Any Tips On How To Teach "hold" With Items?

Discussion in 'Dog Tricks' started by horsy, Nov 28, 2011.

  1. horsy Well-Known Member

    I can't get Diesel to hold things. For instance, a bag. I've tried bags with different textures, thick handles and thin handles. He will mouth them, take the handle right up to his back teeth, but as soon as I let go he drops it. Today when he put it into his mouth I tried to wind him up and pull it back and turn it into a tug of war, he did get a better grip on it but then as soon as I let go, he drops it.

    Any tips?
    tigerlily46514 likes this.

  2. Amateur Experienced Member

    What about teaching a "hold" command with something he would normally hold in his mouth like a ball to start with ... then move on to other objects

    p.s. your black horse portrait is fabulous !
  3. fickla Experienced Member

    Does he have a retrieve? Hold training can be difficult so I always first teach the dog to pick up and bring the item to me. getting them moving with an object is much easier than when they're still.

    If you haven't taught a retrieve here is my blog post on it:
    http://laurawaudby.blogspot.com/2009/12/how-to-teach-your-dog-to-retrieve.html

    If you do have a retrieve and now are ready for the hold portion, it can take a bit of experimenting. Since he is holding it well as long as you are holding it, I would go off of that. Maybe rest your hand on your leg and reward him as long as he's keeping contact, it doesn't matter if your hand/leg is actually doing the supporting. Once you have a 5sec hold that way it should be much easier to slowly get rid of the support. Here is a blog post I made on several different methods I've used on various dogs. I often combine methods and figure out what works for each particular dog, #5 is the one I might start out with your dog:
    http://laurawaudby.blogspot.com/2011/03/how-to-teach-your-dog-to-hold.html
    tigerlily46514 likes this.
  4. horsy Well-Known Member

    Thanks for your reply! The only thing he will hold in his mouth are toys, and then most of the time he won't let go. His drop is something we have been working on for the best part of a year, it's improved, but it still isn't at all reliable.

    I'm glad you like the picture! It's a very popular one that one :D
  5. horsy Well-Known Member

    He will retrieve toys, and items he knows by name, but not new items. I will try and work on that, I think that may be the best route for him, getting him to pick things up from the floor and bring them to me, then work on holding for longer... rather than taking things from my hand. When I first got him, he was very reluctant to take even food from my hands, I think maybe he was scolded for it before. I'd actually forgotten about that. Your blog posts are really informative! I think I'm going to favourite it :D
  6. Husky heaven Well-Known Member


    I love your blog. I am also having trouble getting Grace to hold things. Before I was holding her collar when I threw a toy but she has bought it back to me a few times since I stopped holding her. Still a long way to go. She also has a problem with keeping her focus when there are distractions and I am trying out your tip on getting her to look at me no matter what I am doing with the treat. She caught onto that quiet quickly and I am hoping it might make a difference when we do agility and she smells something the other side of the arena.
  7. fickla Experienced Member

    Thank you Husky, I'm glad that it's helping.

    Like mentioned in the posts, I don't bother teaching the dog to hold something until they are retrieving all the way to my hand. Usually a play retrieve and a retrieve of other objects are not seen as the same by dogs. With some dogs you can go through the "formal" retrieve training with a toy, but with others it can be faster to start with an object they're not used to picking up and playing with (I like dumbbells or plastic spoons- something that has a bar that sits off the ground for easy pickup). With those other dogs they're getting just as much reinforcement out of playing with the toy than with earning their click/treat, OR the human is more likely to skip steps and do longer retrieves when they really should be focused on less than a foot and getting consistency to hand. But all depends on the dog and human team :)

    As for attention, that treat out to the side game is one I put a lot of emphasis on. The dog learns to look away from what they want by choice. You should always be making it harder though and should work up to being able to train Grace while her bowl of food is sitting on the floor until you can walk by it, recall by it, do an entire shaping session with it out, etc. Then of course you have to repeat in new places with food and toys :) At agility if you have something that would be more interesting to her than lovely smells, (might be hard!) you could work up to that being on the floor while you train, or at least working on it while you're waiting your turn. That way she can learn impulse control and you have control over the reward she really wants.
  8. horsy Well-Known Member

    Just to update, I've all but given up on this. He is seriously playing games with me. Trying the retrieve method, he will not pick up the bag and carry it to me, he will run to it, grab it by the handle, and throw it at me. Honestly, he picks it up and flicks it up in the air in my general direction. If I ignore it and leave it on the floor he will do it again until he literally throws it against my legs. Then he looks at me like "I'm bringing you the bag, what more do you want?"

