Dogs like most mammals are educated to do certain task by means of mental conditioning. They tend to respond to things according to an associated (positive/negative) experience (Reward and Punishment). Clearly, these two are essential tools for a trainer to control the dog.
Reward – Dog treats, a toy, or a low rub under its chin accompanied by a sincere praise and cuddling.
Punishment – A firm and emphatic ‘No’ accompanied by a quick downward tug of its leash or choke collar.
NOTE: It is necessary that the dog is rewarded for obedience or punished for disobedience Instantly after the action is done so that the dog will not associate the reward or the punishment into something else.
Some dog breeds are more genetically inclined to ‘retrieve’ due to selective breeding, most dogs can learn to accomplish this challenging task through patient and habitual training.
– Rolled up newspaper (taped on both ends)
– Leash and a choke collar (retractable leash is best)
The “Fetch” Command
Find a place where there is no disruption for the training session. With your dog on a leash held by your left hand, entice him with your rolled up newspaper by waving it playfully with your right hand. He will naturally want to grab it with its mouth but don’t let him have it yet. Say the word “fetch” then toss the newspaper a few feet away for him to go after it. Once the dog grabs the paper pull the leash so he comes back to you. Repeat the whole process over and over until the dog gets the idea that the command ‘fetch’ means going after the newspaper, picking it up and coming back to you. Reward accordingly. Repeat until he becomes consistent in doing the task. End each the training session with praises and take the rolled up newspaper away and let the dog play with his favorite toy instead. You may also reward with treats after every session.
Note: It is important that you end the session with a satisfactory performance from your dog. So that you can reward him at the end of the session. This way he will learn to associate training session with positive experience.
The “Drop” Command
The dog may be inclined to go after the paper but will naturally want to play with it rather than give it you. Therefore, you should be firm in training him to submit the article to you. Reward and punishment is critical at this moment. Here’s what you should do:
Once the dog steadfastly comes to you with the newspaper on his mouth, say the word “drop” then attempt to take the article from his mouth. If he refuses to give in, give a quick downward tug with its choke collar, say ‘drop’ then remove the newspaper from his mouth. This tugging of the collar should be uncomfortable enough for the dog so that he will get the idea that he needs to drop the article from his mouth. Repeat this method until the dog learns to submit the article upon the command ‘drop’. Once he does it willingly, praise him profusely and give him treats. Repeat until he performs consistently. End session by giving him his most wanted toy to play soon after accomplishing the task.
As mentioned, genetics play an important factor in training. There are dogs too that simply do not have an inclination to fetch which makes training almost useless. Nonetheless, success in this endeavor also depends on the skill of the instructor.