Teach your dog to RETRIEVE!
Foreword: Once Rover has learned RETRIEVE, you can do almost anything. Even if it is a simple thing like "fetch your ball," or more complex like "get me an egg". Believe me, I have heard of a dog who would go every morning down to the chickens, open the gate, get an egg, close the gate and come back with the egg unharmed (except for a lot of doggy slobber all over it, that is)! Well, that might not be on of your near future goals for teaching your Rover, but once you teach this retrieving trick, you can let you imagination take over.
Directions:There are two ways to teach Rover RETRIEVE depending on what kind of dog he is.
Fetch for the Rover who loves his ball: Since you have a Rover who loves his ball, and sometimes getting the ball back is a battle of it's own, here is the perfect way to teach RETRIEVE.
Simply throw the ball and have Rover chase it. Once he gets the ball, call him back to you. If he comes, praise him but IGNORE the ball. Don't try to take it or you'll soon have a Rover who will always drop the ball coming back half way to you. If Rover is being a bad boy, and decides to enjoy HIS ball in the other corner of the yard, you'll have to use a rope. Tie the rope to Rover and throw the ball again. Now call him and if he doesn't come give tug on the leash. You don't want to pull him in, instead you want him to come to you on his own will. Or so HE thinks!
Once your Rover is coming to you, praise him and still ignore the ball. Now try some other commands while he has the ball in his mouth. Like HEEL, SIT, and COME. You don't want him to drop his ball. Try not to use the word NO, as this may cause him to drop it. If Rover wants to play cat and mouse, ignore him and move the other direction and call him, if he response, praise.
Now that Rover has confidence in working with his ball, move on to another object like a dowel or a stick. You don't want Rover to become too attached and he'll only retrieve his ball.
Throw the object a couple of feet and tell Rover to RETRIEVEit. If he fetches it and brings it back to you, then you have a great dog. Do this with other objects, like small boxes, shoes or whatever you want. If Rover RETRIEVES them each time and brings them back to you, praise him. Your job was easy. Make sure Rover keeps the object in his mouth until you say GIVE or RELEASE. You don't want him dropping the egg on the kitchen floor. = )
If you don't have a wonder Rover like that (including mine) then you'll have to try the next direction.
Retrieve for the Rover who hates his ball: Your Rover might not be as bad as mine, but I got to a point were my Rover wouldn't even fetch the ball anymore. I could never have Rover keep the ball in its mouth once Rover did RETRIEVE it. So here is the method I used (it took me a couple of months) to get Rover to love his ball.
As I said in the directions above, don't take the ball away from Rover every time he comes back with it. This will make future tricks, as carry a basket almost impossible. Only do this exercise for a couple of minutes, you don't want Rover to become bored.
Take the stick (It should be only around four-inches long) and have Rover sit next to you . Hold the leash in your left hand and the stick in your right. Now say ROVER, TAKE IT and hold it in front of his mouth. Don't worry if Rover spits it out right away. Try it again. Speed in praising Rover is very important. You want to praise him for taking it instead of praising him for spitting it out.
If your Rover is very resistant and doesn't even want to open his mouth, grab Rovers collar. This will keep him from turning his head. Now open his mouth and pop the stick in while praising him. Make sure you don't praise him when he spits it out though.
You want to keep Rover happy though, so DON'T practice this for hours.
Once you do a couple of sessions of this, Rover should willingly open his mouth. Praise him! After Rover gets the connection between taking the stick in his mouth and you praising him, he'll start reaching for it. Praise is vital now, as you don't want to have Rover back up a couple of steps. Once he starts reaching for it, you can start holding the stick farther away. Try this a couple of times and then place the stick on the ground. If he retrieves it, your work is done for the day and play some old fashion FETCH!
Conclusion: Once your Rover RETRIEVES the stick willingly you can switch to other things like small boxes, shoes, pens or whatever you want him to fetch. If, at any time, Rover refuses to RETRIEVE something, back up a couple of steps!
Back To Tricks