How To... How To Develop The Retrieve
Once you have taught an enthusiastic retrieve with toys, you can move on to teaching your dog to pick up things that are not moving as well as things that are not toys. Training him to wait while the toy is thrown is a useful lesson in self control and teaching him to put the toy into your hand saves time and a lot of bending over!
To teach your dog to retrieve, go to 'How To Teach A Willing Retrieve'
Controlling the enthusiasm
Teach your dog self-control by asking your dog to wait once the toy is thrown until you tell him he can go. Use a short line looped through his collar at first and hold the two ends tightly to keep him still while you throw the ball. Ask him to wait and throw the ball a short distance away (the slower the ball moves, the less likely he is to try to chase it). When you are ready, encourage him to go and fetch the toy, letting one end of the line go at the same time so it runs through his collar and he is released.
Picking up stationary objects
Start with toys and play a fun retrieval game with them first. Then place the toy on the floor and ask your dog to fetch. Eventually, once you have taught him to retrieve items other than toys (see below), you can ask him fetch other objects that are stationary. This can be really useful, for example, instead of collecting his toys at the end of a play session, you can send him to get them, or if you are doing the washing and drop a sock, you can send him to fetch it. If you train this in a fun and positive way, he will enjoy helping you around the house.
Once you have an enthusiastic retrieve, do a few retrieves for a toy, then substitute something else. At first, make this something soft and easy to pick up, such as a sponge. Encourage him to pick it up if he reluctant by running forward and making the object move. Praise him well when he picks it up and reward him well when he retrieves it.
Once he is used to carrying different soft objects, use long objects that dangle, hard objects, and, finally, metal objects. Put these into a soft sleeve at first until he is used to the weight and use plenty of encouragement. In time you can teach him to carry your keys and, eventually, teach him to find these when they are lost.
(Never ask him to fetch anything that is heavily scented or will leave a nasty taste in his mouth or he will lose his trust in you.)
Giving to hand
To teach your dog to give the toy to you directly rather than drop it, sit on the floor and throw your dog’s favourite toy. Encourage him to come to you but don’t try to take the toy. Praise him and stroke his body instead. If he drops the toy, encourage him to pick it up and hold it. Once he is holding the toy nicely, produce a tasty treat and hold just above his nose while holding the other hand underneath his mouth. Wait until he decides to take the treat, dropping the toy in the process.
Once he has learned this action, teach him to put the toy in your hand by making less effort to put your hand directly under his mouth and only giving a treat if the toy makes it into your hand. If it doesn’t, encourage him to pick it up and try again. Help him out at first but gradually move your hand a little further away from him on successive tries so he has to move forward and actively put the toy into your hand to get his reward.