    One day when he was being ignored (he's a pest, a total attention seeker so I do have to ignore him at times or he would have my attention every second of the day) I saw him in the corner of my eye rummaging around with the bag we had been training with the day before. So I watched from the corner of my eye, he stole a quick glance at me, then picked it up by the handle, paraded around the living room TWICE carrying it perfectly. I jumped up with lots of praise and ran to get a super tasty treat. Would he do it again? No way. I tried again over several days and he was just not having it. He picked it up another time without being asked, so I made a big deal of it again, but still he will not hold it for more than half a second if I hand it to him.

    The fact that he has done it twice to get my attention makes me think he knows what I want him to do. I just don't think he sees the point in doing it :rolleyes: This dog is too smart for me.

    ETA: Ok so I just tried again. He carried the bag down the stairs brilliantly, and got a big treat. Then he took it from me and carried it around the living room and got a big treat. Then that was it, he went back to picking it up and throwing it a couple of times, then got bored and started doing something else.
  9. Anneke Honored Member

    Oooh don't you just hate it, when they play us like that!!:D Haha!! Smart dogs...
    Keep at it, horsy, he will get it.
  10. running_dog Honored Member

    Diesel sounds soooooooooo like my dog Zac. I'm pretty sure Diesel is an intuitive learner - Wasn't it you posted about him making you get the exercise ball out and then him walking around with his front paws on the ball without being taught? Such a clever dog.

    It sounds like Diesel maybe doesn't appreciate your rewards enough?
    Sometimes a treat isn't enough, for basketball Zac needs 5 minutes football and fuss for every basket, even liver, sausage, and cheese jackpots are not good enough. He goes all dumb and stupid letting the ball bounce off his head if he isn't getting paid enough :( .

    Or sometimes a treat only works if it is dinner time.
    Zac stacks dishes perfectly if it is a condition of his dinner, otherwise he lollops all over the place sticking his nose in the dishes, pawing them, carrying one upside down over his nose, ALMOST stacking them but just missing or sticking his paw in at the last second so the dish won't fit :ROFLMAO:, or pouncing on the dishes so they ACCIDENTALLY skitter under the cupboard.

    And maybe Diesel also gets bored quickly?
    Zac won't do repetition. If he does a complicated (to him) trick once then he won't do it again unless there are some nice easy tricks in between. Sometimes he'll only do a trick once in a session and then he plays dumb. I can build up to repetition gradually but only when I have done a trick once in a session for lots of sessions so it isn't new any more and I know 100% he'll do the trick 1st time. I used to think repetition was important for a dog to learn a trick but I've discovered the hard way that Zac is an intuitive learner, he gets an idea (often 2nd time of trying with complex tricks like stacking dishes and basketball) and then can't see why he should do the thing again. Repetition just makes him play dumb so I settle for 1 or maybe 2 successes in a session and then move on.
    I found a clicker helped A LOT with hold and retrieve once I learned to click while my hand and Zac's mouth were both on the object. Otherwise Zac mostly just spat the object at me with great accuracy. Not much fun when you toss him a tennis ball and he belts it back with great force at your head :ROFLMAO:.
  11. horsy Well-Known Member

    Yup that was him.

    I think our dogs are related :ROFLMAO: Sounds exactly like him!

