To train a dog to find lost or bidden articles, whether in the house or in the field, take him on the lead, and without attracting his attention, drop an article be already has scented such as a dumbbell, a tobacco pouch, leather glove, a handkerchief, a bunch of keys, or preferably, one of his favorite objects such as a ball. Then return to your starting point.
Command “fetch;” go back with him on the trail, have him on the lead until he comes upon it. The next step is to command “fetch,” dog not on lead.
At first he may be permitted to smell the article; then the article can be bidden and he be commanded “fetch.” The arm should be gestured in the general direction where the article will be found.
A final step is to place your own glove or handkerchief or matchbox in a row with articles belonging to several persons. Then command him “fetch” to pick out and bring back your article only.
It is surprising how, after a short training, the dog will on command, trail the footsteps of his master, even in the house, and pick up an object lying about, the property of the master. In time he can be trained to discern between articles, and, for instance, be told to “fetch keys, bedroom,” or “fetch shoes, parlor.”
The central idea is the command “fetch.” It can be associated with any object-leash, ball, brush, shoes, and the like. “Fetch” spoken to the dog tells him that he is to bring an article; then the name of the article to be fetched can be spoken.
Make him hunt until he finds and fetches. If necessary, get the article slyly and place it where he surely will find it. Success in locating must be his every time.
If the dog of his own accord does not go after the object, you yourself go to the object, pick it up, come back and try again.
Keep the articles in the same places for a time so that once the dog learns the location, he need only go to the previous place.
If he hesitates before coming back, run a few steps away from him and usually he will chase after you.
When he does bring back the object, do not have a tug of war with him but take the object out of his mouth quickly and gently. Always be sure to pat the dog and speak approvingly to him when he brings the article. Do not permit him to hold it after he has brot it to you. Insist on his dropping it at your feet or releasing it to your hand, at all times upon command “drop.”
For the first few times, you can give him a reward but this should be stopped soon for he will do the retrieving merely for the reward and not because he must do it as a result of your command. The dog must learn too that you are serious about the work and that he is not merely playing.
Many dogs delight to greet their returning masters by bringing something as a greeting gift. Encourage this natural habit.
Never command your dog to fetch or retrieve stones or metal. These may break off parts of the teeth or chip the enamel covering the teeth.
To teach a dog to carry a basket, a newspaper or other like object, little is required after he is taught to retrieve. Command “fetch,” and walk with him. He must not let go of the object until he is commanded to “give.”