How to Train Your Dog to Carry Things

Medium
3-4 Weeks
Chores

Introduction

Wouldn't you like your dog to be able to lend a helping hand, or in this case mouth, carrying items such as grocery bags, his toys, one of your child's stuffed animals, a beer, or just about anything else? Not only can his ability to carry an item be helpful to you, but it is a really great trick to show off in front of your friends. Bear in mind that teaching your dog to carry things will require several training sessions over the course of about four weeks.

In order for this type of training to be successful, you need to choose a specific toy or object and stick with it until your dog has mastered the trick and will do it every time you ask him to do so. While this is not really a difficult task for your dog to master, it will require a certain amount of time and patience in order for him to get it. The good news is that most dogs naturally carry things in their mouth so teaching him to do so on command should not be that difficult.

Defining Tasks

This particular task is relatively simple in nature, you are simply asking your dog to do something that comes naturally to him: carry objects in his mouth. The only really hard part about it is training him to carry what you ask him to carry when you want him to do so. In essence, you will be training your dog a series of commands, including ‘pick it up’, ‘hold it’, ‘fetch’, and ‘drop it’. These are all part of the concept of teaching your dog to carry things.

Teaching your dog to carry things can be a great parlor trick, especially if you teach him the name of things like a TV remote, slippers, ball, toy, and so on. But at the same time, it can come in handy when you need a helping paw to carry something like the frisbee you are going out to play with or that ice cold beer in the fridge.

Getting Started

It doesn't take much to get started training your dog to carry things. You will, however, need the following:

  • A bag of your dog's favorite treats for use as rewards.
  • A range of items for your dog to carry.
  • A quiet place to use during training.
  • A ton of patience while your pup figures out what is expected of him.

The biggest thing you need is patience. Remember, your dog is just as interested in learning as you are in teaching. But at the same time, you must be prepared to shower him with praise and an ample supply of treats to let him know he is doing a good job. In time, your dog will carry anything you ask him to without the need for a treat, but you should always be ready to praise him for doing a good job.

The Fetch Method

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Step
1
Pick it up
Place an item on the ground in front of your dog and encourage him to ‘pick it up’. When he does, give him a treat.
Step
2
Repeat
Do this until he picks the item up every time, rewarding him each time he does.
Step
3
Delivery
Move several feet away from him and encourage him to bring the item to you. Use treats and praise to say "good job."
Step
4
Give
Now have him pick the item up and walk with you to a predetermined spot and have him ‘give’ you the item. Reward with treats and praise.
Step
5
Take it outside
Finally, have him pick the item up and carry it around as you go for a walk, go out in the yard to play, or when you have company and want to show his skills off. Remember to give him lots of praise and his favorite treats.
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The Lure Method

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Step
1
Get familiar
Have your dog sit in front of you and allow him to smell the training object. A piece of dowel or PVC pipe works great.
Step
2
Take it
Add a thin layer of peanut butter to the item and hold it in front of him again. When he opens his mouth to take it, say "take it" and when he does, praise him and give him a treat.
Step
3
Practice
Repeat this process until your pup will reach out and take the item when you say, "take it."
Step
4
Carry
Once he has mastered this, start moving away from him and having him "carry" the object to you.
Step
5
Add distance
Finally train your dog to carry the item on walks, when he goes outside, or from room to room each time you give the ‘carry’ command.
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The Playing Favorites Method

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Step
1
Pick a favorite
Start with an item your dog loves to carry around on his own terms and a pocket full of treats.
Step
2
Take it
Hold the item where your dog can easily see it in front of him and encourage him to ‘take it’. When he does, be sure to reward and praise him.
Step
3
From the ground
Next, lay the item on the ground and repeat the command, rewarding him when he does.
Step
4
Reduce treats
Spread out the rewards so that you are only giving him a treat every so many times--you can still verbally praise him.
Step
5
Carry
Now start moving back and using a ‘carry’ command to get him to pick the item up and carry it to you. Use lots of praise and treats and before long your dog will carry virtually anything you ask him to and take wherever you want it to go.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Bayley
Pit bull
3 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Bayley
Pit bull
3 Years

My dog does great with taking things out of my hand when I ask her. She'll do it to almost anything. But I'm having trouble with training her to hold it in her mouth. When she takes an item from me she immediately drops it.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
419 Dog owners recommended

