The Dumbbell Retrieve:
Ann Marie Chaffin Copyright 2000
First off, the dumbbell is an
incredibly important part to the obedience phase of a schutzhund routine. Out of
a 100 point Schutzhund 1 obedience routine, the dumbbell is worth 25 points. In
the Schutzhund 2 and 3 it is worth 40 points out of a 100. This just
demonstrates the importance of a good dumbbell retrieve.
There are alot of ways to teach the
dumbbell successfully. This particular method has worked for my husband and my
club in over 30 dogs (from start to finish) of different types, temperaments and
breeds. It is also very difficult to describe it in enough detail on paper for
people to understand, so if this is your first attempt please recruit a person
to help you that has been successful in the past with teaching this type of
Dog is biting well. (Why?
Because the anxiety caused by this can be released into the bitework
creating a nice release and better bitework.)
You have a good fuss.
You have a good here (called
sometimes a front or 'come for').
For a good finished retrieve you can
imprint the dog at puppyhood that the dumbbell is fun, like a ball or toy,
before pressure is applied. (you can duck tape it or put the dumbbell in a
heavy sock to keep the dog from hurting himself/herself, etc.)
Create 2 safe zones
Dumbbell in the mouth
Dumbbell in the mouth at here
When teaching a sit or down you have
one safe place to teach the dog. When teaching the dumbbell you have two safe
zones to teach a dog, which is more difficult.
Examples of some
possibilities of strengths to use, as dictated by dog:
Sensitive dog: Dead ring
fur-saver to post and dead ring fur saver to you.
Medium to strong dog:
Fur-saver to post and prong to you.
Strong dog: Prong to post and
prong to you.
It is usually very difficult to start
because it requires (most of the time) pressure and coordination. The beginning
entails the most fighting, shutting down, flight, and\or avoidance your dog
should give you. The only time you shove the dumbbell in the mouth is at
this point; the reasoning is to be able to relieve pressure when it is in the
mouth. They can then realize that holding the dumbbell calmly is a safe zone.
Why I mention 'shoving it into their mouth is at this point' only, is because
once it is made a safe zone from then on you always make them snatch at the
dumbbell. They should snatch at the dumbbell as if there life depends on it. I
caution people here because ‘alot of pressure’ to people can mean many
different things. To some people, ‘alot’of pressure is abusive and to some
‘alot’ of pressure is just saying ‘bad dog’. The best guide is the dog
must really want to hold the dumbbell.
The most common start is to have your
dog tied to their fur saver to a post about a foot and a half away and a
six-foot line on the prong to you. Put the line to prong in the left hand and
put dumbbell in right hand. Dog can be sitting or standing, but preferably
sitting. Make sure that you hold your leash just far enough away so the dog’s
teeth can’t get to you by accident.
Example of the
beginning of placement:
Repeat the word 'bring' or ‘take’
and pull tight or use quick short jerks on the line and when they open their
mouth for whatever reason put dumbbell in their mouth. Release line immediately.
They will probably drop dumbbell when you release pressure. Be prepared to
immediately tighten your line again and say 'bring' and put dumbbell in their
mouth again quickly. Release line immediately. It helps sometimes to place your
right hand under the dog's mouth to help them hold it. Repeat this until the dog
understands there is pressure when dumbbell is not in the mouth AND there
is immediate release of compulsion along with praise when it is in the dog's
mouth. If the dog holds it for just a moment say 'aus' and take it out. If done
properly the dog won't let go after a few sessions. Don't make a big deal about
not letting go because it means you are doing the right thing by creating it a
safe zone. Out your dog carefully with finger touching tongue or pulling the
line tight slowly. This start can be repeated occasionally on a finished dog
if problems like barking, nibbling or slowness to dumbbell arise.
If the dog is snatching at the dumbbell
out of play or defense pull line tight that is not allowed. They can not be
grabbing it unless it is only because you have said to get it. Any behavior that
is not desirable the line remains tight. Example: barking, nibbling, growling,
going to the ground after dumbbell is in their mouth, etc. There are a few
exceptions that deal with handlers ability. If you have spent along time and
they are finally grabbing it but mouthing it; maybe allow the mouthing for one
or two times. Also, if the dog is holding it loosely in the beginning you might
allow it. This is just to let the dog have a chance to win, but remember
anything you allow here will continue or get worse.
When you have the dog holding the
dumbbell by himself for just a moment say 'out' or 'aus'. Take the dumbbell out
and praise him. Repeat this 2 to 5 times a session. Once the dog is getting the
idea it is much better to do 10 one-minute sessions then one ten- minute
session. Repeat this exercise until you have the dog at the very least opening
his mouth for the dumbbell. Increase their holding of the dumbbell to a
desirable length of time making sure they hold it tightly and calmly. Again this
is the only time the handler places the dumbbell in their mouth. This should
only be for a few sessions or for one day.
