UKC Glove Exercises: Directed Marked Retrieve & Directed Signal Retrieve: Part I

gloves obedience retrieve teaching the exercises Mar 25, 2020

The UKC Utility degree contains two glove exercises.

The first, the Directed Marked Retrieve, requires the dog go directly to one of three gloves. The handler stands in the middle of the short end of the ring with his dog in heel position and the gloves are placed in the middle of the remaining three sides of the ring. This exercise is done prior to the jumps being set up (Diagram 1).


The second exercise, the Directed Signal Retrieve, is similar to a baseball or casting drill that you might do with your retriever when field training. The dog is sent toward glove two and then stopped in the middle of the ring with a sit command. Then the judge tells the handler to retrieve glove 1, 2, or 3, and the handler casts the dog to one of the gloves.

There are two pre-requisites for these exercises. First, your dog must understand a correction for failing to retrieve and secondly, a good foundation of the Go-out exercise.

Part I: The Directed Marked Retrieve

Teaching the Directed Marked Retrieve exercise is deceptively simple. Natural retrievers seem to understand the concept of going where the handler is pointing in a very few lessons. Be careful, the first steps are the most critical. Quickly claiming that your dog understands the exercise can lead to heartache in later months.

The UKC rules state: "Once the handler has stopped and is facing the designated glove with the dog sitting in "heel" position, the handler must use his/her left hand to mark a straight line of sight from the dog to the designated glove. If necessary, the handler may bend at the waist or knees before giving the mark. Once the "mark" has been set, the handler must immediately send the dog to retrieve the designated glove. The handler may use a hand signal and/or voice command to send the dog."

This means that you can give the dog a signal, parallel to his line of vision, stop the signal, and then give the dog a command to retrieve without moving your signal as you send him (Photo 1). You can also give your dog the signal from your body, parallel to the floor. Do not drop the signal like a guillotine next to his head (Photo 2). Try giving a variety of signals to your training partners. Practice giving your signal to your training partner to determine which is the easiest to follow.

Photo 1: The clearest signal is given at the level of the dog's eye.

Photo 2: A signal dropped like a guillotine from above the dog's head is harder for the dog to follow. 

Teach your signal to your dog

Step 1: Throw the object and signal the dog to retrieve

The first two steps are identical to teaching the AKC glove exercise. Begin with a toy that your dog enjoys. Start with your dog on a short tab (leash) sitting on your left side. Throw the object 10-15 feet in front of you. Hold the tab with your right hand and give the signal to retrieve with your left arm (Photo 3). It is not uncommon for the dog to try to lie down as you give the signal because a motion with your left hand near his head may be similar to your down signal when he is at your side. You are holding the tab to prevent him from lying down. When the dog is staring intently at the object, send your dog.

Photo 3: Chill looks attentively at the thrown glove as I give him the signal to retrieve.

Continue to work with one object until you are positive that the dog will look intently at the object when you give a signal to it. Have someone else watch your dog to verify that he is really looking at the object, and not just in the general direction or into the sky. Spend time on this step! Do whatever it takes to motivate your dog to look at  the object. The most difficult situation is with the dog that is only moderately interested in retrieving and rather lackadaisically looks out at the object. In this case, try letting your dog watch as you walk out 10-15 feet and place a treat on a white paper plate (Photo 4). Return to your dog and give him the signal. When he is staring at the plate, tell him to "fetch" and let him go eat the treat. Once you think his enthusiasm has grown, try placing the cookie on the glove and then give the dog a signal to the treat on the white glove. As the dog's interest and attentiveness increase, you can require that the dog pick up the glove after eating the cookie. Finally, you can use the glove only, and reward with the cookie after a successful retrieve.


Photo 4: Chill happily stares at the treat on the plate as I give him the signal to retrieve.

Step 2: Place the object on the ground, walk away, and signal the dog to retrieve

Continue to teach the dog that the signal means look out and go where sent. Place the object on the ground (Photo 5), walk away from the object, and then turn back to the object, sit the dog in heel position and send the dog (Photo 6). You must determine whether the dog is following your signal and staring intently at the object. If you think the dog is only moderately interested, simplify the task by shortening the distance or using a different toy or object! This is the most important step of teaching the directed retrieve. Don't fool yourself by thinking that because he successfully retrieved the object, he understood the signal. Be realistic, there is only one object to retrieve, so the dog that is a reliable retriever should leave your side and find something to pick up. You are looking for more than a successful retrieve. You want him to be attentive, searching for the object with his ears up, interested and ready to go!

Photo 5: With Chill beside me, I drop the glove and walk away. 


Photo 6: We turn, I give him the signal, and send him to retrieve!

Now make this step a little more difficult. Drop the toy, walk away in a circuitous route, then stop and send the dog. You might also attempt to drop the object and go practice another exercise. When complete, turn the dog to the object and see if your signal to retrieve will cause him to look out and find his beloved object. Feel free to get him excited by cuing him with a "where's your ball?" or other phrase you might use to let him know you are searching out his toy.

Step 3: Using two gloves

Once your dog will attentively search out an object when given a signal, it is time to introduce two objects. This is a good time to substitute gloves if you have been using a toy. You can start by rolling up the glove, inside out, so it forms a ball to encourage the dog to pick it up as a mouthful rather than by an exposed finger or thread.

