Teaching a retrieve?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Whippy- The- Whipador
Barked: Thu Feb 9, '12 9:51am PST 
For years now i've struggled to teach Ty to retrieve a ball. He was never really interested in playing fetch up until a couple of years ago. He's still not a fetchaholic of any kind, but at times he wants to join in on a game and for the life of me i can NOT get him to return the ball on every pick up! The few times i have got him to return i've had to use a treat every single time to regain his attention after he's got the ball, and then i have to call him over numerous times while shaking the treat bag. This works sometimes but is not exactly practical. Usually he picks the ball up and runs away, leaving it deserted in the middle of no where ( or at times really hard to reach places ) when he gets bored. This is quite frustrating when i'm also trying to have a good game of fetch with Missy.

Any tips on how to teach him to bring the ball back, every time?

Toovy Doovy Doo- Ready and- Willing!
Barked: Thu Feb 9, '12 10:45am PST 
Trading the treat for coming back is a legitimate way of teaching your dog to play fetch. You may not have kept it up long enough.

Another way is to have two identical toys. Throw one. When your dog gets the toy, show him the one you have in your hand. He should come running to you. Then throw that toy. While he is going out towards the second toy, go and pick up the first toy. Show it to him so he comes back and throw that toy. Pick up the second toy and so on. Your dog will develop a habit of coming back to you. Eventually he should start bring the toy back with him. When he starts bringing the toy back, still keep the extra toy with you so you can get him to come back to you every time.

Barked: Thu Feb 9, '12 2:25pm PST 
We just started working on this. It's been kind of hit & miss.


Champion of- sleeping cutely
Barked: Thu Feb 9, '12 2:42pm PST 
I taught retrieve to Oats by trading treats for the ball when he put it in my hand. I used to do it for every retrieve. Once he was being really good at it, I started skipping some. You can make it every other, but I like to make it a little random like sometimes, he gets the treat and sometimes, he gets to fetch again. I try to give treats to every awesome retrieve he does come up with and now when I don't give treats at first, he gets more intense the next couple times, trying to win the treat. Keep sessions very short. I only toss up to five times with Oats most of the time.

One of his favorite games is for me to put him in a stay, toss the toy, and then say "Go get it! Fetch!" and he brings it back. He sometimes asks guests to play fetch for a few tosses, but then, he gets bored of the guest and goes to sleep in his crate until he feels like tug or getting a pat or two.

Keep doing with the treats until there's the muscle memory of run out, grab, and come back since it seems like it was working a bit. Oats brings a toy back every time I toss now. It took a lot of training since he's not natural at retrieving at all. You can also try a back-chained retrieve. I didn't use that bc I didn't know about it when I taught Oats to fetch, but it seems really cool and a good method. Basically, the best part of the fetch to the dog for a dog taught using back-chaining is the return-to-hand, so they can be very reliable.

Barked: Thu Feb 9, '12 2:48pm PST 
Trading treats worked for me for 10 seconds until she figure out that dropping the ball halfway back was easier and nothing would convince her that the ball is what I wanted and not just her charming presence... Impractical indeed. In any event I didn't want to fuss with that so I just changed it out.

So I've been taking a two pronged approach. We're not all the way done yet but it's an improvement.

I started by having her go get the treats I'd toss out for her and having her run back. Basically enforcing the idea that if I throw something, she goes to get it and comes back. About 3 days into this game I tried tossing the ball and without really seeming to think about it, she went out, got it, and brought it right back. This from a dog who wouldn't fetch anything ever up until that point. She brought it to me so giant party. Epic fun time happy party. Then I tossed some more treats and then tossed the ball and back she came with it. Then I ended the game and we'd try it again a few days later. She's to the point now of catching and bringing things back in about a 6' radius with distractions and 10-12' without on hard ground. I never do more than two or three reps at a time and the last one is a treat trade-out. Getting her to drop it is not the problem, a decent hold is.

On occasion I've also put her on a long-line and reeled her back in. It makes her a bit more apt to drop it but since I'm working a hold with her independently it's improved.

