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New Puppy – Great Beginings

IMG_6813Three months ago I got a new puppy. I named him Signal, Siggy … Freud … Sig and he’s great! Fast learner. Active. Agile. Motion attraction. Amazing bounce … and likes pretty much everything.

Would he be a good choice for everybody? For sure not, probably too fast a learner, too active, too agile, too likely to chase things and too much bounce.

What kind of criteria do you have for choosing a new pup? How well have you followed it in practice? Do you have certain things you plan on doing with your dog? How have your last dogs been? What didn’t work for you? These are all questions worth answering before getting a new pup.a

Just like in training or planning anything I had my ‘have to haves’ and my ‘likes, but not necessary.’ My needs included a medium large dog (aiming for 50-65#), people and dog social (before I have had more aloof dogs and they suit me, but maybe not my dog training class atmosphere). Excellent conformation, score well on puppy temperament test and I had a handful of breeds that would be likely good choices. The parents should be excellent examples of their breed and consistent with what I was wanting. I preferred a non-black dog … but only because I do photos and videos and black is hard to see details, expressions or even body parts sometimes.

IMG_6834abSo he’s all black. Rich, very black, black. He’s a doodle, which hits the people and dog social, and size range. I’ve known his mom, an AKC registered, 45#, standard poodle named Ruby, since she was a couple of months old.

Five months, the age where most people think … “whew, potty trained, better start doing some other training.” If you’re in that group I do have a dog basic obedience class coming up in January. Sig will be going … he’ll be my demo pup. Reportedly the other pups in his litter are kinda wild. I’m not surprised since active, quick and agile pups tend to get that way if they aren’t handled skillfully. We were visiting the vet clinic yesterday afternoon to put up flyers and practice puppy skills and Sig is the calmest one they’ve seen.

Which is nice to hear about ‘the dog trainer’s pup.’

But, you know, that’s not really true. What’s true is he’s had practice and knows what is expected and so he can be calm. Clarity produces confidence. He’s still very much a puppy. His mask of self-assurance and self-control can crumble if over-faced.

He has been in puppy kindergarten, he goes weekly to agility as a ring-side spectator, we do errand runs to town and practice what he knows in all sorts of parking lots and I do training sessions with him a minimum of three times daily (three meals … three opportunities to train). Yesterday I started the process of going inside dog friendly establishments because the more practice he gets, the better he’ll be. The other reason I was waiting to enter public buildings is he has nervous or submissive urination and I wanted to be sure we had that under control before stressing him.

I’ve come to the conclusion that nervous pee-ers are a lot like scared pups. Oh, body language is very different, but they need less eye contact, less verbal interaction, and no, or minimal, touch from unknown people.

Sig is cute and waggy. He looks very inviting and people want to come up and grab both sides of his face and cuddle. That’s way too much! Even if I tell them just one hand, just brief … they don’t seem able to listen.

So I just say no and block them. I don’t need random strangers creating bad rehearsals for my pup. I want good rehearsals. This temporary problem isn’t going to become a lifelong habit.

Both places we went into yesterday … were great.  Dry floors.  Of course, I did potty breaks before entering (an empty bladder is less likely to leak under stress). And anyone longingly staring, we just moved on and ignored.

Even the best choices of puppy are going to come with issues … I didn’t mention that we’re working on stopping the mouthing, and the jumping and the picking up everything reachable and…IMG_6881

 

Water Love – dogs and water activities

Different dogs, different approaches to water fun. Reggie the Jack Russell is soooo busy and often very mucky in the water. Max the 12-year-old shepherd is intense about water retrieves, but basically relaxed while swimming. Jazz the heeler likes adventure and games – since she’s competitive and Max can beat her at water retrieves, she doesn’t like them as much. Obie the dobie is still getting his water wings. The super muscled dogs like the Jack Russell and the doberman have to work much harder to stay afloat, but they can still swim well.

Water can be so much fun for dogs. I’m working on getting Obie the Doberman to like swimming as much as Max does. We’ve gone to the lake almost every day it was nice enough to do so and played games in the water. He’s getting much more confident about launching into swimming. And he seems to be a good swimmer, but his body isn’t very buoyant so he has to work harder. I start dogs with a long line attached, about 25 feet of floating light rope.

Since late August and early September in northern Wisconsin can be great, sunny and warm days or very cool, rainy, windy days, (we’ve had 4 inches of rain so far in Sept) having a nice series of good days for swimming has not happened. Immersion (ha ha) in the sense of doing something lots is the best way to teach swimming, and most other things.

Max loves water retrieves. Obie thinks they’re OK. In order for him to like them more I’ve been playing tug in the water, and also fake racing him to the tossed bumper in the water, and playing with the bumper so he has to swim faster to catch up and grab it.  Just doing short bits of swimming then letting him take his prize to shore. To go to shore again, which is, at this point, a reward. Notice; I’m always wet,usually quite wet when teaching dogs to swim and to like water. If you want a dog to like water get in there too and make it fun.

The other approach to introducing water. One of the days I was at the lake another family came with a black lab pup (maybe 5 or 6 months old) and they stood on the shore for a while in their long pants and shoes. Since the pup didn’t go in on his own the man went and picked him up and tossed him in. He jumped right back out. Hah! they better hope the predilection of the breed over-rides their attempts at teaching him to like (hate?) water. The other thing taught was to avoid getting close to the man when near water, ‘don’t come,’ and assuredly that being picked up is likely to get ya tossed. Who knew you could train so many things while going to the beach.

So if it really is too cold to go into the water yourself, as in later in the season there are always other water options – shore play with sticks (sticks don’t matter so if the pup doesn’t get them and I’m not willing to get wet, so what). Or going out in boats. Yes Jazzie did fall in and jump in … so if your dog hasn’t learned to like swimming yet, don’t let them launch – and maybe they need to wear a doggy PFD.

Bring a towel, for you and for the dog and …

How many dogs do you have?

How many dogs do you have and what are you training them now?

I asked this question of a group recently when I was doing a people training session. And you know what, nobody had less than two.  Several years ago I did a job explanation to students program for high school and asked a similar question and most of their families had three or more dogs.

I got to thinking about this after the program was done. Mostly everything is written as if you only have one dog, but maybe that isn’t the case. Personally that isn’t the case, we have three dogs and a cat in the house. Sometimes it’s hectic, especially since adding the new (8 yr old) Jack Russell.

On the what are you training them now question. Most people were working on sit and lie down for their young dogs, some mentioned coming, not jumping up or staying off of things and teaching the pup its name. The old dogs? Well they mostly weren’t getting any learning or maybe a little sit and down. Nobody mentioned any games and the only hunting was mentioned as something the older dogs had already been trained to do.

Here’s what I’m thinking (this is from my own experience especially when I was a “traditional method” dog trainer and from observing others):

  1. Get a new dog or puppy and it’s novel, funny, cute, and a new thing to play with, so there’s a bunch of initial attention.
  2. New dog/puppy and all these wild, uncivilized behaviors demand a response, so there’s initial focus on ‘don’t do that’ training, which, if done the usual way, reduces the dog’s desire for more training and adds some toxicity to the relationship on both sides.
  3. Time goes by (whoopee) and the puppy/dog becomes less novel, funny, cute and many of things he does get suppressed or the habit of managing him becomes ingrained. We love him but adjust our expectations downward or disappointment sets in about the abilities or temperament of this dog, or somehow the puppy-hood phase is fondly remembered and so another puppy joins in. Or the current dog is so wild that a buddy is the proposed solution to exercise and doggy entertainment. Or one person in the family wants their own puppy, not just a share of the family dog. Or someone tells us of their plight and we agree to take in another dog.
  4. Now there’s two dogs and they magnify each other, especially the barking, running, chasing, and protection aspects. Two is more than one plus one in this case. But competition can be used (carefully) to get higher levels of good behavior and faster games. I think, the more dogs you have the more they need to know how to be calm and controlled and there’s a couple of ways to do it – the most common is to get them suppressed, fat and lazy so they don’t have much capability, the other is do quite a bit of positive training, games and socializing that is fun for all involved.

Here’s a little of what I do with my three, plus one feline, 8 yrs, (morning training can take as little as 30 minutes or upward to an hour). Morning is all dogs out at once to potty and a quick run around the large country yard.Reggieandhydrangeassept202013 011 Then Reggie gets confined to eat a small amount while I play Frisbee games with Jazz and Max. Max gets done first (he’s a shepherd who is 10+) and he gets some brief training on different cues – sit, down, back, twirl, spin, get the dog dish, catch,  paw, pretty or whatever before he gets to eat all the food in his dish. Jazzie, 5 yrs, gets extra Frisbee runs with more control added – wait before release, go around, figure 8, directionals  then she gets the majority of her food in the game Cube so she needs to work to get it delivered. I do extra stuff with her, later.april13fencedogsroad2013-009.jpg

Then it’s Reggie’s turn. He has trouble releasing fetched items, so we’ve rewarded for release. Now he’s starting to drop the item early, so its back to encouraging holding it with a re-up of the tug game and then release. I shortened the toss and added a run-away on my part. He’s getting a lot better at catching the Frisbee in mid-air, he’s learned to go around me without trying to steal the Frisbee and mostly he’s not stopping to play push-the-Frisbee-around games with himself.

Several rounds and then off to feed the horses. Reggie found some half-grown rodents in the hay, so he’s thrilled there might be more. Back to the house, depending on weather two dogs might stay outside in kennel runs for a while or come in with Reggie (they end up confined inside while the Reggie education continues). I hand feed him the rest of his meal for doing stuff – we always play some crate games, we’re working on distance cues (about 6 feet away at this point), always rewarding seeing the cat and not chasing him. After our games he’s confined to his crate for a couple of hours and the other dogs are free to lounge near me while I work on other things.

He'll jump through the hoop or over a dog.
He’ll jump through the hoop or over a dog.

(FYI the cat gets to do some cat tricks for treats every morning, usually while I’m making my breakfast). Key training for Max – scent gamesSnowydayMay22013 005 and for Jazz I want to be able to interrupt her chase runs (ball, Frisbee…) for a sit or down – we’re still at the near me phase of that. (Breakthrough today, I threw the black ball w/tail, sent her to get it, three-fourths there I called her back and presented Frisbee to tug … very fast response – of course the Frisbee is much preferred over the black ball w/tail).

So it’s a combination of some group time where I check my ability to recall each dog and the group from a distance or from close interesting things (I have treats and tug in my pockets) and separate training for each, depending on what I notice they need most at the current time or what we’re preparing for, i.e., Monday night agility classes. What happens is that each dog remains novel and interesting for their whole life. They don’t hit a mid-life, fat and lazy slump of dullness. The draw of puppy newness is still a back-of-the-mind thought, just because puppies are puppies and a new, almost blank slate of possibilities.

If this is so, why do I have three? Well the two extra ones seemed to need me, I wasn’t actually looking to add.

Why do you have extra dogs?

Being the student vs being the teacher

I’ve had a few people express a wish to be a dog trainer over the years, but mostly it appeared to be a magical wish. Voila! But expertise is never like that.

Actually, anybody who has contact with a dog is a trainer – just like you, dogs are constantly learning from each interaction. Of course, what they meant was to be really competent, which takes constant learning from others and lots of practice. You want to be able to flow – to be able to read the situation and go. To be able to have immediate options – to go right on to the next step whatever the results of the last step was and not need to knock your head into a wall.

Gateway or barricade?
Gateway or barricade?

My problem is I like being a student when someone has something complex to teach. How do you balance being a student with being a teacher? How much is too much time spent learning how others do things instead of just doing things? The just do it attitude, the creativity and $ that result is important, really important, but so is finding mentors and new perspectives that might not occur in your own backyard.

And how many things is it reasonable to join or be certified in? It’s a cost/benefit question I guess.

I just re-signed up for Puppy Peaks  – Susan Garrett’s prolonged web-based dog training class (yes, I did it once before) and I am going to a kennel club’s classes (30 miles away) on Monday nights for the next six weeks. These are big time commitments and they mean I won’t be making money training somebody elses dogs during those time periods. I’m also awaiting notification from AKC about taking the CGC evaluator test.

