Hold

What you are training

You’re teaching your dog to hold an object in his mouth for at least 5 seconds.

Why you should train this

  • Can be used as part of a fetch 
  • Can be used to build other behaviours such as tidy toys and pulling on a rope

How you will train this

We’ll use the dog’s interest in toys to encourage the dog to keep hold of the object.  

We need to know that the dog can reliably hold an object before adding a verbal command, that way you’re teaching a new behaviour FOLLOWED BY a new command, not both a new behaviour AND a new command at the same time.

Push, stick, drop?

Make sure that with each step of the training you know what your criteria is; what your dog needs to do in order to get a reward.

Perform each step 5 times.

  • If your dog gets it right at least 4 times you’re ready to push to the next step
  • If your dog gets it right 3 times, stick with this step until you can achieve a higher success rate
  • If your dog gets it right 2 times of less, drop back to the previous step

Using this method will allow you not only to quantify your success but to move through the training steps more quickly.

Step 1

Criteria

Reward any interest shown in the object.

  • Show the dog the toy
  • When the dog shows an interest in the toy
  • Mark (‘yesss!’)
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 2

When the dog is starting to touch the toy with his mouth you can start rewarding mouth contact. 

Criteria

Reward any contact with the toy that the dog makes with his mouth.

  • Show the dog the toy
  • When the dog makes mouth contact with the toy
  • Mark (‘yesss!’)
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 3

When the dog is starting to play with the toy more aggressively you can start rewarding teeth contact/biting. 

Criteria

Reward any contact with the toy that the dog makes with his teeth.

  • Show the dog the toy
  • When the dog makes teeth contact with the toy
  • Mark (‘yesss!’)
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 4

When the dog is keen to take the toy in his mouth, you can let him pick the toy up. 

Criteria

Reward a partial lift of the toy.

  • Present the toy in an open hand
  • When the dog picks up the toy
  • Mark (‘yesss!’)
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 5

When the dog is picking up the toy 80% of the time, reward only for a full lift. 

Criteria

Reward a full lift of the toy.

  • Present the toy in an open hand
  • When the dog lifts the toy
  • Mark (‘yesss!’)
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 6

When the dog is lifting the toy 80% of the time, you can increase the duration that the toy is in the mouth. 

Criteria

Reward when the toy is in the hand for 1 second

  • Present the toy in an open hand
  • When the dog lifts the toy
  • Silently count to 1
  • Mark (‘yesss!’)
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 7

When the dog is holding the toy for 1 second 80% of the time, you can increase the duration that the toy is in the mouth. 

Criteria

Reward when the toy is in the hand for 2 second

  • Present the toy in an open hand
  • When the dog lifts the toy
  • Silently count to 2
  • Mark (‘yesss!’)
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 8

When the dog is holding the toy for 2 seconds 80% of the time, you can increase the duration that the toy is in the mouth. 

Criteria

Reward when the toy is in the hand for 3 second

  • Present the toy in an open hand
  • When the dog lifts the toy
  • Silently count to 3
  • Mark (‘yesss!’)
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 9

When the dog is holding the toy for 3 seconds 80% of the time, you can increase the duration that the toy is in the mouth. 

Criteria

Reward when the toy is in the hand for 4 second

  • Present the toy in an open hand
  • When the dog lifts the toy
  • Silently count to 4
  • Mark (‘yesss!’)
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 10

When the dog is holding the toy for 4 seconds 80% of the time, you can increase the duration that the toy is in the mouth. 

Criteria

Reward when the toy is in the hand for 5 second

  • Present the toy in an open hand
  • When the dog lifts the toy
  • Silently count to 5
  • Mark (‘yesss!’)
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Step 11

When the dog is holding the toy for 5 seconds 80% of the time, you can add a verbal command. 

Criteria

Reward when the toy is in the hand for 5 second

  • Say ‘hold’
  • Present the toy in an open hand
  • When the dog lifts the toy
  • Silently count to 5
  • Mark (‘yesss!’)
  • Reward
  • Repeat

Help

  • You need to start this exercise with a toy that your dog likes to hold in his mouth like a tuggy.
  • If the dog doesn’t seem keen to grab the toy, make sure you play with the dog and the toy to encourage mouth contact.
  • To encourage mouth contact you could put some treats in between the ropes of the tuggy.
  • If your dog is consistently failing to correctly perform the exercise 80% of the time, go back to the previous step.
  • When you start a new training session, start from the previous successful step to ensure that you can consistently reward your dog to avoid frustration.
  • Ensure that you give your dog lots of praise when giving him the treat.
  • When your happy that you dog is performing the task consistently, you can start to gradually phase out the treat, using praise in its place.  Ensure that you continue to treat intermittently.

Homework

  • Try asking your dog to hold different objects, noting his preferences; soft items will probably be easy for him, hard items such as keys will be less easy.
  • Vary the locations where you do this exercises; different rooms in the house, in the garden, when you’re out for a walk.