Lyra was taught to retrieve a dumbbell as a very small puppy. At that time, the emphasis was on taking it correctly; in the center and with a quiet grip. I did not teach a “hold” or a front, and indeed, she still has neither of these things. Her job is simply to get the dumbbell into my hands.
A few weeks ago I began playing tug with the dumbbell; building up her willingness to treat it as a motivator in and of itself. This step is still in process.
Now I want speed. I want Lyra to learn to pick up the dumbbell while in motion; moving as fast as possible.
To begin, I place the dumbbell betweeen the two of us and I call her with “get it” and “come” commands. The first few times I did this, she went right over the dumbbell – then she began to understand that I wanted her to grab the dumbbell on the way in. I need as much speed as possible on the recall so she feels a little desperate to grab the dumbbell while running. The first time we played this game she “missed” the dumbbell several times and had to go back for it. This is how she’ll learn exactly how to grab while she is in motion.
Next I changed the angle of the dumbbell to make the pickup more difficult. In real life, dumbbells land many ways, and I want her to practice her retrieve at a variety of angles – with speed.
I also added the jump with the dumbbell between Lyra and the jump. The drill is the same; encourage speed and a fast pickup followed by a jump and recall.
Lyra started this exercise a few days ago. Today’s video is not an impressive display of Lyra.
She is distracted and appears put off by the addition of the “stay” before the retrieve. She looks like a dog on a passive stay rather than an active stay. With hindsight (and watching the video), I believe I moved to this exercise too quickly without enough repetitions to her toy. Her active stay is simply not strong enough for this work at this time. It is also possible that she is a little stressed because she’s not completely sure of my expectations.
My plan is to return to working on this exercise with her toy between the two of us; both on the flat and over the jump. I also plan to work more on her active stay – making sure she is locked in on me before returning to the dumbbell retrieve. I will also work her on this exercise earlier in the day when it is cooler and she is at her most lively.
Many dogs need to be taught to show speed on the return; this skill is important to me so I will train for it. I’m not too worried about her speed on the fetch portion – watching the dumbbell being thrown away from her is very likely to give me speed in the outbound direction. Indeed, I do throw the dumbbell while I hold her back, and I already know that she’ll run on the way out. She is consistent on the skill at home but less driven and focused in public. That is normal at her age and stage of training.
In this video I’m using a schutzhund 1 level dumbbell; I will also complete this exercise with a variety of dumbbells and also different objects, including gloves and scent articles.