Scout waiting for his next training session in the beautiful fall sunlight.
Scout waiting for his next training session in the beautiful fall sunlight.

Supposedly women are more likely to get extra education, certifications, read the directions and be paid less for their lifetime. Am I falling into a cultural pattern, aka trap? Maybe I already know enough, have enough and should be satisfied.

Wishing to be somewhere else.
Wishing to be somewhere else.

So why am I waffling on this? There is a finite amount of time and $ available and sometimes it seems like it’s already all used. But the season of darkness (fall/winter) is encroaching and what I have scheduled myself for uses that darkness time. And pretty soon the apples will be picked and the garden put to bed – I’ll have the time.

Reggie - hauling around big things isn't a problem.
Reggie – hauling around big things isn’t a problem.

Today on the just do it side: 1) Scout (horse) and I practiced him picking up his jolly ball and bringing it toward me – not to me yet; and then he accomplished a much better two feet up on the log drum; and then there was trailer desensitization – he’s developed a fear of being left in there that we’re working on eliminating. 2) Reggie (Jack Russell) worked on kennel up at speed, still getting him to like his crate with a capital L, he knows how to haul the horse’s green jolly ball to me already – maybe I should shove that into his crate; and improving tug especially the release part. 3) Jazzie (heeler) worked on sit pretty duration – she’s up to 20 seconds, also did some practice on the end of the teeter riding it down. 4) Smokey (cat) added a hoop to jump through on his jump between bar chairs. The hoop is now real close to his takeoff point so it’s easy for him to not worry about, since he’s jumping over the Jack Russell I think he’s pretty good at ignoring stuff.

It's the question of whether it's a good idea to haul them.
It’s the question of whether it’s a good idea to carry the load.

I’ve already got new and ongoing learning/training in motion, pretty much always do, but I’m sure it could be better, faster, more organized, videos for extra credit – somebody else probably wants a bar-stool hoop-jumping cat, a crate happy pooch, a balancing dog and an elephant trick horse.

When it finally comes down, it’s important to always be learning and always be a student. And to put that knowledge into practice and create a family (I’m counting the critters in this terminology) circus of thrills and fun under whatever big top is available. Even if the extra knowledge isn’t as marketable as it should be … I can juggle.

Do you struggle with the idea of needing more knowledge – more experience? Is it just that there is so much more out there to learn or does it feel like a delaying tactic?

Pleasure is a green ball

Pleasure is a green ball that used to have a bell inside, but now it doesn’t.

Pleasure is a warm blanket that used to be up on the chair, but now it isn’t.

Pleasure is rolling around in the dappled sunlight

On top of the ball, on top of the carpet, on top of the blanket and inside the blanket.

While the cat just stares.

It’s all good.

Why does the dog trainer have such an easy time getting the pup to do things?

Why does the dog trainer have such an easy time training my pup to do things? What are the secrets of puppy training?

by Jeanine Renzoni

Or it looks so easy when she does it.

So why is it? What is different?PuppyclassesJuly302013 046

Sometimes as the trainer I have trouble getting people to understand and do all the things that help to get the pup to make the cooperative effort.

But here’s my list:

*quick, early rewards for effort (I have a clear picture in my head of the things the pup needs to do to carry out the behavior I’m aiming for and so can reward when they give me part of it)

*clear body language (I avoid pushing, pulling and fussing)

*if the pup doesn’t understand I go back to simpler and then rebuild the behavior (I don’t get frustrated easily and I am willing to let them figure it out [wait for them] instead of being pushy)

*pup’s attention is on trainer (because of the above three things) and this advantage is HUGE

*I am willing to be very obvious when happy and much more willing to give rewards (I will act the fool without embarrassment – running, hooting, getting down on all fours)

*I avoid fussing with the leash – almost no tight leash times and if it is tight it isn’t for long, I get the pup to release the pressure

*I have a variety of great treats, real cooked chicken, hot dog, string cheese or cheddar, puppy biscuits and any toy I notice they like

*I avoid aversive things that may be unintentionally part of your daily practices (for example: petting on pup’s head/body if they show they don’t like that, picking up pup, forcing pup into crate or car or kennel, ending fun…without doing something else fun with them, gagging them while trying to attach a leash)

Finally, I make it easy, especially at first, for them to be right and it’s easier to learn something new if it is presented in small obvious steps whereas it’s hard to want to learn something new if your trainer keeps acting frustrated or as if you aren’t getting it.

