Teaching hold


New Member
Was wondering how people go about teaching their dog to hold items in their mouths. I'm only thinking of toys at the moment, in training Ludo will pick them up but immediately drops them. He was taught 'give' from a very early age and doesn't understand that I now want him to keep the toy for a while. It's impossible to click for holding the toy too as it's the sight of the clicker that's making him not want to hold things in anticipation of a treat. lol.


Experienced Member
both clicker and treat hand or hold both in one hand should be behind your back. with less movement from u and ur hands the dog concentrates more on the task not what treats you are moving around. treats should be preloaded in ur hand not in a pocket or bag so no noise or movement becomes a unintended cue. I hold the clicker in R hand and click with ring or pinky finger and hold 6 treats or so between index finger and thumb so I can dispense them like pennies quickly. click after adding a couple of seconds of holding time. stay still and calm and you can verbal cue hold or still if you've taught it. it will help to teach a hold with a tuggy toy or take and give to build up some time in another context so you can use those commands. you could try standing farther away and asking for a stay if that might be less stimulating by you not being so imminently close with treats. conversely being close and touching the dog's chin with a trained hold might help. it depends on your dog and his unique breed/instincts.

other ideas if still hands alone don't work: use an i-click or quieter clicker might be less exciting and cause less dropping. consider less verbal quieter praise or none but the treat. a clicker with a finger band may make it easier and an i-click is easier to click in a treat holding hand than a box clicker because the button sticks up. both hands for any clicker exercise should be still and with a very alert dog behind ur back works best. u could also use a lower interest treat like kibble instead of a favorite unless this loses interest.

i found it useful to use a word that means that's not what i want and no treat comes. I use whoops in a nice silly tone and after many usages they learned this is not what will get the treats so try something else. i got this through best with targeting r & l paws. I point to the paw and say paw or a word for left paw only. i say whoops for right paw and c/t for left. they get it fast this way.

depending on what works best for your dog if you were to free shape this you would ignore any drops of the object and c/t after holding it a required time. I walk around a bit usually putting the item btw the dog and me and looking at the item. try not to stay rooted and immobile the entire time. me moving rekindles some interest and resets too. starting at zero holding time and slowly increase. just don’t get too long too fast b/c you want more successes than failures. if the dog drops too soon you just stare at the object not the dog and reduce hold time back a little briefly. you could use whoops here if the dog knows it. the success of this depends on how shaping savvy you and your dog are. mixing other elements to shaping can help.

you may need to reset or move the object and recue two times if he gets bored or frustrated. i don't recue more since it becomes noise. he picks it up again you can say good if that won't make him drop it. this takes some training too, good is not a release or treat word. I trained good it not a release by training sit/stay and saying gooooood and c/t for holding the sit after a gooood. the other alternative is remain silent and go back to clicking just for picking it up then for more time again. My dogs get a little bored with total silence with non-active tasks. so good helps me. a minute or two is a long time for this shaping exercise so don't go to long at a stretch. do some play, tugs, fetch for a break and try again. and intersperse with things the dog does know and can succeed at and be rewarded for. don't beat this into the ground with marathons.

so you could help yourself by pre-training 2-3 additional things like whoops, hold or still, take-it/leave-it, give; being silent otherwise, and putting hands behind ur back. some people also train a hold using a finger touching periodically under the dogs chin if he goes to drop and a verbal hold, gooood. what worked best for me was having a good solid take it and give then I trained hold.

i trained leave-it using food in my hand and cueing leave-it until the dog looked away, then I click treated with the other hand not giving the treat offered. when she had that down i would ask for leave-it then taught take-it meaning that same thing i just asked you to leave. it sounds weird but leave-it is best learned by not giving the proffered treat because then they ignore it since it's not in play. take-it comes next after leave-it is solid. food is easiest to offer and reward with instead of juggling a toy or dumbbell and having the dog let go for a treat or ignoring an object when food is imminent. when the take/leave is solid move to your object or a toy. i usually say good for take-it and c/t for give so I don't c/t for take and have to get the toy give a treat-give the toy back then ask for give b/c it's too confusing.

last when you achieve a hold and are ready to click treat you might ask for a give rather than just allowing a drop. that requires a bit more focus and holding and with no real dropping of the item it is less likely to be associated with a c/t. start simple and add things or chain them together. don't expect the give it to me right off but work up to it. you can c/t approximations of the correct behavior early on and increase criteria to engender more interest and more early success. just don't expect perfection at first work toward it.

sorry if this was way detailed :dogtongue2: i do service work training so it must be solid and precise. refine this further by rewarding holding with outer more nose ward part of mouth for things like remote controls for less slobber and delicate holding. i explained the detail to make it clear there are many permutations and ways that may work, start simple if that works great. experiment if not and one small thing may click. good luck, let me know how it works :dogbiggrin: