Retrieving is used in both dog sports and among service dogs but is also a fun exercise to use for tricks or photography. When a dog has learned retrieving with good foundation training the dog can retrieve anything.
Several types of retrieving
There are several types of retrieving, depending on what it is used for. In obedience the dogs retrieve different dumbbells while servicedogs are able to retrieve different objects around the house. Hunting dogs are used to retrieving everything from birds, rabbits and even foxes. Common for all types of retrieving is that the dog needs to have a firm grip and not lose what they are retrieving as well as not chewing on it.
Photo: Ida Sollie (www.idasollie.no)
Why would I need retrieving?
Even if you do not hunt, train obedience or need a service dog you can teach your dog to retrieve. This is a fun way to exercise your dog mentally and can always be developed by learning to retrieve more difficult objects. Only your imagination limits what retrieving can be used for. Since I am no longer active in a sport which requires retrieving I use retrieving for tricks and photography.
How do I teach my dog to retrieve?
The first thing you need to do is figure out what you will be using the retrieve for. Is it for tricks, hunting or obedience? Depending on how the finished retrieve should look like you should break the exercise down to smaller pieces.
Let’s look at Balder as an example. When I wanted to teach him to retrieve it was for searching where the dog runs into the woods (about 50 meters), collect a dumbbell held by a person (later the dumbbell is attached to the dog’s collar), return in heel position and release the dumbbell on command before going back out to show where the person is.
This is a retrieve exercise with several elements which I divided like this:
Pick up (different people and surface)
Hold on (while moving, when I touch the dumbbell, in heel position, during recall)
Release (only on the correct command)
All of the elements are trained separately and in different environments. If you have difficulties with one of the elements, you can focus and train on that specific element. Be thorough with the foundation training and you will have results that lasts.
I used a method from Canis and this worked well for me and Balder. There are several ways of teaching retrieve and there is no blueprint! Do not be afraid of testing what works for you and your dog!