Dog Manual

Lesson Twelve - Retrieving


The Sign—Lift the right hand in the direction in which the dumbbell is thrown. The dog is in sitting position at the guide's left. The dumbbell is thrown, the command FETCH given. The dog runs for the dumbbell, picks it up and returns to the guide, stopping in front of him, in sitting position and with the dumbbell still held in his mouth. At the command OUT, the dumbbell is taken from the dog's jaws, as he remains in sitting position until ordered HEEL. He then swings around to the sitting position at the guide's left.

This lesson is the most playful exercise in the entire training course, especially when the dog is inclined to play or to retrieve. Every puppy's natural instinct for play takes the form of chasing an object that rolls along the ground. This instinct must be taken advantage of during puppyhood else the dog may, when fully grown, develop a dislike for the retrieving exercise.

It is most unfortunate when a dog evinces no interest in retrieving for then teaching becomes a truly difficult task requiring an enormous amount of patience and endurance on the part of both guide and dog. What I recommend in order to obtain correct results may appear a very tedious routine, nevertheless it is only through perseverance that the exercise can be learned.

Oftentimes guides say it is impossible to teach retrieving. They give up with, "I cannot do it!" Now, in the lexicon of dogdom there is no such word as fail. And so after long continued practise, we find these same guides making commendable retrievers of their dogs!

Psychologically, a knowledge of retrieving is a necessary step toward successful trailing, that is, a good retriever will be much better equipped to perform the work of trailing for this reason: When a dog finds a hidden object but does not know how to return it (retrieve) to his guide, the purpose of the entire lesson is lost. It is evident, therefore, that we cannot eliminate the retrieving lesson with the excuse that it is too difficult because the lesson itself cannot be completed until the art of retrieving has been thoroughly acquired.

Let us start off, not with the dumbbell but with an object the dog prefers. Every dog has some plaything he adores, a ball, a doll or perhaps an old bone. Hold the dog, then, by the collar, and with the left hand scratch the ground with this object he likes best.  Use encouraging words like "Watch it" while moving the object to the right and left to attract his attention.

Practically every dog will run after a thrown object and try to fetch it. When he does, the first hurdle toward success has been surmounted! Throw the object just a little distance, repeating frequently such encouraging words as "soisfine!", "bring it," etc. As soon as he makes even the slightest effort to pick it up, praise and pet him, thus explaining that he is doing what is expected of him. In fact, be extremely generous with your praise, for the full measure of success depends upon promoting the joy of play.

It has been claimed that a dog trained to retrieve through love of play is never dependable on the assumption that he will not retrieve unless in playful mood. That such fear, however, is without foundation is substantiated by the many excellent retrievers schooled in the manner suggested.

Even slight force may be used, if it seems necessary to arouse interest; at the same time, care must be taken not to hurt the dog lest he consider the exercise punishment rather than play and upon that basis resent it and refuse to respond. Employ only sufficient punishment to show him that refusal to obey means punishment whereas obedience brings praise.

In order to achieve the desired end, start off with a preparatory lesson which, though in itself indirect, constatutes progress because it teaches the dog to carry an object. With the dog at his left, the guide holds the object or the dumbbell in his right hand.   With his left hand he opens the dog's mouth by taking hold of the head beneath the eyes and pressing slightly the thumb to the left and the middle finger to the right side of the mouth into the lips between the teeth. This opens the dog's jaws.

Take it—Hold it.
With the right hand, place the object or the dumbbell between the jaws, not too far into the mouth but just so it can be grasped with the big teeth or fangs. At the moment, command HOLD IT. The first few times many dogs will resist, but three, four or five repeats will teach proper grasp of the object. Then praise with "good dog" or commendatory words of some sort, accompanied by plentiful petting. And regardless of how many times the dog drops the object, repeat the operation of placing it in his mouth until he holds it.

Now remaining at the dog's side, try to walk with him while he retains the object in his jaws. Repeat the commands, HEEL and HOLD IT, accompanied by words of praise when he responds correctly.

