Tug your way to a retrieve!

“I’d love to play but he never brings it back.”

“How can do I teach him to retrieve, he’ll chase but then that’s it.”

I frequently hear complaints about dogs having no concept of a retrieve.  Now, there are TONS of ways to teach a retrieve.  Back chaining a take/hold using food rewards and a clicker or using a high value treat as reward for learning a “give” and morphing that behavior into a retrieve.  However, one of my favorite methods uses tugs and tugging to build a retrieve.

This video shows the foundations to building the behavior.  What it doesn’t go into (for time sake) is putting a word to the behavior once they are consistently performing it and how to start generalizing the behavior.  To put a word to it, you simply pick a word you want to use to mean retrieve and start using it as the pup is getting the toy, and then start saying it before he is sent to get the toy.  To start generalizing, I start using other toys you can tug with (squeaky toy, a frisbee, a different tug).  If he’s doing well with retrieving other toys you can tug with you can start using things not as easy to tug with, a bone, a ball, a dumbbells, etc. and then presenting the tug to play OR you can introduce food rewards.

So, without further ado… How to train your dog to retrieve using tugging….


About Success Just Clicks

I'm a dog trainer and enthusiast who moonlights as a blogger and custom tug-toy maker.
This entry was posted in clicker training, Dog Handler Information, Dog Training methods, Tugs By Tena and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Tug your way to a retrieve!

  1. Ron Watson says:

    Great video, Tena!
    That is so funny… “Many Behaviors” – are we on the same wavelength or what?
    I think I’m going to link to this video from our Bitework Class.
    This is real nice work. You really show just how elegant the game of tug can be.

  2. gotspots says:

    Question! 🙂

    So Delta has always LOVED tugging so I didn’t have to teach her how. But Doc… he just lets go as soon as I grab the toy.

    I try getting him all excited, and then he may hold on for a few seconds but does the same thing. I try prolonging that time and letting go so he’ll win, but he doesn’t seem to tug more than a second. I’ve tried running him around my body super fast while I’m sitting, letting him catch it, then tugging for a few seconds but again, he doesn’t get much further than a second, maybe two.

    Any suggestions?

    • Ms. Spotty Queen .. LOL… Does Doc watch Delta tug? Thats’ often how other dogs get into it… if that’s not working… I would build drive in that little pooch.

      Get a brand new special tug toy… (can get a squeaky one or one similar to mine that has tassles). Bring it home and hide it in a special place, out of sight. Everyday for a week, before he gets his meals (if you can do it before each meal that’s awesome, if not aim for once a day), take it out and spend 30-60 seconds playing with it like it is the absolute coolest thing. Completely ignore him toss it in the air, spin it around, get a really high excited voice and whoop and laugh and smile–essentially make a fool of your self. Then put it away and feed him dinner. After a week he should start getting keyed up at the sight of it … you can start briefly engaging with him while you play with it..but tease him… he’s not allowed to touch it… engage him more and more but again, no touching. EVENTUALLY when he is so excited he can’t control himself (or almost that much) let him get ONE bite on the toy then put it away… next day he just gets teased again. then he gets two bites … you are going to leave him WANTing or needing more… my guess is you will eventually have a pup who’s excited to tug.

      Isn’t he around 4 months now? It COULD be that he’s starting to teethe and his mouth hurts to tug too much… just something to think about 🙂

  3. Mary Hunter says:

    Very nicely done!

    I really like how you use tugging—something the dog already knows and really likes—and show how to gradually expand this into a good retrieve. very clever.


  4. Kristine says:

    Hey cool! This is kind of how we’ve been working on retrieve, purely because it was the only thing that worked. It’s good to know we were actually on to something!

  5. gotspots says:

    Why thank you! ^.^ I will definitely try this out. 🙂 I guess mommy has to get her fleecies out to make a new tuggy toy.

  6. Ann says:

    Awesome video! Thanks for sharing. My pup loves to tug and this should help us improvenhis retrieve.

  7. Very interesting and inspiring. My Golden does love to tug but basically won’t retrieve. A retriever who won’t retrieve! Anyway, I’ll institute your ideas and see how it goes.

    BTW, it should be “without further ado” not “adieu.” “Ado” means fuss, “adieu” means, essentially “goodbye,” or literally “with God.”

    Thanks for the great video.

  8. Pingback: Weekly Woof from the Web | Pet Central's Pawsitive Dawgs Blog!

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