Teaching your dog to run and retrieve is a very basic and easy training command for him to understand. It is one of the easiest of tasks to train your dog to do, such as pick up a newspaper or a piece of mail, and it’s fun too!
You can begin the exercise by first showing your puppy or dog how to focus on the area in which you want him to retreat from. You do this by simply pointing to the location with your finger. Your goal here is to get your dog to scope out the exact area while looking for something to bring back to you.
The best way to take care of this first step of retrieve training is to use little bits and pieces of dog food or dog snacks. Take out the food and just sprinkle two or three treats on the ground. Do not let your dog run to eat the food too fast. In fact, you should first train him to sit and stay until released, then you point to the ground and say “pickup”, “pickup”.
Each time your dog grabs a piece of food, drop another piece behind you and then point while giving the “pickup” command. As you can probably guess, your dog is going to associate the command you are giving him of “pickup” with the notion to look for something to put in his mouth. This part of training does not take long at all, especially if you are using tasty treats and by also training your dog when he is hungry, as this helps to increase his motivation.
The next step is to start throwing smaller non-food items instead of snacks. For example, after you throw a couple of treats and your dog responds to the “pickup” command, surprise him by tossing a small ball and then point and command him to pick it up, in the exact same manner that you did with the dog treats. By this time he should run to pick up the ball without hesitation and even start to bring it back to you. Be sure to praise him each time he does.
Finally, it is time to teach your dog how to drop the object in front of you after he retrieves it. Once your dog has the ball, or whatever object you are using, he should naturally run back to you expecting praise. Give him the “drop it” command and as you pet his head with one hand, take your other hand and pull the object out of his mouth and drop to the ground. Do this as often as you can. Tie the entire process together by starting from the beginning and tossing a ball for him to retrieve. From now on you will enjoy your dog coming back to you and dropping the object right at your feet, every time!