I think those are the secrets. Sounds easy, not so secret? Well, I can tell ya, it isn’t actually intuitive for most. But if you get it, good, have a fun and much easier time training your pup.

Drive – creating desire to do things

Jazz catFeb82013 004What does she value? What will create the wish to work and play hard at the things I want to do with her? What will get her to watch me for clues about the next move instead of just finding her own cues in the big, old, wonderful world all around us.

It takes looking at the heart of the matter (have you noticed where it is? …think forehead).

Either I help make her energy become creative, or it will turn sour and become destructive. Either I make my energy be creative and become lost in creativity (tremendous possibility), or it will descend to lost in anger, frustration, apathy and aggression.

Each training/gaming segment is like a science project. Try this, see the results, evaluate, learn the new limits, adjust the next experiment. Continuing to repeat the same experiment creates consistency, but doesn’t expand knowledge much. Having failures gives evidence for the holes in the experiment on learning and also provides the new boundaries for the next trial. And then the synergy occurs, because both of us are learning things about each other that we didn’t know before.Jazz catFeb82013 002

Ok Jeanine, so that’s what you think, huh? I think you need to throw more things, Frisbees are good, but balls and bumpers are great too. You read too much and play too little. And what’s with all the pauses?

If you could just chase a few wild things with me, I’d really like that. But no. Maybe we could get some sheep…I’d like to move some sheep around…ducks? They’re smaller.

OK, I know, let’s do more agility, but throw away some of the pesky rules, like having to wait to start. And, really, the cat doesn’t need to do agility. He’s getting way too pushy. I liked it better when he hid by the chair.

Desires are like that. Two species, two minds coming together, but valuing different things. We adjust.

How about less rules and tools; just a different way of thinking

Path into The Hopper, near North Adams, Mass.
Path into The Hopper, near North Adams, Mass.                            Photo: J. Renzoni

I drove across the country (from Wis to Mass) with Obe the Dobie in mid-May. I had had him for six weeks (you may have read about it here) and had loaded on the positive training. He had been through two families in his short, 6-month life and needed lots of fun and acceptance, but channeled towards the things considered acceptable dog behavior. So being the smart boy he was, he learned a lot and became relaxed and confident, but still a young dog with all the young dog ideas–maybe even more of them since clicker training seems to encourage creativity.

triptoMasswithObe2013 024
Historic Northampton Masonic Temple, home of Karuna Yoga studio and frequent office resting place for Obe. Photo: J. Renzoni

My daughter, needed a dog. She had raised and trained a Heeler (Denver) in high school and took her to college with her in Madison. But Denver hadn’t been happy in city life. Denver is 12-years-old now and would not like leaving Medford. So Obie, a much more social and outgoing creature with the appearance of a guard dog…arrived in Northampton.

Obe’s training continued and my daughter’s training began in earnest.

triptoMasswithObe2013 015    Aggressive/reactive training methods are remembered and appear to be easily trained to people. Being generous to the dog’s preferences often includes reinforcing things you may not want repeated, oops…like peeing on every hedge in a hedge filled city. Whereas awareness of what’s really going on and proactive, gentle approaches are overlooked and not marked into memory.

It was a long time since she had trained a dog from puppy-hood and even though he is now 8-months old, he’s still doing puppy things. He needs to be set up to do things right and not given a set up that will make it too difficult for him to comply. Just like a toddler, if they sleep all day, they’re not going to be willing to quietly sleep all night. Being irritated about it won’t fix it.

