This third part of the clicker retrieve training process is all about holding on to the dummy. You can follow this link to go to Part One: Clicker retrieve part one
Part Three is where we teach the dog that to earn his C&T he needs to pick up the dummy and hold it in his mouth for a while.
We do this by increasing the time he will hold the dummy for very gradually.
The objective of this stage is to end up with a dog that will pick the dummy up off the ground and hold it in his mouth for ten seconds
Moving the goalposts
At the end of part two, you had a dog that would lift a dummy clear off the ground. He would then spit it straight out again in anticipation of his reward.
The next time he does this, you are going to stand and wait. No C&T, nothing. Just wait.
The dog will then pick the dummy up again. Now you can C&T. You are going to continue intermittently rewarding the dog for his pick-ups and watching him very carefully.
You will notice that sometimes he holds on to the dummy longer than other times. These longer holds may only be a couple of seconds, but these are the ones you are going to C&T in future.
Any pick-up where he spits out the dummy immediately must be ignored. You can count in your head as he picks up “one thousand two thousand click” Once you have a repeated two second hold you can begin to build on it.
Here are your steps
- Place the dummy on the floor
- C&T intermittently. You are looking for a two second hold
- Once the dog will hold for two seconds every time, start looking for a three second hold
- Next only C&T a four second hold
- Next only C&T a six second hold
And so on. Take it slowly, set the dog up to win.
How can I encourage my dog to hold longer?
Mostly this is just a question of patience. The dog is learning that in order to get a C&T he needs to figure out what behaviour you are looking for.
He will try different approaches and sooner or later one of those will be longer holds. Some dogs will hold longer if you take a couple of steps back, they will follow you and keep the dummy in their mouths.
Others will let go if you move and are more likely to hold if you stand very still. You may need to experiment.
Remember, if you fail to reward a behaviour for long enough it will become extinct. While you are ‘raising the bar’ don’t let the dog go too long without a reward, you don’t want to extinguish your ‘pick-up’.
Once you have a reliable, repeatable, ten second hold we can move on to the next stage, delivering the dummy into your hand.
Pippa, I have a 4 month old springer spaniel who is happy to chase and retrieve but drops the dummy straight away at my feet and sits. Partly because this is how we trainer her. When I stand and wait with dummy at my feet and her sitting looking at me she never picks it up again so how do I encourage her to hold the dummy even for 2 seconds?
Hi Pippa… great write up, thank you. Does it matter if at the moment my dog needs to be handed the dummy for the purpose of doing the hold (he does the hold perfectly well now thanks to this write up, but doesn’t get that he needs to do the same thing if he has to pick it up off the ground).
I am not sure if you still check this blog but it’s a fantastic write up for those new to gun dog training.
We have an 18 month old black lab who has loads of drive so has no troubles with the retrieving aspect, but has been spitting the dummy out when he gets back to me after retrieving.
I found it really hard to get him to do any clicker training to teach a ‘hold’ with the dummy, as he just gets too excited and starts playing. So I substituted a baseball cap and over the course of a day got him working the 10 second hold effectively. At times he also is able to do this with the dummy now, but not consistently as with the baseball cap. Is there anyway you can suggest we can get him to start understanding he needs to replicate the same behaviour with the dummy (I am trying the clicker with treats but as I say it only works intermittently)
Alan Fielding says
Just reading your Total Recall for the second time since I bought it, find it interesting. I Have a Hungarian Vizla and a springer cross with vizla. Both 3years old.
I had the recall cracked the first time I used your methods, but too much freedom to sniff rabbits out in hedges as given them the edge. The spaniel has no interest in me whatsoever tried getting him into retreiving with your article on the website he will do it in the house but get him outside and there’s no interest. I am a little confused how you can click and treat in your explanations when the dog will have a bumper in its mouth , or am I reading it wrong?
Any help would be great
Which exercise are you on Alan?
I’m teaching my dog the trained retrieve and we are at the stage where we are starting to increasing the duration, however i have noticed that he has starded to chew the dummy whilst holding it if i try to increase past the one second mark!! I don’t reward him for any holds which he chews on but it doesn’t seem to make any difference! Any suggestions would be must appreciated! Many thanks
Hi Hannah, it is important to click only when the dog’s mouth is ‘still’ but it can be tricky to get the timing right. One approach that can work very well is to keep the dog on the move after the pick up. Once the dummy is in his mouth you can either walk him a few steps at heel or back away from him and encourage him towards you. Click whilst his mouth is still. Most dogs won’t chomp whilst walking. Stopping the chomping is more important than lengthening the hold. Pippa
I’m greatful for this website, I have learned a lot from it!
My dog is a 2 years old golden retriever – loves to retrieve, but hates to give me the dummy. He bring it back, stand in front of me, but refuse to give it to me by turning his head in all directions. Do you think I can correct it via clicker traning? I think I should click when he sees up to me while holding the dummy – but how can I achieve this?