The next step is to have them grab for
it at a distance. Hold the dumbbell a few inches away say 'bring' if they don't
immediately snatch it apply pressure quickly until they do. It is important to
do the pressure immediately so they do it quickly to beat the correction and
release the pressure immediately when they have accomplished safe zone.
SOME PROBLEM SOLVING:
Some dogs grab the dumbbell and
shake it or take it to the ground, this is not to be allowed. Compulsion is
to be brought in until behavior is gone and they usually refuse to take it
at this point. Then you start at the beginning.
If dog is barking at dumbbell or
grabbing it because he thinks it is a toy use compulsion to take that drive
out in the beginning. You bring back this drive later to balance the dog.
If dog is nibbling or chewing try to
get rid of it with compulsion at the same time saying 'hold it' with your
right hand under his chin. In the very beginning, you may allow this for one
or two times to let the dog be successful in the safe zone.
Compulsion or pressure always for
fighting or growling or avoiding or fleeing.
When the dog is always snatching at the
dumbbell when it is a few inches away from the dog and they are then holding it
calmly for a long period of time it is time to bring in the 'here'. Again, once
you have absolutely established the dumbbell as a complete safe zone, the next
step is to create the 'here' with dumbbell in the mouth. Say 'bring' they snatch
it and then you step into them placing their chin on your lap. You can even have
your legs apart and slightly bent so the dog is snug up to your body. Praise the
dog with 'good here' if he remains calm in this position.
If they drop the dumbbell immediate
tighten line. If they nibble on dumbbell immediately tighten line. Only when
they are calm praise them say 'good here' stroke them on the head. You can
sometimes tell by the eyes if they like it there. If you can get them to relax
and enjoy being in the here position with dumbbell in their mouth you have done
an excellent job. That is the perfect safe zone and if you can teach the dog
that when pressure is applied that the quicker he gets the dumbbell and returns
to here position the 'safer' it is, then you have done your work well. If this
is what you do properly you have won the whole battle. At a trial when a dog
gets nervous or preoccupied or distracted he knows how to make himself feel
better by running and getting the dumbbell the first safe zone and going to his
wonderful 2nd safe zone. Stay at this step awhile. Make sure this is perfect
before going on. Fix all problems from this level. The number one place dogs
lose points is the speed of the return. It is important that the position in
front of you is very safe. I believe if you don’t have A’s in Kindergarten
it is harder to get A’s in first grade.
Review to know you're
done with this position:
Say 'bring' they snatch the dumbbell a
few inches away and you step into them and they snuggle up to you in 'here'
In the next step they actually have to
move their body. Make sure the back line to post is now 3 or 4 feet long. You
hold dumbbell away from them say 'bring' after they get up to snatch it you make
them come to you for the here position. You may back up a step and if he
frantically tries to get in 'here' position this is a great sign. If he drops
dumbbell or won't move off a sit there is compulsion, but when he gets to you
the pressure is gone and 'good here' and you may stroke the dog’s head. When
he has been successful and knows this step back up a little and if the dog is
glued to you in here position you have done it properly.
Next, increase the length from dumbbell
to dog. You have to let out the line and increase the distance from the post to
the dog by about 5 or 6 feet. You are going to a heel position now on the
outside of dog. You present the dumbbell now at an arm’s length.
If you see drive for dumbbell recede or
diminish at any time. Say 'bring' and hold dumbbell out enough he can not reach
it because the line to the post isn’t long enough and won't let him. Say
'bring' when he goes for it and when he can not grab it then you can
legitimately tighten the line because he doesn't have it in his mouth. Say
'bring, bring' like "hey, you better get it!" When he is crazy for it
you can put the dumbbell within reach. You can throw this type of action in
whenever a dog is losing motivation. This creates drive.
Stay at this level until you are
absolutely 100% consistant.
The next difficult step is for the dog
to grab dumbbell off the ground. Start this in stages:
Dumbbell is snatched closer and
closer to the ground.
Dumbbell is taken when it is
touching ground only on one side while you are still holding it at an angle.
Dumbbell is fully on ground while
you are still holding it.
Dumbbell fully on ground while you
are pointing at it and touching it with the tip of finger.
Bring pointing finger farther and
farther away untill your tossing it on the ground and not pointing at all.
Sometimes resting one side of the
dumbbell on your foot on the ground helps the dog get through the
Make sure you are still saying
'bring' when dog is suppose to grab it. When pointing at the dumbbell about
a foot away say 'bring' without moving hand or body.
The perfect picture to the last part of
this step is when the dog can hardly sit still when you place or toss the
dumbbell on the ground in front of him. You stand up and without moving you say
'bring' and he rushes to it and back to you in here position.
After the dog is getting dumbbell
without you moving any part of your body and just saying 'bring', it is time to
lengthen distance and line. Use the inside of the circumference of the circle to
throw the dumbbell. Example of some dumbbell placements: