Spotlight on mouths - Tricks & Games: Hold

31 May 2020, 5 p.m. by Tracey McLennan


Remember, you know your dog best, so ignore any suggestions that may upset your dog or cause you to be bitten.

Roxy has been learning to hold for some time, so I'm going to do this with a novel item just to show you how I would start off.

The first thing I would do is just click the dog for putting their nose near it. Usually, if you hold something out to your dog, they will investigate it with their nose. That would be my first step with this little trick.

So after that, the next step is to withhold the click a little bit to see what the dog does next. A lot of the time, they'll start to open their mouth, which is what Roxy did.

Then you can click them for opening their mouth and having the item very briefly in their mouth.

For the video, I was using a sock, but actually, a sock is quite squashy, and it's probably not a great retrieve article if you want your dog to hold their mouth still because it will encourage them to chew on it because it's so nice and soft and squashy.

A better article is something like this. This is a paint roller, and it is really good. Anybody who has been watching my videos of Cuillin and Roxy – my little 365 days of learning videos – we've been using this for Cuillin, and I started off using this for Roxy as well because although it's soft on the outside, it's not squashy. It's got a hard middle, so it's quite nice.

Now Roxy and I are using an old wooden spoon. And that's helping us get a little bit of duration. Once you get that – the dog putting their mouth around the article you can start to then very gradually in increments of less than a second - you are talking about building it up a fraction of a second of a time – but you can start to build up the more time that they hold the article.

And if you're wanting them to be holding it still – you want to try and click when their mouth is still. If you've been watching my videos, what you'll have seen I've been doing with Roxy as well is getting her to do a chin rest and then giving her the article because if she does a chin rest, she's used to having her mouth still while she does that. So it's helping to build up.

Those are the steps that I would generally go through to teach a proper hold. So I did it with Cuillin when he was a puppy, and he is still relatively good with hold. I don't do any dog sports where it's necessary, so it isn't something I've kept on top of. But it's a nice little training exercise to play around with and see how far you can get with, so do let me know how you get on.

Thanks for watching, bye for now.


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Tracey McLennan

Tracey is the author of Canine aggression: Rehabilitating an aggressive dog with kindess and compassion and founder of Best Dog Learning and Stuff Ltd. She has an honours degree in Canine behaviour and training, is a Tellington TTouch practitioner, and is an ACE Advanced Tutor.


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