Should the dog release his grip on the object before the command to drop it is given, use the punishing com-mand SHAME, or NO, immediately replacing the dumbbell in his mouth. Then start again and repeat the whole procedure over and over until he does it right. It is difficult for some dogs to master this exercise, but patience and endurance will bring about the desired result for both dog and guide.

When this much has been thoroughly learned, practise several exercises, like HEEL, SIT, DOWN, LEFT and RIGHT TURNS, as the object is carried, but do not neglect to encourage all the while.

The dog should never give up the object unless told to do so. When the guide is ready to take the object from the dog, he gives the command OUT, at the same time grasping the object with his right hand and drawing it from the dog's mouth. If the dog refuses to let go, open his jaws forcibly by the same method as before described. It is inadvisable to walk the dog too far with the object in his mouth, during the earlier stages of practise in this exercise, owing to the fact that his jaws will tend to become cramped until such time as he learns to carry with greater ease. Also, do not punish him in case he does the exercise correctly one time and fails the next, for this is a sign that he does not understand fully. Repetition is the sole means of teaching him to hold and carry correctly. And let him assume the sitting position while learning to hold the object in his fangs. Therefore step right in front of him in order to accustom him to the ncorrect delivery, as explained next.

We have now arrived at a point where the dog will carry and give up an object on command. Next, we will teach him to pick up an object from the ground, and as this is not infrequently attended with difficulty, again let me advise great patience!

Try to attract the dog's attention by rubbing the object on the ground before him, and hold him by the collar, prongs outside in the event a training collar is used. If the dog is sufficiently interested to jump after the object, only a few words of praise are required to induce him to pick it up. If he shows no interest, take him by the collar, prongs inside this time, with the right hand.

As in the previous instance, the object is moving in front of the dog. It is thrown a short distance. Now follow along with the dog, still holding him by the collar. Stop close to the object and, using slight pressure to bring the dog's jaws to the object, force it between the jaws with the encouraging command TAKE IT. Immediately he opens his jaws, release the pressure on the collar and give praise so that he will understand what is desired.

If this exercise is performed exactly as described, the dog of average intelligence will grasp it quickly after two or possibly three repetitions. If, however, he does not learn readily after a few trials, then divert his attention to something familiar and go back to it after he has recovered from his initial distaste for the exercise. It is not unusual for a guide to realize after a little self-examination that he himself is at fault. Perhaps he did not release the pressure on the collar; perhaps he forgot to give the command or did not make it sufficiently clear for the dog to understand what was required of him.

When the dog reaches the stage at which he will pick up the object, then command HOLD IT again. Start walking, praising all the way. Just a few repetitions will serve to convince the dog he is doing right.
The next step is to remain standing with the dog sitting at the left of the guide. Command SIT-STAY. Throw the dumbbell, or other object, a little distance away and, with the command FETCH, send the dog after it. Off he goes, and just as he stops at the object, command TAKE IT. When he picks it up, praise him and command BRING IT, accompanied with the encouraging words HOLD IT, HOLD IT, repeated several times and coincidentally using the sign as explained in Lesson No. 7, COME WHEN CALLED.

When the dog approaches close to his guide, order him to SIT in front of him, holding the object in his jaws until the command OUT is given. Next, at the command HEEL, the dog swings around to the left side of the guide ready for a fresh start. This completes the correct delivery; in order to carry it straight through, the entire Lesson No. 7, or COME WHEN CALLED with which the dog is already familiar, can be used.

Most common in the accomplishment of this lesson is chewing the object or a slowing down in speed. The remedy is as follows: Let the guide take a few steps backward, thus encouraging the dog to follow and not giving him an opportunity to slow down. By so doing he will forget to stop for the purpose of chewing on the object. In reality the lesson is not as difficult as it looks, and the guide must not permit discouragement and disappointment to nullify his patience or endurance, those two essentials for success in retrieving instruction. For the benefit of guides who may become easily discouraged; who believe that their dogs will never master the art of retrieving, let me mention the case of two wire-haired terriers, the first of their breed to be trained for obedience tests in this country under my direction. Despite all the difficulties that stood in the way, these dogs became splendid retrievers because of the patience, the endurance and the interest exhibited by their guides. The following incident, too, may prove of assistance to some particularly discouraged guide.

