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  • Writer's pictureJenny Stamm

Retrieval - Give

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 - Give

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 3 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 and Hold first.

  2. After a Hold, bring your hand up to the object and say the cue “Give.” Mark and reward when they let go of the item.

    1. This should happen fairly automatically because they know the treat is coming, but if you need to help encourage them to let go of the item, you can start by putting the treat up to their nose.

    2. Make sure you can use only the cue (and not a lure) successfully every time before moving on.

  3. Practice waiting until you say the cue for the drop. Do this by bringing your hand close to the item (and even touching/grabbing the item), but they only get marked and rewarded if they wait until your cue to let it go.

    1. You can remind them to keep the object in their mouth by asking for a Hold while you’re bringing your hand in or even holding the object.

  4. If you haven’t yet, start working on Bring It.

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