Training a Shaped Retrieve

I am often asked how to teach a retrieve.

I train a "structured" retrieve.  That is neither a forced retrieve nor a play based retrieve.

In a structured retrieve, the retrieve is taught in a systematic manner. This is the same process that is used for most forced retrieves.  The difference is that rather than punishing a dog for dropping or failing to take the object, I click and reward for performing correctly, and mistakes are simply ignored.

The other major difference is that I teach the hold portion of the retrieve at the very end, after the dog understands to pick up objects and place them in my hand.

A while ago I taped a Border Collie's lessons on the shaped retrieve.  The following videos were taken over five days; there was no practice or work in between sessions.  As you watch, you can see that the owner and I trade off teaching - this is both to help the owner refine her technique, and also to demonstrate that different appraoches can be used to get the results.

Each dog is a unique individual and should be taught at their pace and with their temperament in mind.  A clicker savvy dog will progress faster than a dog that has had mostly lure or correction based training.   Don't worry about following this exact progression; simply use it as a guide to help you work through whatever challenges you may encounter.



Katarina -——— Please send link. I would also love to see Susan’s . DOES SHE STILL DO OBEDIENCE ?


I am shaping my 10 mo flat-coat puppy to retrieve using this method, & was very interested to come home from a lesson to find this post. Am curious to know why you are using the slipper, since we started right with the dumbbell. I am trying to reconcile myself to the slow progress with this method (I’ve heard 3 months), compared to the speed of the force-fetch I used with the first 3 dogs—but I’m no longer willing to do compulsive, pain-based training, so something’s gotta give.


no link?

Lisa Ann Gray

Looks like your teaching service dog tasks :)

Katarina Simonic

Ok, if you have time, just watch first video. Over 6 minutes long and what they get? A dog nosing a soft fuzzy shoe.  And that’s the reason why Susan Garrett is DA QUEEN. One and only. Her way of shaping (or rather playing) for a retrieve is just the simplest, most brilliant thing ever. No koolaid jokes! I really think how she goes for a retrieve and hold… it’s eons better. 

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