OB510: The Elusive Hand-Delivered Retrieve

Instructor: Donna Hill

Course Details

Whether you are a serious obedience competitor, training your own service dog (or someone else's), training your own bird dog, or want it for tricks (bring me a drink), the foundations of a solid hand-delivered retrieve are the same - yet very different than a play retrieve.  Learn the steps to training this behavior so it is solid no matter how and where you need it. Even non-natural retrieving breeds can learn to do it happily! 

Once you understand the pieces of a retrieve and how it can be back-chained, you can tease apart the pieces and retrain the parts that the dog is having challenges with, retrain those to perfection, then put the whole chain back together to get a fast, precise hand-delivered retrieve. 

Whether too enthusiastic (pouncing, pawing or sliding) or disinterested (slow or distracted), chomping (chewing or throwing around in her mouth), refuses to take metal objects in her mouth,  or not bringing the object close enough into your personal space is your dog's issue, your classmates and I will give it our best training ideas to solve it. We'll use a variety of different objects to train an enthusiastic retrieve from its basic foundations. Learn how to fine tune the retrieve to pick up small items like credit cards and coins.

Learn how to apply positive reinforcement training principles to create this challenging multi-step behavior. This is a problem solving class so bring your problems and solutions and share them with other Gold and Silver students.

All handlers and dogs must have a basic understanding of how a marker sound works for shaping as we will be shaping the problem pieces of the chain. You can spend more time on fine tuning and problem solving if your dog already has a strong nose touch to your palm, can sit and lay down in front of you, sit beside you and go around behind you back to heel position.

Excerpt from the Introduction:

Most problems in teaching a retrieve arise due to unclear expectations of the dog during training. That is what this class is about: clarifying the unexpressed criteria for the dog at each step of the training process so she understands what is expected of her during each part of this complicated behaviour chain.  In many cases, training using this approach will prevent unwanted behaviours before they ever start and certainly before they are added to the entire behaviour. Some of the unwanted behaviours are due to arousal level and equipment and we will deal with each separately.
In this course, I am going to post all of the information for all weeks at the beginning. This is to allow those who are already familiar with the chaining process to select the section your dog is having problems with and you can start work on that immediately. 
For those who have not trained their dog to retrieve this way yet, you can start training from the very beginning and progress as your dog is able to. Each dog will progress through each step and criteria at a different rate in part due to previous training in that specific behaviour. Fixing the challenging bits will also vary depending on how much previous practice ( and reinforcement) the dog has had in doing the unwanted behaviour.



Next session starts: October 1, 2017
Registration starts: September 22, 2017
Registration ends: October 15, 2017

Registration will begin at 11:30AM PDT.

Enrollment limits: Gold: 10 students, Silver: 25 students, Bronze: unlimited. If you are interested in bronze level, you can sign up any time during the registration period.


There is much material to cover in this class as not only do we cover how to train the basic retrieve, but also how to problem solve existing habits as well as issues that come up during the training. Happily, many of the problems can be prevented if you train using this methodical approach. Sprinkled throughout the text are games to play with your dog to practice the new behaviours and solve problems.




Lecture 1

Back-chaining a Retrieve


Lecture 2

Shaping (training plan for teaching the take)


Lecture 3

Collecting Objects to Use for Training 


Practical Training Part 1

6 Steps to Teaching a Take

1A. nose target

1B. nose touch different objects

1C. shaping take

1D. proper placement of object in mouth

1E. teaching approach from different angles

1F. adding cue for take


Practical Training Part 2

6 Ways to Teach a Hold

a) Cue a stay after taking it into her mouth

b) Ask for two holds

c) Ask the dog to lift it

d) Ask dog to tug it

e) Ask the dog to carry it

f) Using a nose or chin target

g) Adding a cue

Proofing the Hold


Problem Solving 1: Dog delivers dumbbell too far away (has issues with being in your space)


Problem Solving 2: Lack of Interest in or Enthusiasm for Object


Practical Training Part 3 Changing Position with Object in Mouth


Lecture 4: Shaping How Dog Holds Object in a Specific Way


Lecture 5: Proper Fit of the Dumbbell


Problem Solving 3: Dog Doesn't Like Metal Objects


Practical Training Part 4

4A. Dog picks up object, runs towards the handler and gives it to her hand

4B. Adding Distance

4C. Adding Delivery Position into chain (using additive adduction)

