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  • Writer's pictureJenny Stamm

Retrieval - Bring It

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

Service dogs must be trained in certain behaviors to help their specific disabled partner. If the behavior is triggered with a command (visual or verbal), it’s called a “task.” If the behavior is triggered via an environmental cue (a sound, a change in the partner’s body, etc.), it’s called “work.”

This is part of a series on various service dog tasks/work behaviors, their purpose, and how to train them. You can find a glossary of terms here and the whole list of behaviors covered (so far) here. There are so many behaviors and ways to train those behaviors, but I hope to cover the most important ones. If I’ve missed something, please let me know!

Retrieval - Bring It

Retrieval of items can be vital whether it’s for someone who can’t easily bend down to pick things up or if someone needs a specific item brought to them from somewhere in their home. Of course, it can also be a fun behavior to teach to give your dog something to do around the house, like picking up their toys and putting them in a toy box.

There are going to be 5 articles posted about teaching retrieval: four steps to teach a retrieval and then one to turn a guided retrieval into retrieval of a specific, named item. They will be posted over the next 2 weeks, but the steps are Take/Get It, Hold, Give, Bring It, and then Named Retrieval.

In order to train a dog how to perform a formal retrieve, follow the below steps. Mark (clicker or “yes”) and reward for correct responses and only move onto the next step when the previous one is consistent and reliable.

  1. Teach Take/Get It, Hold, and Give first.

  2. Place an object on the floor, ask for a Get It, then use the cue “Bring It.” As soon as they lift their head up with the object, mark, ask for a Give, and reward.

    1. At first, you want to bend down if necessary, to mark and reward as soon as the object is picked up off the floor.

  3. Place the object a little further from where you are (no more than 1 step away for you), ask for a Get It, and then say “Bring It” while encouraging them by clapping, bouncing, making excited sounds or otherwise getting them to come to you.

    1. If your dog goes straight for the object before you can ask for a Get It, ask your dog for a Stay or distract them with other training behaviors briefly before requesting the Get It.

    2. If your dog drops the object as soon as you start getting excited, put the object closer and practice with less distance for your dog to travel first. You can also use Hold to help remind them to keep the item in their mouth.

  4. Start increasing the distance (from you) that you place the object before asking for a Get It and then Bring It. Also decrease the excitement (maybe clap a couple of times, but don’t go full out).

    1. Use Hold to help them remember to keep it in their mouth, if necessary, before asking for a Bring It again.

    2. Remember to vary the distance: 1 step away, 3 steps, 2 steps, 2 steps, 4 steps, 1 step, etc.

  5. Now toss an object away from you before requesting a Get It and then a Bring It.

    1. Ask for a Stay before tossing the object and/or distract them with other training (even just Sit, Stand, and Down) before requesting a Get It.

  6. Now we want them to not only bring the object to where you’re standing, but to bring their head up so you can easily grab the object. When your dog brings you the object, ask for a Bring It while waving your hands upwards. Mark and reward when they lift their head.

    1. This is best practiced when you’re standing if you have a medium/large dog.

  7. Next, only mark and reward if they bring the object up enough to be easily grabbed by you (preferably without you having to bend down towards them). This could take a couple of encouragements to get them to lift their head enough at first, but should eventually be an automatic response.

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