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Best Laid Plans…Brito’s Retrieve (and a bit of heeling)

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I had intended to record every few sessions of Brito’s retrieve so that someone might be able to follow along and possibly progress with their own dog.

Unfortunately, Brito did what many dogs do…he just figured it out and skipped some of the intermediate steps that I might have been able to show.  So…this video picks up at the point where he is handing me the dumbbell.

Retrieve skills we’ll work on from here include standing up (I show that here), bringing it to my hands wherever they are ( I begin that here), finding front (the most basic steps are shown here but there is much to work on),  distance (no hurry on that one), a fast turn and return (very basic steps here), a hold (he’s not “holding”; he’s delivering – hold is a late training step for me), changing to a variety of objects (no hurry since he is not mouthing),  and then the fun stuff – hiding the dumbbell, challenging pick ups, etc.

For those of you who are concerned by the size of the dumbbell – my choice is intentional.  A heavy, awkward, or poorly weighted object creates a dog that works with determination.  As long as the size and weight of the object fit with what the dog will choose to pick up in  ‘real life’, then there is no reason not to request the same effort in work. I presume that most people know what their own dog is capable of picking up comfortably.   Simply be aware of the risks and benefits of different choices that you make, and allow others the freedom to make their choices without judgement.

My choice of a large bar has created a dog that opens his mouth wide as needed – easier to train that now than later.  My choice of a heavy object has created a dog that clamps his mouth shut without chewing.  MUCH easier to train that now than have a dog develop a habit of passively allowing the object to rest on his jaw.  I cannot think of one reason to use a lightweight object that would simply sit there regardless of his behavior.   However, if you find that transitioning from a lightweight object to a more substantial one at a later time works for you, then….go for it!

Hope to see several of you enrolling at the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy on Friday – send me a private note at  if you need assistance in picking your class or classes.  If you need to be added to the mailing list, you can do that here 

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

3 responses »

  1. I tried teaching my Tenterfield terrier (3kg) to retrieve using a heavy, but suitable sized dumbbell. The only dumbbell she ever retrieved was her sister’s – and her sister is a kelpie x more than 5 times her size!

  2. I am training a small Sheltie to retrieve his dumbbell. He, like Brio, will retrieve toys.
    I was teaching him, step by step.He was just beginning to open his mouth. My arthritic hands
    dropped his dumbbell, by accident. He picked it up and brought it to me. I am using a heavy,
    wooden dumbbell. He has no problem with it, and it looks too big for his mouth, but I think, like you, that this does indeed help prevent mouthing. He is a mouthy dog to begin with.
    Most books tell you that even if your dog retrieves, you have to go through each step.’
    What say you???


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