Hello Christopher, There are several ways to teach a "Hold" command. First, you can gradually extend out the amount of time that he holds it for by requiring him to hold it for slightly longer than he did before before he earns praise and a treat - You would add just a second or two of time each time you increase it as he improves. You would do this by having him "Take It", telling him to "Hold", then counting in your head to 2 (or however many seconds he will currently hold something for now before he usually spits it out). When you reach the amount of time you are counting to, praise him, tell him "Okay" or "Drop It" (before he does it on his own), and give a treat. The praise needs to come while the object is still in his mouth. If he does not hold the object for the designated amount of time (2 seconds at first), then tell him "Ah Ah" and give him the object back, then repeat your "Hold" command and try counting to 2 in your head again, before praising and rewarding him when he "Drops It". As he improves increase how long he must hold the object for before you praise him, tell him to "Drop It" and give a treat. Keep treats hidden behind your back while doing this so that he does not go for the treats too soon and drop the object even sooner. Many hunting trainers will also use a slip leash to train this. To do this, have him take the object, loosely slip the slip leash around his muzzle, then stand up. If he tries to drop the object, gently pull up on the leash so that the loop gently closes around the mouth and helps him tighten his grip on the object again. Start by having him hold the object no longer than 5 seconds before telling him "Drop It" and giving him a treat. Praise him while the object is still in his mouth to let him know that he is doing it correctly. Keep the leash loose while he is doing well so that he is choosing to hold it on his own and the leash is only there as a reminder. You can also use your hand to gently cup the bottom of his chin and close his mouth when he starts to spit out an object. This can be a good way to start but you may need to progress to a slip leash as he improves, so that you can practice being further away while giving the command and he does not get too dependent on your help.Some dogs do fine with just a cupped hand under their chin to remind them to close their mouth again when they start to spit too early though. Do not work near your dog's mouth if he has ever shown any form of aggression. Keep up the good work. It sounds like you have been making progress in general. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Little Bee
Mixed breed
7 Years
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Question
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Little Bee
Mixed breed
7 Years

My dog will not take a toy when I tell her to take it in an encouraging voice. I also tried opening her mouth and forcing her to take the toy while telling her to take it. When I force the toy into her mouth, she just drops it and doesn't take the toy the next time I tell her to take it. I also tried coating the toy with peanut butter. She just licks it off without taking the toy. Also, she only plays with her toys when she is super excited, so giving her a toy that she likes and telling her to take it doesn't work. What should I do?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
419 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kate, These are a few options you have here. First, teach the take it command using food before moving onto toys. Practice having her Wait for the treat by showing it to her, saying wait, then closing your hand over it if she tries to get it. When she backs off of the treat, then tell her Take It and move it toward her to for her to eat. Practice this with food until she will instantly take the food when told Take It - without hesitation. When she can do that, then bring something new home, like a new chew toy, bone, or antler. When she acts excited about the new thing, practice the Wait and Take It with that object too. Do this a couple of times with new items (or items she hasn't seen in a while that you pretend are really great to get her excited). Next, fill a hollow chew toy with something that smells good, like liver paste or peanut butter mixed with dog food. Practice the Wait and Take It routine again like you did with the new toy with the dog food stuffed chew toy. Use food filled hollow chew toys to practice this often. When she has the routine down while the chew toy is in your hand, set the toy on the ground and practice the routine with it on the ground. Use your hand to block her from getting to the toy before you have told her to Take It if needed - making the toy off limits until she is told to take it can actually make it seem more desirable for some dogs. When she is good at picking the toy up from the ground, then slowly phase the food inside of it out, so that there is less and less food in there overtime. Whenever she picks up the toy while you are beginning to decrease the amount of food inside it, praise her and hand her an additional treat, then give her the food stuffed toy back after she eats her treat if she dropped the toy to eat your treat. Finally, the chew toy should be empty, you should place it on the ground, tell her to wait then "Take It", and give her a treat in exchange for the toy when she gives the toy to you. Start practicing this with other toys too at this point. Another option is to use a long leash and movement to get her to pick up the toy. Find a fun tug toy and play with her with the toy until she is really excited about it, then toss it a couple of feet away and tell her to Take It, and soon as she picks it up, excitedly call her over to yourself while you are backing up quickly (to get her to chase you). When she gets to you, hold a treat on her nose and give her the treat when she opens her mouth and drops the toy in your hand to eat the treat. Practice this over and over until she realizes that she can exchange the toy for a treat. If she drops the toy too soon, just pick it up and start the game over again until you can get her to bring it to you - you have to be quick about running away to get her to chase you while it's still in her mouth. Keep a lightweight long leash on her while you are practicing this, so that you can gently reel her in to yourself if she tries to leave with the toy or starts chewing on it instead of bringing it to you. When she begins to realize that there is a benefit to picking up the toy - getting a treat for bringing it to you, then make the game a little more boring and simply drop a toy and say Take It instead of getting her excited about it first. If she seems confused, move the toy around with your foot or hand to get her to notice it. When she can bring that dropped toy to you, then simply set the toy on the ground while saying take it and practice that too. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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