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Finally after 2 weeks and numerous failed attempts I got a sort of sit out of my basset hound on command. I could've cried. Why someone would own a dog for 10 years and never teach the dog to sit is beyond me. It's borderline doggie abuse if you ask me, but I digress. Anyway I'm needing some ideas for training for my two dogs.

Dog #1 - Brutus the aforementioned basset. He's 10 years old and has more days behind him than ahead of him. He gets around fairly well still, but he'll never make any agility trials. I would like to teach him to retrieve with the clicker system. Currently if I throw a toy, he will run/waddle across the lawn to where the toy is, sniff it, bark, then run/waddle back to me with a confused look on his face. This seems to me like a very good start of a retrieve. How can I shape it from here using my clicker?

Dog #2 - Zero the 1.5 year old cocker spaniel. He's fast, sharp as a tack (for a dog anyway), eager to learn and fun to train. He catches on to things very, very quickly. He knew how to sit when I got him. We're working the edges out of "Fetch" (he currently tries to return the item to me and then play keep away and he won't fetch just anything. It has to be certain toys) and ironing out walking on a leash. I've taught him down and we're working on down/stay. What else can I teach him that's fun? I tried roll over, but he doesn't get it. He shuffles himself around in the down position if I put the food beside his head and won't roll over to get it. I'm considering teaching him bow. He does this every day to stretch in the morning when he comes out of his crate and after he eats breakfast. I think I can teach him this. I'm kind of out of other ideas though.
 

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Finally after 2 weeks and numerous failed attempts I got a sort of sit out of my basset hound on command. I could've cried. Why someone would own a dog for 10 years and never teach the dog to sit is beyond me. It's borderline doggie abuse if you ask me, but I digress. Anyway I'm needing some ideas for training for my two dogs.
I still can't believe it. I'm like you, how does a dog go that long without being taught that?

Dog #1 - Brutus the aforementioned basset. He's 10 years old and has more days behind him than ahead of him. He gets around fairly well still, but he'll never make any agility trials. I would like to teach him to retrieve with the clicker system. Currently if I throw a toy, he will run/waddle across the lawn to where the toy is, sniff it, bark, then run/waddle back to me with a confused look on his face. This seems to me like a very good start of a retrieve. How can I shape it from here using my clicker?
Maybe teach him to take something from your hand and hold it in his mouth? Then later teach him to drop it on cue?

After that, try to link the holding in between the going to it and coming back to you.

Dog #2 - Zero the 1.5 year old cocker spaniel. He's fast, sharp as a tack (for a dog anyway), eager to learn and fun to train. He catches on to things very, very quickly. He knew how to sit when I got him. We're working the edges out of "Fetch" (he currently tries to return the item to me and then play keep away and he won't fetch just anything. It has to be certain toys) and ironing out walking on a leash. I've taught him down and we're working on down/stay. What else can I teach him that's fun? I tried roll over, but he doesn't get it. He shuffles himself around in the down position if I put the food beside his head and won't roll over to get it. I'm considering teaching him bow. He does this every day to stretch in the morning when he comes out of his crate and after he eats breakfast. I think I can teach him this. I'm kind of out of other ideas though.
Maybe teach him to stand on his back paws? Or jumping over things on the ground like smaller logs or other obstacles? Since he seems like he wants to move around and enjoys physical activity, maybe those two things could be something he could catch on to and would be fun for you to teach and him to learn?
 

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Basset -- I would work on the going there/coming back action separately from the take/give action. Have the toy in front of you and put it on the ground. Click for a sniff, or anything that indicates interest in the toy. If he doesn't do anything besides sniff it, put some peanut butter on it and click for a lick. He may eventually put the toy in his mouth. (I haven't had personal experience with this jump from licking to mouthing, but reliable sources say it works.) Click for the mouthing, then teach a "give it." Once he can "take it" and "give it" in front of you, start tossing the toy a short distance away, increasing the distances slowly.

Cocker -- what about a good recall? I would say finish up basic obedience (down, down-stay, come, watch me) and then maybe work on targeting the end of a stick or the end of your finger. That will act as a good bridge to shaping other more complicated behaviours, like weaving, spinning, or even closing doors.
 

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A dog is never too old to learn. If he's never learned how to learn, however, it can be an uphill trek. I'd start teaching the Basset by getting him to do something on cue that he already does without any encouragement. Watch for some little habit like baying or doing a little circle-dance (or circle-waddle as the case may be) when you grab the box of dog biscuits. When he does it, give the cue and reward.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Basset -- I would work on the going there/coming back action separately from the take/give action. Have the toy in front of you and put it on the ground. Click for a sniff, or anything that indicates interest in the toy. If he doesn't do anything besides sniff it, put some peanut butter on it and click for a lick. He may eventually put the toy in his mouth. (I haven't had personal experience with this jump from licking to mouthing, but reliable sources say it works.) Click for the mouthing, then teach a "give it." Once he can "take it" and "give it" in front of you, start tossing the toy a short distance away, increasing the distances slowly.

Cocker -- what about a good recall? I would say finish up basic obedience (down, down-stay, come, watch me) and then maybe work on targeting the end of a stick or the end of your finger. That will act as a good bridge to shaping other more complicated behaviours, like weaving, spinning, or even closing doors.
So you're saying with the basset I should go back to shaping a retrieve from ground zero like you would with a dog who has no retrieval instincts at all? I'm not saying you're wrong, I just want to make sure I understand what it is you're suggesting.

A good recall for the Spaniel isn't a bad idea. Currently he will look at me if I call his name and will come about 85% of the time when he's on-leash out of the yard. There's definitely room for improvement there.
 

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So you're saying with the basset I should go back to shaping a retrieve from ground zero like you would with a dog who has no retrieval instincts at all? I'm not saying you're wrong, I just want to make sure I understand what it is you're suggesting.
Yeah. Treat his current behaviour as a headstart, but shape the give/take action the way you would a dog with no idea how to retrieve. The fact that he's chasing the toy and returning to you may merely mean that he picks it up faster.

As for the spaniel, recall is VERY important, so be sure to work on that! Also start proofing the stuff he does know -- like sit, sit-stay, down -- in different areas at different distraction levels. Even at different positions: sit by my side, sit behind me, come towards me but down some distance away from me... Training is never over! :p
 

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I just got a new lab puppy and haven't tried clicker training her yet... I am so glad that I had trained my lab/collie mix (11 years old), clicker training. He is such a good boy and I could never imagine trying to handle a 105 pound dog that is not trained .... as well as a smaller (springy) dog...
 

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First of all, not all dogs will learn to retrieve reliably - that is just a fact. Some breeds have a more-or-less inbred tendency to retrieve compared to other breeds, but even with those breeds there are a few individuals that just don't "get it" on a regular basis.

When you are working with breeds that don't have that general tendency, it is much more of a crap shoot whether or not you'll ever get a reliable retrieve. So I prefer to first try some preliminary behavior shaping and see how that goes.

I prefer to teach the retrieve by first teaching take-give, then take-hold-give, and finally take-hold-carry-give. Mainly because if a dog won't do those correctly - and some don't - it is unlikely that they will ever retrieve reliably no matter how much teaching you do. This is basically the 'traditional shaping' technique and it also works very well with dogs that do have an inbred tendency to retrieve.
 
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