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Delivering a game bird to the hand is what a well-trained gundog is expected to do. But this command is also deceptively useful for regular pet dogs, for a variety of reasons.
For one thing, imagine a game of "Fetch" where you never have to bend down to the ground. With the ball beautifully presented and released into your hand, it saves strain on your back.
There are also huge safety advantages to teaching a delivery to hand. You only have to think about the dog who's got hold of your Jimmy Choo shoe and is about to play chase with your prized possession. The dog that is trained to give an object into the hand, will come to you and deliver his ill-gotten gains without a whimper...in return for praise end a treat, so everyone's a winner.
Delivering to your hand literally means what it says. The dog delivers an object he's holding in his mouth, into your waiting hand. In the context of a gundog, he's also trained to retrieve a game bird, carry it back with a soft mouth, and the final step is to drop the bird into your waiting hand.
This guide looks at the final part of that chain of events, the delivery. But this is arguably the most useful component in the context of a well-behaved pet dog, as it protects your possessions, keeps him safe, and facilitates an epic game of "Fetch".
If you are struggling with a dog that keeps running away with the toy in his mouth, then avoid giving chase. When you run after the dog, this is ace-fun in the dog's mind and he is teaching you to play rather than the lesson being on him. Instead, ignore him, or better still, walk away. This sends out a powerful message that the game is over and will have him running back to you in no time.
To get started it helps to work in a corridor. This encourages the dog to return to you, rather than running off with his toy booty. The training sessions should always be the equivalent of a game to the dog. Look for an enthusiastically wagging tail, and if he starts to lose interest then bring the session to a close.
You can even teach this command during a game, rather than during specific training sessions. You will need:
- A waist bag in which to keep the treats
- A toy, such as a frisbee or ball
- Two identical favorite toys
The Exchange Delivery Method
Two identical toys
Start with two identical toys. The idea is that the dog who is reluctant to hand over a toy can be tempted into doing so for another toy that looks the same but is more 'exciting' (because he doesn't have it).
Toss one toy
Keeping one toy out of sight, toss the other for the dog to chase
Dog retrieves toy
Encourage the dog to chase after the toy and fetch it back.
Hold out a hand
Hold out a hand to accept the toy. If he yields the toy to the hand then give him your chosen cue word, along with lots of praise and a treat. If he refuses and holds onto it, then reveal the identical toy.
Offer the identical toy
Jiggle the second toy around so it looks exciting. The dog then thinks the second toy is a more interesting option than the first, which he then drops into your waiting hand. Give the cue word, lots of praise, and throw the second toy for him to chase.
The Treat & Toy Delivery Method
Work in a corridor
Make this into a game but try playing in a corridor, so the dog has fewer options to get distracted. This way when you toss the toy, the dog has fewer options and is more likely to run straight back to you.
Toss a toy
Toss a toy for the dog to chase, as you would for a game of fetch. If the dog stops to play with the toy, walk away from him as if ending the game. This should have him chasing after you.
Hold a treat
The dog has returned with toy in mouth. You want him to give the toy to your hand, so if he drops the toy have him pick it up again. Show the dog the treat so that he lifts his head to your hand while still holding the toy.
Have the dog wait with the toy in his mouth, pressed up against the hand holding the treat.
Give the treat
Once the dog has demonstrated he is actively presenting the toy to your hand, give him the treat and accept the toy.
The Target the Hand Method
Smell the palm
Make the hand attractive to the dog by rubbing it with a treat. Offer out the palm for the dog to sniff.
Reward a nose touch
When the dog touches his nose to the palm, give a cue word, such as 'Hand', praise and reward him. The idea is to teach the dog that 'Hand' means touch the palm.
Introduce a toy
Now introduce a toy for the dog to play with and eventually release to your hand. Play with the toy so that the dog excitedly mouths it.
Now ask the dog to touch the toy to your palm, by using your 'Hand' command. If the dog does this, then praise him and give a treat. If he drops the toy before touching the palm, then no reward. He has to learn that he only gets the reward if the toy is released on your word.
Reward the release
When the dog is regularly presenting the toy to your palm, give a release word such as "Give", and reward him with a treat.
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 10/16/2017, edited: 01/08/2021