Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Totally Fetching - Part 1

Hounds are not usually known for their retrieving abilities. Few exhibit it naturally. Travis was a freak of greyhound nature with his retrieving especially in the water (Click Here if you never saw his dock jumping post). Except for Travis, I have had to teach the other five greyhounds how to retrieve. And even Travis had to go through a similar process for a formal dumbbell retrieve.I have been wanting to do a post on how to train your dog (especially a hound) to retrieve for a very long time, but it is much easier to show if I have videos of the process. I have them now thanks to Seven. Initially, she showed some retrieving tendencies, but her toy drive turned to mush when she tasted the goodies in my pocket.In these videos, I am teaching Seven what I call a "play" retrieve. I think it is easier to teach a play retrieve with a fun toy first and then move to other objects or a dumbbell if that is your goal. Otherwise, a play retrieve is a great way to exercise the hounds and is a lot of fun.

First, you will have to find 5 - 10 minutes a day to train. I am going to give you a lot of information, but this is not rocket science or an attempt to cure cancer. This is just teaching a dog to retrieve 5 - 10 minutes per day. Yes, you do have time.

Step one, you must teach your dog the clicker training concept. If you and your dog are not familiar with clicker training spend a few days working on this exercise - Click Here. Once your dog can touch an object with his nose for a click and treat (C&T), you can begin teaching your retrieve.

Let us get started. Pick a stuffy toy that is very easy to pick up. Not too big and not too small. With greyhounds, you have to consider the long nose. You do not want something that the greyhound smashes his nose into the ground as he picks it up. The toy in my video is a good example.

Step two, teach your dog to touch the toy. You can do this several ways, but I really like the method I am going to show you. I attached a leash to the toy so I could stimulate her interest by moving it around. Use the smallest amount of movement it takes to generate any interest from your dog. It might just be a head turn, a nose touch, pouncing, or a grab. C&T for all forms of interest and interaction with the toy. You want to add value to the toy and make it very special because it causes so many C&Ts. I was lucky with Seven because she has a high prey drive and offered a grab with her teeth almost immediately so I focused on that. Ultimately, you want a teeth grab, but make sure you C&T for all interest in the toy initially.

Take your time at this step. You really want your hound's interest in the toy to increase significantly. Once you complete a 5-10 minute training session, put the toy away. The toy should only come out for training or retrieving sessions for now on. Now for some troubleshooting.

My dog has no interest in the toy even if it is moving. Clicker train your dog to touch the toy with his nose. I am assuming you have already taught your dog to touch a cup with his nose... do the same exercise, but use a toy. Put the treat on top of the toy and C&T as your dog takes the treat or you can touch the toy right to his nose and C&T.

My dog is extremely interested in the toy and tries to run off with it. Skip Part 1 training. Your dog can start at a later step that I will point out in Part 2.

My dog does well at first, but then loses interest in training. Shorten your training session. You want to end your training session while the dog still wants more. One way to accomplish this is to put 5 treats in your pocket. Once you have given them out, your training session is done. You may also need a better treat. Use real meat and cheese.
Happy Training! Let me know if there are any questions.