Attempting a Retrieve

Typically, I only like to show videos of completed tricks. It makes me look like a much better trainer than I am. However, I have been told this is unfair. To really get an idea of what it is like to work with a Shiva, apparently one needs to see the steps from the beginning.

Shiva does not have a very good retrieve. It’s something we have been working on since day one. It’s something I routinely give up on in favour of more fun tricks. One of my goals is to teach Shiva to retrieve her leash. I have already imagined showing the trick off in agility class to the amazement and applause of all our peers. In order to do that, she needs to learn to keep a non-edible object in her mouth for more than half a second. This is not something she is all that interested in doing. Naturally, if she is holding something in her mouth, she can’t be eating the treats in my pocket.

Since she showed an inclination for picking up her dinner bowl, I thought I would give it a try. Contrary to how this looks, this video actually does show massive improvement.

See? Even a Shiva isn’t perfect all the time.

I know we’ll get there if I actually force myself to work on it with her. Next week maybe we’ll take a break and try something my weird dog finds easier. Like hand stands. Wanna bet she will have learned to back flip before she learns to get her leash?

19 thoughts on “Attempting a Retrieve

  1. Do you ever use a clicker with her? These REEEEALLLY help for targeting an action, usually better than words can. if you want her to eventually hold things (which would make retrieves much easier) I would really target when she holds objects in her mouth. Start with a lipping of it, then wait till she holds it in her mouth longer before you click.

    Interesting info on it here:

    and if you’re more visual…
    Looks like her dog might have already been getting it.. but she has a really good step by step list in the beginning that I like

    Thanks for sharing the progress, what do you use to video?
    Good luck!


    • I have used a clicker with her but was so incompetent with holding the clicker and the treats and trying to keep Shiva from bothering other dogs that our obedience trainer told me to switch to using a word instead. I know clickers are better and more accurate, however. Maybe I should give it a shot again. I know with any future dogs I will probably use a clicker right from the start. With Shiva I can be lazy usually because she seems to pick things up without much effort. But it’s never to late to try again, right?

      Thanks for the links! I don’t use anything special, just my Sony digital camera. I normally stand it up on the cat furniture if I want both my hands free. It’s all very professional. 😛


      • I felt that way about the clicker at first.. but that’s the nice thing about a clicker, you don’t have to have both in your hand once they understand what the clicker means. It allows for instant notification of the act, and they know a treat will follow. I often just set the container up on the counter or something and only use a treat in my other hand when I am using it to lure her to locations/actions etc. I would say give it a shot again. You could also get a treat pouch, that way the treats will always be handy and leave you hands free still.

        Thanks for camera info, it does a good job. Improvising is always fun.


  2. BOL! Shiva was so cute and adorable, in fact, she was learning the tricks with full enthusiasm.
    I’m sure she will get her leash to you soon before you know it or well, may be after she has learnt a few other tricks first. One day, something clicks and she realises that if she wants to have a walk, the best way to tell you what she wants is to bring you the leash. LOL!!!


    • Thanks for the vote of confidence! I have no doubt Shiva can do it. Whether I will get off my butt to teach it is another matter!


  3. Well, at least Shiva’s having fun! It might be hard for her to carry the bowl in her mouth because it isn’t round. Maybe that’s why she is willing to hold it– it only hangs off her teeth, and not in her mouth like a ball or the leash would be.

    Our Best Friend lives to chase balls, so getting him to retrieve isn’t the issue– but he still doesn’t have the “what” down. The phrase “go get” prompts him to bring back the closest toy, so if I say “Go get your leash!” he’ll bring back his tire or a ball or something.

    I want him to learn to differentiate between the girls by name, to be able to say, “Go to the Eldest!” and have him do it correctly. THAT would be cool.


    • That would be VERY cool!

      Shiva knows the word “Kong” and that’s about it. She doesn’t usually retrieve it for me though, will either just nose at it or play with it by herself. Which is exactly what she does with balls and sticks. Back when we were doing fly-ball we were able to get a slight retrieve going and she was getting into the ball thing. But it’s been awhile since our last fly-ball class. It’s a work in progress.

