Both Maggio and Pinot are wickedly amazing retrievers. As far as Maggio goes – a Flat Coated Retriever from working lines: he came to us that way. There has never been a day of needing to “teach him” to retrieve. More so, with him: it was a matter of putting some impulse control around retrieving and quite quickly starting to use it as a “reward” for performing other behaviours first..

But with Pinot, like with many of my students’ dogs, it was a different story. It was a long journey to develop play. There were days of feeling quite desperate and frustrated – wondering if I would have to resort to simply just using food in training because play didn’t seem to rank very high for her. 

Thankfully, I wasn’t about to give up and also had great help from people like my dear trainer friend Catherine Thomas and with her very experienced set of eyes, she was able to give us some very helpful advise early on – and a long journey of many months of “just playing” paid off. 

The end result is beautiful and Pinot is as keen to retrieve as her brother “bird dog” – and along the way, I learned many great lessons.

On a recent camping trip that I wrote about before, the kids got incredibly creative with how to use the dogs’ retrieving skills many times per day. What a blast it was! We have continued the trend since returning home, and it’s amazing how useful it is to have a retrieving dog.

How do you use your dogs retrieving ability around the house?

Well…for starters…we always seem to run out of toilet paper in one bathroom or another. Have you ever thought to get the dog to bring up a roll of toilet paper when you’re sitting on the toilet, realizing there’s no more paper on the roll nor in that bathroom cupboard?

What about getting the dog to bring a rolled up plastic bag when you need to empty out a garbage can but have no baggie to empty into?

And of course letters and mail need to be delivered to the right addressee after bringing home the mail. AND then there’s the daily newspaper that gets thrown on our front porch. It needs to be brought to whoever is awake and having their morning coffee.

How about using the dog to send a note to one of the kids with a message “Dinner is ready!!”
…and being prepared that the note will moments later be returned by the dog with a new message that says “Thanks – I’ll be there in a few minutes – please send up a roll of toilet paper!”

OR while camping – the thing that started it all: getting the dogs to carry the firewood from the van to the fire-pit when ready to get our evening fire going – one piece of wood at a time…

Here are some photos of what happened. What a riot – and WHAT great use of the dogs!
They felt so important, too – as can definitely be seen in some of the photos. There was some debate over who would get to carry the newspapers for starting the fire, too…although quite quickly resolved. Enjoy!

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