Start in the middle of the ring and throw a glove to your left, the glove 1 position, and another glove to your right, the glove 3 position (Refer to Diagram 1). Face the glove on your right and send the dog. When your dog returns with that glove, turn and face the glove on your left and send for it. This should not be too difficult, and for those of you who are familiar with retriever field work, you are simply doing a short double retrieve with the two retrieves 180 degrees apart.

As you and the dog become comfortable with this game, change the location of the throws by throwing a glove to positions 1 and 2, or 2 and 3. You should still be standing in the middle of the ring so you are an equal distance from all three gloves.

If your dog goes to a wrong glove, stop him by saying "no" or "uh-uh," and tell him to come. He must come back to you to start again. If he attempts to walk back slowly, as if a great tragedy has occurred because you stopped him, go, pick up the tab and bring him back. You are simply trying to communicate that he is mistaken and he does not need to get depressed over it! A slow, worried return, in response to an error, will simply destroy the momentum of your training session!

If your dog will not stop when you tell him that he is wrong, he needs to learn how! You can deal with this dilemma three ways;

1) Put him on a retractable leash. It's difficult to stop a dog on a retractable leash with any amount of finesse and you will probably jerk him to a stop. This might cause him to refuse to retrieve on the retractable leash. You will then be faced with a separate problem, teaching him that he must retrieve on a retractable leash.

2) You could do this drill on a long line. A long line may be less of a jolt for the dog if you have to stop him for heading to an incorrect glove. Most dogs are willing to retrieve dragging a line without too much hassle.

3) You can ask a helper to stand near the glove and simply step on the wrong glove when you attempt to stop your dog and he ignores you. This would enable you to go get the dog when you say, "No, come," without his being able to retrieve the wrong glove.

When your the dog has convinced you that he will look out at either glove with intensity, and stop when sent for an incorrect glove, it is time to move on to the next step.

Step 4: Three Gloves

The UKC regulations allow your dog to watch the steward set out all three gloves so you want to teach your dog that it is fun to watch the steward drop the gloves. Begin by sitting your dog in the middle of the ring so that he can watch you place the gloves. This is a great time to introduce a cue word to let him know that he should mark the spot of each glove as the steward drops it. Say "mark" or "glove" in an excited tone of voice as you drop each glove. If the dog is not very interested, give him your cue word and throw him a treat. Allow him to break his sit-stay to scramble after the treat. Even better, if you have a training partner to place the gloves for you, say "mark" and let the helper call, shake the glove, and throw your dog a treat. You don't need to throw him a treat as each glove is placed, but do it intermittently to get him in the habit of watching the steward place the gloves. It shouldn't take long before your dog is enthusiastically watching the gloves placed in the hope that a treat is forthcoming (Photo 7). (This is a game that you can play throughout his Utility career and what fun it will be in the ring when you whisper "mark" before the judge asks if you're ready, and your dog attentively watches the steward place the gloves!)


Photo 7: Chill and I begin working with 3 gloves from the center of the ring.

Once the dog has watched the gloves placed, sit him facing a glove and send for that glove. Pick up all three gloves in a variety of sequences (i.e. 3, 2, 1 or 2, 1, 3) and then place all three gloves back out and try again. At this point, do your best to perform the pivot. Hold your dogs tab and help him into a straight sit. You are still trying to show the dog that he should go where sent; his ability to perform the pivot has nothing to do with this lesson. After he gets good at differentiating the three gloves, you can spend more time giving him responsibility for doing the pivot correctly.

After a few days, make the task slightly more difficult by throwing the glove your dog has retrieved back out, and then send him for a different glove. For example, send the dog for glove 2, throw 2 back out, then turn the dog and send him for glove 1 or 3. This may cause some errors, as your dog would rather retrieve the glove you just threw than one sitting on the ground. Simply stop him with a "No, come" move a step or two closer to the correct glove and send him again. Do NOT solve his problem for him by taking him to the correct glove. He must come back to try again, thus learning to go where sent!

If your dog refuses to move when you send him (and he might, if you have called him back for heading to the incorrect glove), take hold of his tab and move him toward the correct glove. Do not get in the habit of giving him a second command.

Do not interpret a failure to move as a failure to retrieve. The only time you should use a correction for failing to retrieve is if your dog goes to the correct glove and refuses to pick it up.

The final step of this glove exercise is to back up gradually until you are standing in the correct location (Diagram 1). As you back up, glove two will become more difficult because it is noticeably further away. A reasonable rule of thumb is to send for glove 2 twice as often as you send for glove 1 or 3. For example, pick up 1, then 2, then 3, and finally 2. Set each glove back out after your dog retrieves it. The most important retrieve is glove 2 since no matter which glove your dog is sent for on the Directed Marked Retrieve, he will have to go toward glove 2 on the Directed Signal Retrieve.

A Final Drill

Even though your dog will be allowed to watch each glove placed in the ring, make the exercise slightly more difficult by having your dog retrieve a glove that he did not just see placed. For example; let him watch you place all three gloves. Send him for glove 1, then let him watch you replace glove one only. Now send him for glove 2. He may run right back to glove one since he just watched you go there. If he does, tell him "No, come," move up slightly and resend him for glove 2. He must learn to go where sent, not simply go to the most attractive location


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