Thank you for your help in advance!
Hi there, you can certainly fix this. The first step is to get him to let go of the dummy in exchange for food. Have the dog, yourself and something very tasty all together in a very small space. Give him the dummy, click, and offer him the food. He has to let go in order to eat it. You may need to put the food right on the end of his nose in order to get him to let go. 🙂 Build up from there and follow the clicker retrieve instructions.
My Gsp pup has learnt to pick the dummy up in 2 sessions and loves picking it up and running around with it. When he does this is it ok to C&T him continually for this behaviour while he is jumping around with it? Does that count as a ten second hold?
Hi Nathan, you need to discourage the running around as this can become a habit. Go back to shorter holds for a while and get the dog moving towards you (by backing away from him), rather than just playing about.
Quick question. Is it ok in teaching a dog to hold the bumper for me to walk and have dog follow with bumper in mouth. Not so much at heel just follow with the bumper in the mouth and click and treat this . Have dog I’m working with that appears to like this as he holds the bumper for a more prolonged time
Thank You as Always for Your Insight.
Hi Chip, there are no set rules, it is fine to modify the behaviour to suit your needs. Pippa
Okay, here is what we have. Dale will now carry bumper 5 plus seconds, sometimes longer. Question is, when I c/t he carries bumper over to the treat, puts the bumper down to eat the treat, and then picks the bumper back up which I then count in my head the time frame I want to c/t for. Are we proceeding correctly ???
Hi Chip, the time you are looking to extend, is the time between each ‘pick-up’ and your c/t. If he picks the bumper up again, that is a second pick-up so start counting again. Hope that is what you mean. Pippa.
Yes, when he picks up I start counting over again.
Thanks for the insight.
AFternoon. Regarding section 4), I’ve been putting the bumper 2-3 feet in front of Dale, can I also increase that distance say to 5 feet for him to retrieve /pickup or do I stay in close.
Hi Chip, I don’t think there is any reason why you should not increase the distance at this stage, but personally I prefer to add distance at the end of the following stage (four). So I get the delivery to hand completed, then start to increase distance. HTH
Thank You for the email.
Finding out that timing is critical..
Love this website !! Have black Lab “Dale” who is very keen. He does not have any issues with carrying objects in his mouth, just his delivery to hand is rough. Started with level 3 which he performedvery very well. He then started holding the bumper and then is all on the first day of using the clicker training. He held for gradually longer periods of time up to 4 sometimes 5 seconds. As I was unsure what to do when he started holding the bumper so fast, I guess my question is do I c/t these time increments of holding or are we proceeding to fast and should we for stay at level 3 to be certain we have an entrenched / learned behaviour ???
Chip in Sanford Florida
Hi Chip, glad you like the site, and that you are making great progress. Rapid progress is not unusual at various points in your clicker training. If you have made a lot of progress on a single day, it is a good idea to make sure that you can replicate your success on a different day. But other than that, there is no need to spend ages practicing if the dog has clearly ‘got it’. Just move on carefully in little steps, building on what you done so far. Pippa
Thank You for the email. I have to say being that having used “traditional” methods of training, I am certain this is the direction to take. The enthusiasm of the dog(s) by itself is immeasurable..
Had another question regarding recall and whistle stop exercises. We have another Lab “Jesse James” a bit further along in the training process and would like to apply clicker training to these exercisesl. Regarding whistle stops, we’ve used tennis ball(s) as a reinforcer, and as far as recall have no major issues as this has been taught since puppyhood but just thinking of distractions and being numerous as they are was thinking clicker training would be something to consider as additional re-inforcement. Hope I made sense. Can you provide some insight ??
Hi Chip, I mostly use clicker training for establishing the basics with little pups, and for fiddly things like the retrieve where you need to mark tiny or fleeting changes in behaviour. But there is no reason why you cannot use the clicker for anything you want to, provided the dog can hear the click. It’s just a marker after all. Or you can use a word (I use ‘good’) instead. It is the principles of ‘reinforcing what you want’ that really count. Pippa
Thank You. In play romps in the yard ncorporated the c/t into the recall starting close and moved it out to approximately 35-40 yards (Jesse is very keen) and again enthusiasm is astounding. Had a thought as you mention regarding the distance / hearing the click factor. Is there a definitive time frame from the time of the click to presentation of the treat to the dog so that the c/t maintains relevance ?? Take for instance Jesse sniffing around the yard this morning and he’s 40 yards away when I hit the recall. He sprints up to me sits on the whistle peep and I c/t that. It appears to work very well mind you.
Thank You for your insight. This very interesting not to mention quite a bit of fun.
Very good tips, thank you Pippa!
Glad you found them helpful. 🙂