Training your dog.
by Dennis Fisher.

This article is one of a great many articles written by Dennis Fisher about a very wide variety of subjects concerning different  dogs, such as obedience training, breeding, showing, health matters, training problems and other subjects.  All these articles appear on Dennis Fisher's websites.   Visit the site that has been set up specifically for German Shepherd Dog enthusiasts, or  if you interested in a breed   other than German Shepherd Dogs


Before the dog is able to perform the hurdle retrieve, it must obviously be capable of retrieving an object, not as a game, but as a controlled exercise.  The dog must retrieve the article, not when it feels like enjoying the game, but when it is told to do so.


( Note: You’ll find the following information set out in slightly more detailed way  in the section that deals with retrieving.)


Many owners have great difficulty in teaching this exercise. Others find it relatively easy.  This is due, to some extent to the natural ability of the dog to perform this exercise.


 There is no doubt that some dogs are natural retrievers and the exercise comes very easily to them,  Others are not and the trainers are faced with a far more difficult problems. Even within a certain breed, there are certain strains that respond more easily and quickly to the training.


There is no doubt that all dogs can be taught to retrieve.  It is important to approach the task in a way that is going to give you the best results.

There  are difference of opinion, even among experienced trainers, as to what is the best way to begin training the retrieve.


Even though every pup will enjoy chasing an object that is thrown, because it is associated with an inborn “prey” instinct.  But the training obviously involves more than running after the object.  Very often the object is one that the dog may not particularly like. Nevertheless it is an exercise and the dog must do what it is told to do.


Because the dumbbell is the object that is going to be used in obedience tests, it is best to start with this object.


It is important to start with a well- chosen size and weight of dumbbell in relationship  to size and strength of  the dog you are training.


The dumbbell, when you start training should be fairly light and manageable.  It is also a good idea to make sure that the dumbbells is constructed in such a way that the bells on the side are not too small.  If they are the dog will develop a tendency to pick up the dumbbell by one of the two ends rather than the middle.


The dumbbell should also  not be too large otherwise it will obstruct the dog’s vision as he runs with it.


When you first introduce your dog to the dumbbell you should do so very carefully.


Carry the dumbbell around with you when you walk at heel with the dog; drop it occasionally and let the dog sniff it and examine it, but don’t let him chew it and regard it as a play object.


If the dog does happen to pick it make a tremendous fuss of him.  Let him hold it for a short while; then take it from him with a very pleasant “give” or “out” command.


On occasion, when you are  walking with the dog, not necessarily training him, take the dumbbell in your hand and start playing with it, passing from one hand to another.


 When he comes to you to see what you are doing, try offering it to him in an excited voice, telling him to “Take It”.  If he does praise him very enthusiastically.


Do this on a number of occasions.  Next, continue by introducing a little more formality in the training.  Put him leash.  Encourage him to him to  sit  and stay. 


While standing in front of him try and persuade him to take the dumbbell from your hand by pushing it very gently against his lips, saying “Take it” as persuasively as you can.


Some dogs will take it. Others will not, in which case open his mouth very gently and place it in his mouth, saying “hold”  in an encouraging tone of voice.  Whatever you do, don’t be in a hurry and try and force the dog to obey you.


You can hold your hand under his jaw for about ten seconds, so that he is unable to drop the dumbbell, repeating the command “Hold it” over and over again. The give the “give” or “out” praising enthusiastically.


If you are successful try and increase the time he has held it without attempting to spit it out to about one minute.  Then take the dumbbell, again, and praise the dog.


Whatever you do, be patient in this initial process of training. Don’t show signs of irritation.  Don’t give the impression that it is a contest that you’ve got to win.


As this article is intended to deal with the hurdle retrieve, let us presume that you have managed to train your dog execute a reliable retrieve


Once your dog has mastered the retrieve and is also happy with jumping you won’t find this exercise too difficult.


Start off with seeing that the jump is a comfortable height.   Stand a fair distance away from the jump – about 10 to 15 feet – with your dog sitting next to you, in the heel position.  


Tell dog your dog “stay” in and then throw the dumbbell over the hurdle, so that it lands a distance of about ten feet away from the jump.


When you give the command to the dog to “fetch it”, run with him towards the jump.


 As he reaches the jump give him the command he is to “hup”.   As he lands on the other side of the hurdle, repeat the “fetch it” command.  


You can also point to the dumbbell.  After the dog has picked up the dumbbell stand on the other side of the jump, right against it so that the dog can see you, call him to you and let him jump back over the hurdle again.  Then tell him to heel.


Insist that the dog come back over the jump.  If he does try and come to you by going around the jump, take him back and make him jump again.


You will have to be patient with the dog because he is not accustomed to jumping with a dumbbell in his mouth, but with gently persuasion and a great deal of encouragement he will soon get the idea.


He may drop the dumbbell, in which you will have to see that he picks it up again as you did when you trained him to retrieve initially.


You can always encourage your dog to work quickly by running up to the jump with him, telling him in a very excited tone of voice to “fetch it”.  Of course, when he succeeds praise as enthusiastically as you can.


As you dog become more confident you can gradually increase the height of the jump.