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  1. Teaching your dog how to pick things up for you

    So I read on a few different threads that some of you have dogs that will pick things up for you. I decided to try teaching this to Charlie. So far he's doing good and very eager to learn and please. He'll 'pick it up' but then depending on the item he wants to take it back to his spot and chew on it. I'm wondering how to stop that as bending down to get the item from there defeats the whole purpose. I'm also wondering how to teach him to pick up paper with out ruining it with slober or bite marks:). Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Ontario, Canada.. eh!
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    2,716
    My dogs retrieve was trained using shaping/target training. It's really simple and after a few different items they generalize quite well.

    I'll try to keep it short, if you want me to explain further I can though. :)

    You need:
    - an easy item for your dog to pick up (you can purchase obedience dumbells at most pet stores) You do not want to start with a toy or you'll have issues with reliability as your seeing now, and this is not a game... to start. :)
    - LOTS of super-high value treats, I use; cut up hot dogs, freeze dried liver, roll over etc.
    -reward marker, I use "Yes!"

    Step 1:
    Place the dumbell on the floor. Have dozens of treats cut up into small pieces in a bag or pocket. All toys and distractions are put out of the way. The first criteria is to mark and reward what you can, usually looking at the dumbell is the first stage. So, dogs looks, immediately mark and reward. With every criteria you repeat until the dog understands fully what they are doing to get the treat. Once the dog knows the criteria you'll be marking and rewarding 5 times or more in 30 seconds. It's constant, look at the dumbell than right back to you for their treat. Than it's time to move on.

    Step 2:
    The criteria is now moving toward or touching the dumbell. Your dog will keep looking at the dumbell wondering why you aren't rewarding, but eventually they'll offer another behaviour. Just be quiet, don't talk, and wait. If they get distracted and walk away, just call them the back. Same rules apply to this criteria. The dog must fully understand touching the dumbell gets them the treat before moving on.

    The next steps I would do after the first two are;
    - holding the dumbell
    - picking it up
    - placing the dumbell 4 feet away and getting the dog to move away from you towards the dumbell
    - picking the dumbell up at a short distance

    If ever the dog drops the object, you never reward. When they progress to actually picking it up and bringing it to you, the object must always be held until it's in your hands. If my dogs drop something before I have it, I expect them to pick it up and give it to me again. Dropping the dumbell in the open ring is a fail, so I ensure they understand no reward for dropping objects.

    The key to targeting is keeping your mouth shut. The idea is the dog does all the work you just reward. This way the dog knows how to execute the behaviour alone with no cues or lures. They understand it more fully and often they can generalize as well as apply the behaviour on many different levels on their own.

    Formal retrieving is not a game to my dogs. We do play fetch with their toys, sticks etc, but if I tell them to get the paper at the end of the driveway, or carry a grocery bag in the house, they understand that they can't shake it, chew on it etc. It's a "job" and they really enjoy helping out. :)

    I have some videos somewhere lying around about targeting if you need more of a visual. :) Good luck!

    ETA- Forgot to add that once the behaviours are known are reliable, than we add cues; I use "take it" and I use "hold" to help them out in realizing they can't drop stuff, even if it's heavy or uncomfortable (metal objects).



  3. I like this trainer's videos.

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