We still have some issues. Her big thing is possession. If I have it, she wants it but when I don't seem to want it any more she doesn't either so we keep it as fun and upbeat as possible.

Edited by author Thu Feb 9, '12 2:49pm PST


Awesome Dog
Barked: Thu Feb 9, '12 4:21pm PST 
I think Ty might be Risa's brother from across the pond. She's a horrible retriever as well. Though she loves the chase part, I can rarely get her to bring it back to me when she's done. It's apparently more fun to run around with it and chew on it than bring it back to me to throw again.

I've had the most success with having two of the same toys. This way, she usually brings it MOST of the way back. I'm trying to train a formal retrieve with her and hoping that might overlap into our games of fetch. But, at this point, I'm sort of on the fence about whether I care if she brings toys back or not. wink

Whippy- The- Whipador
Barked: Fri Feb 10, '12 4:19am PST 
I think i'm going to try having two toys on me. I have no idea why i haven't thought about doing this more because i have picked up a stick or something to get his attention before to trade for the ball/stick he already has and that was quite a success that day. I guess i just need to remember to keep two balls on me or whatever when we go walking.

The problem i've found with using treats is that he doesn't always return. He's very much led by scents and sometimes no amount of treats will get his attention, he just HAS to go and investigate the smell.

Risa, that is EXACTLY like Ty! So much fun to chase the ball, but bringing it back is boring. If he finds a stick or something too he'll run off with that and chew it. I've also thought before that being a sighthound mix it's probably not a natural behaviour for him, even though he does have Lab in him!

Barked: Fri Feb 10, '12 11:30am PST 
I'd be more inclined to indulge his sighthoundy tendencies if that's what trips his trigger.

That said most retrievers have to be taught at some point to finish out the retrieve and deliver to hand. I work that with a check cord and start *very* short. Distance is a reward that must be earned, the long run out is what gives most retrievers their kicks. It's why unforcefetched retrievers will run full throttle launching themselves into cattails and busting ice to get to a downed bird but take their time on the return. It's not that they don't like it, it's just not nearly as fun as the release of actually getting the bird into the mouth. From there it's as if the insane itch has been scratched and they're enjoying a cigarette in the afterglow of the thrills they just captured.

If Ty knows "get it" or "hold" work it on the couch. That's my favorite place to teach it. Set a treat down and cue ok or get it before he's allowed to snatch it. Then let him watch you hide it behind a pillow or blanket working your way up to shoving it deep between the cushions. Repeat with a ball or dummy offering the treat after they're snatching it up with gusto. You can practice with odd objects to secure the skill, we've practiced with pens, forks, socks, bitty bitty legos etc. When he's got that down do it on check cord on the floor using the same get it or fetch cues. Once he's gained that understanding on the ground move the game outside using what you're ultimately eating him to play the game with. Work short distances and repeat the get it or fetch cues if he drops it. When he succeeds in returning it to your hand reward him by throwing a couple of feet farther and so on.

I'm not a fan of rewarding with treats for retrieving. If the dog doesn't get any kicks from the game itself then I'd be exploring other activities that does get the engine revved up. No point in asking them to perform a task they dont find joy in ya know?

Barked: Fri Feb 10, '12 12:03pm PST 
"If the dog doesn't get any kicks from the game itself then I'd be exploring other activities that does get the engine revved up. No point in asking them to perform a task they dont find joy in ya know?"

Ha. I should have put in a disclaimer that my retrieves are for a CDX/Utility title. I would love to have a natural retriever, but I don't and she's not overly fond of the exercise so we work on a bartering system. laugh out loud I've been working on rewarding the retrieve with her tug (her best interactive reward) but that's something I haven't figured out yet.

It's also a great stepping stone to teaching her to pick pinecones out of the yard. Hello chore reductions.

Edited by author Fri Feb 10, '12 12:05pm PST

Dr. Watson

Not a wiener- dawg!
Barked: Fri Feb 10, '12 12:44pm PST 
Just wanted to say glad you stepped in here, Trigger! big grin
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