I had in training a dog which would not respond to the retrieving exercise. After every known method was used, I devised a new plan. Each morning when the dog, equipped with collar and leash, was ready to go out-of-doors, I rolled the dumbbell around the floor in an endeavor to persuade him to pick it up. He refused, whereupon he was unleashed and told he must stay home!

Of course, he was disappointed, so after just a little more urging, he began to roll the dumbbell toward the door. Constant encouragement by means of "bring it over' "that's fine," etc., as well as continued praising, in the end, had the desired effect. He picked up the dumbbell and was then allowed to go outside.

Retrieving was purposely avoided for the rest of the day, but next morning the identical performance was repeated, this time with less effort. He picked up the dumb-bell more quickly and out we went! After the morning lesson, it was tried again, and soon this dog caught the spirit of the exercise to the full. He would fetch slippers, newspapers and other things, in the firm conviction that .such acts earned him the chance to go out-of-doors. The dumbbell I carried in a pocket where he could see it, and in this manner he was taught to HEEL on the leash. By throwing the dumbbell over a hurdle, he learned to jump. By hiding it, he learned to trail. By taking it away in the demonstration burglar act, he became excellent in man work (attacking and protection). Yes, some little trick can usually be found to stimulate a dog's interest in the thing you wish him to do.


Throwing the dumbbell, as the left hand
still gives the STAY sign.

Correct Delivery

Command Fetch as the right hand gives the sign.

Once the dog has become proficient in retrieving, he can go on to the next step which is a combination of the jumping and retrieving lessons. Strangely enough, in dog shows, the high jump is not recognized as an exercise as is the broad jump. Nevertheless it has to be executed under the title RETRIEVING AN OBJECT OVER AN OBSTACLE.

The Sign—Right hand pointing in the direction in which the dumbbell is thrown, over the jumping board. The dog jumps the board both ways, over and return. The cleaner the execution, the better the degree, the greater the number of points. A meticulous judge will prefer a clean jumper, that is, one which takes the obstacle without allowing his hindlegs to touch the board as he goes over.

The guide stands near the jumping board and throws the dumbbell over while the dog sits at his left side awaiting the commands OVER, and FETCH. Once the command is issued, the dog takes the board in a clear jump, retrieves the dumbbell, returns over the board and sits before his guide, holding the object in his jaws until the command OUT is given. He then finishes by swinging around to the sitting position at his guide's left. FAULTS—Most of the faults in this exercise are explained in the JUMPING and RETRIEVING lessons. However, walking around the board instead of returning over the board, also a slowing down in speed are most commonly observed.

CORRECTION—The most frequent faults are not especially difficult to correct.  Walking around the board, as a rule, is caused by too long a running distance or too high a board. Step near to the board, and be sure that the board itself is low enough for the dog to see his guide from the other side. Later, when the dog has learned this lesson more thoroughly, the board can be raised and the running distance can be increased. At the start, the jumping distance should not exceed the height of the board.

Much the same thing happens when the dumbbell is thrown over the board too far away. From a distance, the dog sees the guide and no longer considers the board an obstacle. Therefore he will come directly to the guide and avoid the return jump. For this reason the dumbbell should be thrown over the board only a short distance until such time as the dog is absolutely sure of jumping and retrieving correctly. And when he approaches too slowly, encourage him with "hurry up" or by clapping the hands.

A dog of lethargic temperament will in all probability execute this exercise slowly. However, as mentioned in the explanation of the retrieving lesson, an experienced judge can tell whether the dog is actually sluggish or whether he has been force-trained in such a way that he is not interested in his work; that he has in fact become only an automaton.