      I just think it is so weird that tricks other dogs find so simple she struggles with and yet she has no problem learning complex moves. Wacko mutt.


  4. Here is one thing that Jersey can beat Shiva at! Since her breed is a hunting dog, she loves to retrieve!! When she was a puppy, the games of fetch could last for hours and she never gets sick of it. I’m sure that with a little finessing, Shiva will get it. She’s smart and eager to please.


    • I hope you are right. Hopefully I will stop dragging my feet and just work with her on it already!

      When I was a kid, all I wanted was a dog who would fetch a ball… Jersey was my dream dog!


  5. Do you think Shiva and Stumpy could be realted? Stumpy’s retireve is strangely similar. She definitely only brings something to me for the food reward.

    Both are perfect in my opinion, though!


    • LOL. Who knows? I think Stumpy is just too smart. She has learned it’s easier to train the human to do the work for her.


  6. Emma has zero retrieve and that’s something I’ll work with her on soon. I’m going to shape a formal retrieve from scratch (I’ll tape it for you if you like).

    You should try breaking down your criteria quite a bit. If she’s not holding the bowl in her mouth for more than a split second, you shouldn’t worry about sending her out to the bowl or asking her to bring it back to you – just focus on her being able to pick it up and hold it in her mouth while in one place for longer durations. When she can hold it for several seconds reliably, then work on distance to the bowl and distance back to you, as well as if she’ll drop it in your hand or on the floor near you.

    Fumbling with clickers can be troublesome for some people, you might want to use a shorter word, like “yes” or “good” the same way you’d use the clicker. If this is something she has trouble with, the more clear you are, the easier it will be for her to get it.

    And I’m SO looking forward to a handstand. I think she’s a natural!!


  7. Hey, she’s doing pretty good with getting her food bowl!! Riley does the same thing Shiva does, she pounces on something with her front paws that she wants to pick up and then has to go chase it down to actually get it. If the goofball (Riley) would chill for a microsecond, she would know to just pick it up with her mouth. But does she have much self control? Not really. Does she have way too much excitement/exuberance? Definitely. Still talking about Riley here, not Shiva, but they seem pretty similar.

    Anyway…I never realized how big Shiva is until I saw her standing next to you. She looks like she’s bigger than Riley (taller at least). Riley weighs 53 pounds and is like 22 inches tall at the shoulders.

    Man, I’ve gone off on two tangents now…sorry! I hope you all have a great weekend! 🙂


  8. We had the same problem with clicker training, I had two hands and like 5 things I was trying to hold. Our trainer suggested makiing a click sound with my tongue in place of the clicker, but I felt like such an idiot doing that when we trained at the park etc…(plus my tongue got tired!) We eventually we a gentle leader treat pouch (It was our fourth pouch, I like that it snaps open and STAYS open, the others were all drawstring tops that I found awkward) and now it’s a lot less awkward to use the clicker. I like it because we can use it discreetly to do a little training while we have company etc (we’re trying to learn that not everyone like to french kiss a puggle) without constantly interrupting conversation with verbal cues.


  9. I’m having the same problem with Charlie. I would LOVE to have him retrieve, but I get slightly frustrated when he isn’t getting it, and I have to take a break or it becomes unproductive.


  10. I love her enthusiasm!!! I think you need to break down the trick a bit more. I would see which way she likes to turn after pick up and then be on that side of the dish, about 6 in behind her. That way you’re just working on the return and you are right there to catch the dish so she won’t drop it before she gets to you. Really focus on delivering the object to your hand before you work on distance. Or alternatively you could just work on a pick up and hold in front of you, but with most dogs I like to get them moving before I add in the hold aspect. Of course there are a thousand way to teach a retrieve 🙂


  11. I was going to ask about the clicker and then noticed it was mentioned already. :o)

    We are stopping by from the hop to say hello! Have a PAWsome weekend!

    Doreen, Kiko, Riley and Millie
    Doggies and Stuff blog


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