4D. Adding hold time in


Problem Solving 4: Rolling, Chewing Object


Lecture 6: Starting to Generalize the Behavior to Other Locations 


Practical Training Part 5

Dog Picks up Object and Turns Back to Handler


Problem Solving 5: Pawing or Stabbing the Object 


Problem Solving 6: Slow Speed 

a. Picking up Object 

b. Coming Back

c. Going Out


Problem Solving 7: Low Enthusiasm for Retrieve Overall

a. Technical Training Issues

b. Communication issues

c. Your General Approach

(The most common reason-Drilling the behavior)


Practical Training Part 6

Dog picks up object in his mouth, turns towards handler and moves towards the handler with the object in his mouth. Dog delivers object to her hand on cue.


Practical Training Part 7 Adding Distance


Problem Solving 8: Over Arousal During Training


Lecture 7: Practicing Your Dumbbell Throwing Skills


Practical Training Part 8

Adding Other Parts of the Behavior Chain in


Practical Training Part 9 

Carrying Objects while Jumping Over 


Practical Training Part 10

Teaching Dog to Pick up Smaller and More Delicate Objects


Problem Solving 9: Head Shake

Lecture 8: Generalizing to Real Life and Trials


Lecture 9: Holding Object in a Specific Way


Prerequisites and Equipment

This is an advanced class that requires previous shaping experience on both your part and the dog's (note the 510 level). A good idea is to take Sue Ailsby's Shaping course before this one. http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/index.php/courses/94
Make sure you have successfully shaped at least 5 different behaviors (nose touch, paw target, shutting the door, chin hold etc) including 2 where you have added duration to the behavior. This behavior is actually a complicated one that requires long term committment to get the details correct but it needs to be balanced with fun to keep the dog motivated. Good timing is essential for shaping the hold especially. Before taking this class, you need to have basic knowledge of using marker-based training (using a clicker or other sound). 

  • Clicker (optional but recommended as timing is key when shaping some of the behaviors)
  • Soft small training treats for each training session (real meat or cheese recommended, nothing crumbly or chewy)
  • a treat pouch is handy to keep treats on you for fast delivery

A collection of at least 20 different objects thst can fit comfortably and safely (non-toxic) in your dog's mouth
(make sure they are easily replaceable in case they get bitten):

  • made of different materials (wood, plastic, fabric, metal etc)
  • different sizes
  • shapes
  • textures

Some examples:

wood dowel
plastic tube (piece of hula hoop or garden hose)
tightly rolled newspaper
wooden long-handled spoon
plastic yogurt lid
plastic dvd case
old glasses case
toilet paper roll
old sock
metal canning jar lid
metal spoon

Course Testimonials


A sampling of what prior students have said about this course ....

We had so much fun, and Donna's help in coming up with creative explanations for Phoebe and her encouragement to think outside the box have been invaluable! I have learned heaps in those last six weeks - not only about the retrieve, but also about training in general. Thank you, Donna! Chrissi S.           

I am very happy I took this class. I feel we made a lot of very solid progress. It is so evident that Donna puts a great deal of thought, time and energy into her classes. She has broken the retrieve down into tiny steps to ensure us of success. Her lectures are filled with detail, suggestions and many helpful videos. Many students at the Gold level were enthusiastically repeating the class. She worked with each team independently right at the level where we were. Her fast response time (click) and her positive, helpful comments were very reinforcing. I hope to take the class again in the future. Sandy H          

The way the course is designed allowed me to go at my own pace and stay longer in areas where we needed to. Will recommend your on line courses to my dog friends. Also, your courses are for everyone competition or family dog.          

I've struggled for years on a quiet dumbbell hold, and within the first week of class I was already seeing progress. Donna splits down the behavior chain so well, and offers so many different ideas for how to train the different behaviors. Thanks Donna! Molly B        

l am still working thru the class, but I have seen great improvement in my young dog on her retrieve. Glad I took this class!!            

Donna's videos are very detailed and allow you to progress on any behavior. I often went back to watch them again and again to see if I got it right          

The lectures and videos have been extremely helpful. I can get a hold for several seconds with articles made from various materials. Donna gives her students plenty of ways to work each step of the hand-delivered retrieve so that if one method doesn't work, the student can try others. She responds to her students quickly and may include student work in her demos, with their permission. We are getting there, and I have complete faith that we will get there. Carol B