Looking all the way back to the Middle Ages, the standard poodle has been revered for its talents as a hunting or “gun” dog. The Europeans started training poodles to retrieve ducks because their coat was well noted for its moisture resistant quality. This aided in their ability to swim out for bird retrievals.
This breeds outrageous hair-dos actually have a purpose other than to incite amusement. The jacket style cut around the chest and back helps keep their heart and lungs warm when they’re out working in the cold water, and the bracelets around the ankles keep the joints warm. The topknot of hair on their head tied with ribbon was used for the hunter to be able to track their dog in the marshes and deep water.
Reasons to be Training Poodles to Retrieve
While these dogs have had peaks and lows of popularity for many generations, they are well known for their abilities to be utilized as the following:
- Assistance dogs for people dealing with autism, diabetes, and other health concerns
- Circus performers
- Guard dogs
- