Tuesday, January 20, 2009

26 A Teaching Your Dog to Retrieve Distant Objects

This question comes up quite abit for people with mobility challenges.

Obviously, you dog must have a solid retrieve first before you can proceed to work on any of these methods. Check out Blog number 26 for retrieval instructions.

There are at least three ways to teach your dog to retrieve objects from a distance.

The first is to simply indicate the object with either an extendable pointer (such as an old TV antennae or use a laser pointer.
The second is to teach your dog directional and sedn away cues so your dog can be sent to any location then select the object by directing her in small incrmeents until she is standing in front of it.
The third is to train your dog the name of common objects you use regularly.

Each method is explained in a separate blog post.

1. Using Pointers

Extendable Pointers
Teach your dog a strong nose target behavior on the end of a stick or wooden spoon. It may help to put a piece of tape on the end to give your dog a target point.

Obtain an extendable pointer and start with it at its shortest point. Practice nose touches on it at increasing lengths and various locations around you.

When your dog is reliably touching the tip anywhere you place it, touch the tip of the pointer to an object that your dog is familiar with retrieving. Give your retrieve cue and click and reward when your dog brings it to you. Make sure it is placed within easy reach of you. Practice several times.

Next, place the object at various locations around you. I tend to work the clock: 1 O'clock, 2,O'clock, 3 O'clock, all the way around to 12. Then randomly around to proof the behavior. This should be a fun, fast-paced game to create an eager retrieve.

As your dog's success rate reaches 80% at that distance slowly increase the distance in 4 to 6 inch intervals, working the clock around you at each distance. When you get to the furthest distance the pointer can reach, start working on height. Place the object on the floor, at a few inches off the ground, then more, until you have him retrieving at his full height. Next practice with a variety of objects, boht sturdy and more delicate that you would reasonably expect your dog to be able to safely retrieve.

Next lay two, then three and more objects close to each other and indicate which you want youre dog to retreive. Only reward the correct one. If the dog brings you the wrong one, simply take it from her calmly (no click or reward) and cue the behavior again.

Tip: To prepare your dog to retrieve objects from store shelves, practice knocking hung objects to the ground with the extended pointer. This will get him accustomed to not be surprised at a falling object, notice it, then retrieve it.

Here's a video showing how to teach your dog how to follow a finger point. It uses an extendable pointer to start. 

Using a Laser Pointer:
You can teach the dog to follow the laser beam by lighting up treats on the floor
and sending her to get (eat) them. Once she gets the idea of going to the place you light up with the pointer, use your retrieve cue while placing the dot on the object you want. Use the same procedure with distance, height and variety as if using the extendable piointer above.

WARNING: Be sure to practice pointing the laser at the object WITHOUT the dog in the room first! You need to be able to hold the dot steady on the retrieval object.
This can be tougher than it sounds, especially if the object is small or far away.

Also, avoid using a laser pointer with any breeds that have a tendency towards obsessive compulsive disorders like any of the herding breeds, German Shepherd Dogs etc. It is easy for them to get triggered by the laser lights.

See next post 26 B for more ideas.