    This!! He doesn't seem to see the point of doing it over and over. And you are right about the rewards, when he's doing it to get my attention thats his biggest reward in the world. Once he has my attention he can't be bothered anymore. I've just realised he does this with another trick too, wiping his paws. While clicker training he will wipe them once or twice. When he is playing "bitey face at mums foot when she has her legs crossed":rolleyes: and I stop playing and ignore him, he does it AMAZINGLY over and over, until he gets a laugh from me,

    It sounds like I ignore my dog alot :D but it's my only tool against his 24hr attention seeking, the slightest smile or glance from me has reinforced alot of cheeky behaviours so I have to keep my face blank and not look at him. Which is SO HARD!
  12. running_dog Honored Member

    It'd be much more irritating if he was a retrieving obsessive that dropped clothes pegs and odd socks in your lap all day. :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:

    Do try forgetting repetition as given in the training manuals. They don't work for every dog. If they say 10 I ask Zac for 3 max or live to regret it! Much better to give your dog a mega reward for doing the trick well once - he KNOWS how to do the trick, your job isn't to teach him the trick (by 1000 oh so boring and pointless repetitions) but to convince him it is worth doing the trick when you ask.

    Diesel is such a smart dog, he's way, way ahead of Zac. It must be torture not smiling at him when he is performing! I didn't start with the clicker soon enough with Zac so maybe that's why he isn't so joyously expressive as your Diesel but he certainly does seem to have a similar intuition. I do hope you find a reward system that works. I ended up cutting right back on Zac's food so he has to earn about a third of his necessary food intake in treats - it seems almost as harsh as ignoring him most of the time doesn't it? - but this still isn't enough when it comes to certain tricks.

    Do you do free shaping?
  13. running_dog Honored Member

    A belated thought...

    I suddenly wondered if this is what happens in training Diesel...

    He offers the trick, you praise and reward, then a minute later you ask for it again he maybe does it again, praise and reward then a minute later I expect you ask for the trick again and he plays dumb and you go on and on trying to get him to do what you want for maybe 10 minutes, giving him lots and lots of attention which he loves???? So maybe if he prefers your attention to the treat you are maybe accidentally rewarding him MORE for messing around than for doing the trick right???

    So would it work to blank him out as soon as he stops doing the trick as you want it? If you don't play MY way I'm going to lock myself in the bathroom kind of idea. So as a last resort you take control of finishing the session. I still wouldn't ask for more than a couple of repetitions though. Maybe you already do this?
  14. horsy Well-Known Member

    Running dog, you are really making me think... You really are right on all counts. You theories explain alot of what he does. With alot of the more basic tricks that he knows off by heart, he does them well at first and then starts to drop off and get worse after a few repetitions. He has a "lie flat" that he does beautifully, it's one of his favourite tricks, but if I ask for it more than once, he starts to get quicker, and not complete the trick properly. Then he starts to only put his shoulder on the floor and leave his bum in the air with his tail lashing about, and then bounce about with a grin on his face. I usually get frustrated and keep asking for it until he does it properly, he does not get treated for any of his cheats, but looking at it through new eyes... he's being rewarded by my reaction.

    He knows how to do it, he's already shown me, and this way he gets the bigger reward of my attention and sometimes frustration. It's my fault for asking him to repeat a trick he knows by heart I suppose. Your exactly right, I'm ending up rewarding him more for messing around. But for this reason I have never been able to shape better responses, because if I only reward his best efforts, like it says in all the books, he gets bored and his efforts get WORSE.

    Yes we do some free shaping, but he's not too great at it. He'll get halfway to what I want, and then sort of get stuck at the same behaviour and won't progress, again getting bored and wandering off, or just sitting and staring at me. I really do need to rethink my rewards... and I will try just stopping the training session when he starts being stupid, instead of fighting on to get at least one good response before we finish. (although I will probably let him goof around sometimes, as he always seems so gleefull when he does it!!)

    Thanks so much for your responses, they've all been real food for thought. I can't believe how you seem to know him so exactly! It's spooky :ROFLMAO:
  15. running_dog Honored Member

    It is so nice to find another dog as determinedly and deliberately obtuse as Zac! All those instructions to "just explain the trick again", "if the dog doesn't do the trick it doesn't understand"... LOL they have never seen a dog determinedly NOT stacking dishes after a perfect first attempt if they REALLY think it is just a matter of explaining again :ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:.

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