In yoga, (my daughter is an excellent yoga instructor, I was in one of her classes and heard it from countless of her students, young and old) the instructions are demonstrated, told in easy to do parts and repeated calmly and then the whole pose is done again with all the prompts and maybe key things pointed out quietly for individuals with praise for compliance. The idea is individual improvement and being in touch with mind/body. Forcing someone or causing injury is an anathema. And being aware of whether a student might be overdoing or doing things in a way that would be injurious is very important.

The same is true in dog communication. Positive, but not permissive. Intense awareness and pro-activity leads to easy companionship later.

Somehow the idea of focusing and rewarding early was difficult to understand. Maybe because it needs to be soooo early and the right thing is only a part of ‘the right thing.’ And the speed is often fast.

New person, new place, new smells…means almost total puppy kindergarten again. And being on a leash all the time means the collar ends up getting pulled on (aversive) way often just because two creatures are moving at different speeds and sometimes in different directions, which increases the need for fun play and fun treats even more. Otherwise the set up is irritating to both parties and then the dog doesn’t want to focus on the person, instead they want to sniff and get their own positive reinforcements from the world around them.

The different way of thinking is being ahead of the process enough to modify the series of events, example: there’s a person coming who wants to pet the lovely dog (this happened a lot) – so shorten the lead, while smiling and telling the person “I’m training him and could use your help to keep him calm while greeting people.” (or you could smile and just say “I’m training now, so no.”) Then they will pause, and if it’s a petting situation, I move into the way about 50 percent, to form a body block and keep hands on his neck/face area to modify and reassure the correct response. This will both modify their tendency of rowdy petting and his tendency to react to rowdy petting. As he gets better and better at this and more people get trained to pet him more appropriately, things will smooth out so less up front intervention is needed.

Pauses to calm and collect are important set up helps. If allowed to, most people will train a puppy/set them up to jump up and act wild while they tell them “No, down” and keep on touching and trying to pet.

triptoMasswithObe2013 007
Woodland path, outside Northampton, Mass. Photo: J. Renzoni

Focus, mutual attention is needed, otherwise other things are more interesting for everyone. And being more interesting means having things to do or be more interesting with – in the woods? Sticks are good, dirt, leaves… In the city – toys, smells, food, benches for observing and calm mutual enjoyment.

Being engaged. Being in the present is the gift or maybe the hazard of having a pup.

It’s a different way of thinking. Being so aware of something else, an other. It’s a different way of thinking.

Enjoy distress – Obe’s progress

““Eragon looked back at him, confused. “I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t,” said Brom impatiently. “That’s why I’m teaching you and not the other way around.”
Christopher Paolini, Eragon

Obeand Dan April292013 008
Marking is fun, more interesting than you…and see I can lift my leg the whole while.

We’re at week five and Obe is great – lovely sits and waits and downs and kennel ups and targeting and reasonable heeling, coming, standing, fetching, catching, sit pretty, paw…and not so great sometimes – he’s more interested in marking territory (a feature of intact maleness), gets inspired and goes air bound with some paw contact (oh well) or decides that keeping something is better than any trade offered, which means I must run away and become the higher value prize.

I’m trying to make sure he’s ready to do the transfer to my daughter, so instead of the nice pattern we’ve established I’ve changed things up by putting him in a different room in a different crate with different bedding for down times. Gone to waist ‘hands free’ leash, and both more and less freedom during play times. Too much pattern on my part and he can feel comfortable ignoring me at certain times and I don’t want that during this time of his life. So I’m doing more hiding on him, added a whistle for signaling to come, increased the sitting still duration and made the tosses longer and finds harder.

His main, non-desirable, habituated behavior when I got him 5-weeks-ago was barking in confinement. Which even though I expected him to re-try some things again when I changed things up, it’s still frustrating, disheartening and irritating when they show up. Bark, bark, bark, howl, grumble, pummel the crate gate, bark, bark, bark, pummel…and since he’s now next to other dogs that live here they are a bit irritated at his hijinks – hey, me too. Happily, even though it’s irritating, these little tantrums of ‘old’ behavior are fairly short. And each time this problem gets extinguished by not getting rewarded and quiet does get rewarded, it’s less likely to show up again in a ‘new’ situation, so onward.

