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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 2 y/o lab/collie mix that has been very easy to train so far. One thing that I am stumped on is get it/give it. I can tell him to get an object and he will bring it back to me. I can tell him to 'drop it' and he will - no problem. He learned those with only positive verbal reinforcement as opposed to treats.

However, if I tell him 'give it' for a toy, he's flaky...maybe he'll drop it, maybe he'll put it in my hand, maybe he'll just flat out ignore me. So I tried moving to the exchange for treat method as I've seen described everywhere. The problem is, the second he realizes there are treats involved, he won't do anything. He drops the toy immediately and stares at me. If I tell him to get the toy again, he'll pick it up and drop it immediately.

I've tried hiding the fact that I have treats. I get them when he's not around and keep them in my pocket. But as soon as he sees it when I go to do the exchange, he's back to staring at me with that happy face!

What are your suggestions? This has got to be a common problem. Thanks
 

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You can keep treats on you, and go on about training as usual. Ignore his stares, wait him out. One thing I saw with others training in scent detection, was they had to hde the toy. I keep the reward toy right in hand in sight. The dog quickly learns the way to earn the reward is to do the task at hand. It takes a little longer, but works well in the end, and you have a dog that will happily perform, no matter what you have or not.
 

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Try "release" presuming he has retrieved the object and is in close proximity to you. And when you are done playing with a toy or ball, use "leave it". And you can "carry it" once done training and returning home.
 

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I had this issue too, I thought I could teach mine to fetch by throwing the ball, he gets it, and i give him a treat when he brings it back. He would see I have a treat and ignore the ball when I threw it, or go get it and then just drop it and stare at me. We never really went further with fetch, but I started having treats or just kibble on me most of the time, or by me on the chair so he is used to it being around. Before, if it was out he was getting it.
 

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I do not embrace the treat-reward to capture attention approach. The task driven dog seeks a genuine connection which is fulfillment acknolwedged when he successful performs as per your guidance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I like the idea of keeping treats/food with me all the time. I'm going to start trying that tomorrow and see how it goes. Thanks

embedded - I'm curious, what would you endorse instead? As I said, I tried pure positive reinforcement. He honestly learned most things without treats, but I have not succeeded with 'give it'.
 

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The problem is, the second he realizes there are treats involved, he won't do anything. He drops the toy immediately and stares at me.
Then I'd say he's more treat driven rather than task driven. He's giving you information there, that being: treats are much higher on his list of reinforcers than either 1) the toy itself, or 2) completing the task at hand. Sounds like a good case for Premack. As juliemule said, wait it out.

Also ...
*don't assign cues to specific behaviours until the dog is performing them reliably without a cue.
*jackpot the instances when he succeeds in putting it in your hand.


(btw ... I think you actually meant pure VERBAL reinforcement ?)
 

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Try "release" presuming he has retrieved the object and is in close proximity to you. And when you are done playing with a toy or ball, use "leave it". And you can "carry it" once done training and returning home.
Dogs don't care what word or words you use to train a behavior as long as you are consistently using the same word for it. Changing the word you use won't change the behavior, and will probably confuse your dog. "Give" is an fine cue word for delivering an object in hand - no need to change it.
 

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I had a similar problem. You gotta set it up for success. Don't use the words "give it" unless you know the toy is coming into your hand. It might help to work on this separate from the whole fetching routine first, and then add the distance back in later. Have treats in your pocket, but make no fuss about them... just play with your dog with toys for awhile and give NO treats, get him engaged in the play so he's not thinking about the treats. If he's really hyper-focused on treats, some zen exercises might help.

When he has a toy firmly in his mouth, go to him and place one hand on the toy so it can't fall to the floor (you're setting up for success), and only then take out a treat with your other hand and offer the trade. Only say "give it" as he releases the toy into your hand. It may take awhile between each repetition for you to re-engage him in play and distract him from the treats.

Once you think he's understanding what "give it" means, start adding the distance back in. Play for a bit, build up his drive for the toy, then throw it. Meet him partway on the return so there's less distance he has to carry it. Just get your hand into position and then whip out the treat. Fade the treat as soon as you can get him to drop the toy into your hand without one, and keep adding distance until you can do a full fetch with him doing all the work of bringing the ball back to your hand.

I don't know if you have designated fetch toys, but it helps to keep a special toy away from your dog, and only take it out when it's time to play fetch... at least it helps me, because Snoopy gets extra excited for a toy he hasn't seen for a couple days, so on that first throw he really wants it and is unlikely to drop it to the floor early.

Oh, and don't practice it too many times in a row. End the session with the dog wanting more. Trade the last retrieved toy for a treat or another toy to play tug or something he likes. When we first started, Snoopy would get bored of the game after only 2-3 throws, which was rather annoying to me, but it's where we had to start.

We're far from perfect on our fetches still, but it's gotten a lot better than when we first started. First, Snoopy would chase the ball, pick it up, then drop it to run back to me right away for his treat. Then we reached a point where he'd hold on to the ball longer, but he wanted to play tug when I put my hand out for the ball. Now we're at a point where I can throw the ball, he'll fetch it and return it to me, but he'll sometimes veer left or right instead of stopping in front of me so I have to reach out for the ball before he'll give it up. He'll release it to my hand on the first or second command, so we're still working on it. And now the treats are faded out and his reward is me throwing the ball again. He's still not one of those dogs who will bring the ball himself and initiate the game, but I hope it's becoming more fun and fulfilling for him as we progress. I really wasn't sure I could teach this game, but I think we'll wind up ok at it.
 
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