Lesson Twelve - Retrieving
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
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
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
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
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,
repeated several times and
coincidentally using the sign as explained in Lesson No. 7, COME WHEN
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.
dumbbell, as the left hand
still gives the STAY sign.
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
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
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.
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
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