Obe is 7-months, 2-weeks old still in a chew cycle, but it seems to be declining (not that I’d trust him with a pillow). The conflict he seemed to arouse in my other dogs is being managed and on the way to resolved (Max is dealing with him very well, although this morning their playing ended up bonking me in the knee with a body slam…arghh. With Jazz I’ve had them doing in tandem obedience games and she and Obe are very good at focusing on the game and not each other.)

The temporary return to winter weather is…well, arghh! too. There were a lot of things that would work better if we didn’t have a return of hard, crusty snow and sleet with mud underneath. SnowydayMay22013 005

Basically the time crunch is the issue…but knowing that otherwise I’d just keep on training, so I’ll keep on training and it will work out.

When you know better you do better.”
Maya Angelou

How happy are you feelin’ – reading the fetch

Play Bow, play invitation, I'm happy.
Play Bow, play invitation, he’s happy, but has his own game in mind. He has a 6-foot leash on, but no one has a hold of it.

by Jeanine Renzoni

Would you like to play? See the play invite – a bow with tail up in a spunky way, but see the ball and face, this is an invite for a doggy keep away game. If I go forward now the response will be dodge, weave and try to catch me and just try to get this toy – not likely and not a way to set up fetching.

This next photo, also a dog with an object in its mouth, but a different body message; one of alert,

Confident flag carrier, it's an I've got this and I'm bringing it to you look...purposeful. She would be displeased if interfered with before she accomplished her task.
Confident flag carrier, it’s an I’ve got this and I’m bringing it to you look…purposeful. She would be displeased if interfered with before she accomplished her task.

confident purpose. See the high tail, high head and forward, alert ears, any other dog or person seeing this body posture would know not to try to steal her flag…she is on a mission. She is not inviting a game of chase.

In a game of fetch the posture is purposefully toward the return. Sometimes I will run away from the dog to get that coming to me purpose, the value in the game needs to focus on the return. But I reward the return, I don’t try to take the item, the dog shows me when they want to give it to me.

This is the look of a dog wanting the game of fetch.
This is the look of a dog wanting the game of fetch.
This pup looks happy, but also hot, time to rest from fetching.
This pup looks happy, but also hot, time to rest from fetching.
This is the look of a dog wanting to keep the toy, see the downward should, neck posture.
This is the look of a dog wanting to keep the toy, see the downward shoulders, tucked down head/neck posture.

If they don’t want to give it to me, I need to invite them to want to…by trading, by playing with some other toy, by my running away and inviting them to

See how the dog is trying to give me the toy? Toy extended, not protected.
See how the dog is trying to give me the toy? Toy extended, not protected. Ears back, tail neutral.

come with me in this game. But I don’t steal it from them, I don’t threaten it from them, I don’t drag them back with a long line and I don’t let them change the game into a keep away; I do this by not falling for the dog’s ‘chase me’ invitation and re-offering the game I want to play. If they think their thing is better than anything I have to offer I need to renew my efforts, get better treats or just play more exuberantly with what I’ve got…they’ll come, they want this to be a cooperative game.

There are occasionally puppies who don’t carry things around (for instance it seems-some shelties), but most pups put almost everything in their mouths and this is the perfect time to get a good fetch started or conversely to make it very difficult to get them to ever get something for you (either way, depending on your response). FYI kids will almost always get sucked in to the doggy keep away game, they need lots of coaching on this one and they want to take the object (OK, so almost everyone wants the object, but dogs are faster and willing to eat things especially if people keep grabbing things away from them).

Doing a good retrieve, but see the ears? He's not absolutely sure he wants to give it to me.
Doing a good retrieve, but see the ears? He’s not sure he wants to give it to me. So I’ll praise him up and invite the next round.

So re-think the strategy; you want a dog who will pick up and give you whatever you show you would like…this means giving things to you is fun and a valued activity. This means that as a pup they will pick up things you don’t want them to, but the important thing is not over reacting, instead trading and showing them with positive feedback what you actually want them to pick up…they will do it for you.