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In my sport, the hold is very important (retrieves of the Dumbbell are 40 points of a 100 point routine).

To teach hold, I back chain it. The DB is not a toy because I do not want the dog to play tug with it, I want the dog to go get it and bring it back, and then give it to me. I do not use the word "hold" because it is not useful for what I do, but you can teach that word and I think my method will be helpful.

I start with the dog sitting in front of me. I am holding the DB (or object I want the dog to bring to me.. and to start use the same object all the time). I have a pile of food on a table next to me. My dog has NOT been fed and knows the food is there so she wants that food. I do not talk. I simply hold the DB in front of me and in front of the dog. I have a clicker in one hand. ANY interaction with the DB click and reward. This gets the dog thinking, "Oh.. this has something to do with the DB."

Once the dog realizes the DB is what we are working with I start to up the Ante.. because I want the dog to take the DB bar in her mouth and hold it. A really clicker savvy dog and trainer may get a dog to take that DB bar on the first go 'round. Other dogs it may take a few days and sessions. A hungry dog and really good food helps.

Once you get the hold, you up the Ante even further by putting the DB on the floor. Some dogs that is too big a step to do at once and you have to hold the DB for the dog to take in lower and lower position until it is on the floor.

When the dog is reliably picking the DB off the floor and holding it in front of you, you can then start to place the DB elsewhere and add words (I use Bring because Bring is what I use in a trial.. but any word will do).

When the dog will reliably bring the DB and hold it, no matter where it is, then you can start to generalize to other objects.

I am going to add this (in case it is brought up). Some people train with an Ear Pinch. I have done that and it does work if done right. The thing I do not like about that method for teaching is that it interferes with your relationship with the dog and the process of learning through thinking. It hurts the dog and, if a dog cannot find an object to retrieve and pick up they become hectic (because they are afraid they will get hurt if they do not pick up the object). It uses a quadrant of training I rarely use (Negative reinforcement where an aversive stimulus or pressure is used until the desired behavior is exhibited).
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