Retrieving to hand is a fundamental skill for sports dogs. When a dog executes a retrieve to hand, she runs after the toy (whether it be thrown or static), picks it up and holds it in her mouth and returns to the handler.
When the dog reaches the handler, she will push the toy into the palm of her human’s hand. This action initiates play with the handler. Play might take the form of tugging, throwing the toy again, opening the toy to reveal food, or unformalized forms of silliness.
There are huge advantages to a retrieve to hand – convenience, for one, so the human can focus on other aspects of the training session besides chasing the dog down for the toy back. However, my main reason for using a retrieve to hand is for that action to double as my start button.
As a quick way of of getting consent to continue after every repetition, the retrieve to hand gives my girls the option to choose whether or not to bring the toy back. Since I don’t always know when they are winded, fatigued or sore, I’m happy to pass that responsibility off to them.
River does not have a retrieve to hand at this time, and it shows in the speed of her learning. I put further development of her toy skills on the back burner because I built several of her “toy” preferences (string and trees, namely) into functional reward systems for agility training. However, toy skills will make both of our lives easier, so it’s time to clean some of our mess!
Stay tooned for Part 1: Picking up an object, coming Wednesday March 25.