Perfecting the Dumbbell Pick-Up

retrieve retrieve on the flat retrieve problems Jan 12, 2020

Perfecting the Dumbbell Pick-up

One of the most frequently asked questions that I receive is about dogs that have poor dumbbell pick-ups. Some dogs hit it with their feet, some push it with their nose, but in either case, they lose points for a poor pick-up.

This can be a difficult problem to fix. How do you say to a dog, “I love that you’re picking it up, I hate how you are doing it?” If you’re not careful, you will communicate to the dog that you don’t want him to pick it up at all.

Most trainers, when they see that this problem is developing, do everything they can think of to prevent the mistake, for example, they place the dumbbell up against a wall, under a chair, or on a piece of chicken wire. Those approaches work as long as you use them. The theory is that if you prevent the problem long enough, the dog will get in the habit of picking the dumbbell up correctly.

What makes this difficult to fix is that dogs often find the activity to be self-rewarding. Dogs love to chase moving objects, and once they discover that they can make them move, it is hard to stop them. So, even if you throw the dumbbell against the wall for months, or years, as soon as you stop, many dogs will resume hitting it with their feet. If the dog could speak, he might say: “Thank goodness you’ve started throwing the dumbbell where I can play my chasing game again.”

Teaching a dog that it matters how he picks a dumbbell up is tricky. The technique I use can be divided into steps. The first three steps are demonstrated in the video, Perfecting the Dumbbell Pick-up, Part 1. 

Next Steps –  Approaching a problem Directly or Indirectly

There are two approaches for solving many problems; directly or indirectly.

For example, if a dog is barking in his crate, you can teach him the command “quiet,” and perhaps use a squirt bottle of water to enforce your quiet command. You are solving the problem “directly” by teaching the dog that he will be squirted with water if he does not respond to your command to be quiet.

Alternatively, you could open the crate door and teach the dog to stay until released to come out. Often, a dog that is required to focus on staying in a crate with the door open will stop barking. You are solving the problem indirectly by teaching him to focus on remaining in his crate.

Watch this video for the next steps in the technique I use to teach a dog that it matters how he picks up a dumbbell. Focusing on your dog’s commitment to returning to you with the dumbbell is an indirect approach that will improve your dog’s pickup.

Did you enjoy the article? 

Signup to receive more free training TIPS & TRICKS from Connie.