Problems with dumbbells are common and there are A LOT of reasons why issues develop. Some are a result of the training methods selected and others are related to the temperament of the dog. Regardless, if you’ve developed an issue you’ll want it solved.
One of the most common handler complaints is chewing on the dumbbell. This can happen on the way back or in “front” position. This blog will only consider dogs that chew in front but otherwise have a quiet hold while they are in motion.
Dogs often mouth the dumbbell in front position because they know you are going to take it. This is logical – they clamp down in movement (coming in) to avoid dropping it. But in the same way that you relax your hand when you are about to give something to someone, your dog will do the same thing. Dogs that mouth in front position are usually anticipating the release.
A simple answer that works for most dogs is to stop taking the dumbbell in front position. If the dog knows that a front will be followed by more movement, they are much less likely to munch.
Brito shows this here. On the first retrieve, I allow him to come to front and sit – and then he is sent between my legs to heel position. I take the dumbbell at heel position. It is possible that he would begin to munch there but that is not concern to me since that does not come up in the ring. Over time he has developed a habit of a quiet hold in front.
The second retrieve does not include a front at all – he goes straight through my legs to heel position.
If you try this, vary the amount of time that you hold your dog in front position before your finish (you can do a regular finish but between the legs will reinforce a straight sit in front). I ignore any munching in front and let it go away on it’s own. I slowly increase how long my dog is in front until they can sit quietly for about five seconds – that covers pretty much any ring situation that I can think up.
This is how I end my retrieves the majority of the time.