her dog are working on receiving and handling off the DB. This is a skill often missed when training. Note how the handler pushes her dog away the second he looks at the person handing off the DB. Also, how she rewards and plays with her dog between repetitions. This is a great way to relaxing the dog after a proofing attempt.

Challenge

  • Videotape a short training session of your dog’s Retrieve on the Flat (ROF).
  • Write a list of any problems you feel you have.
  • Did you add surprise releases and games when your dog gave effort?
  • How was your dog’s pick up and return to you?
  • What do you see that can be improved?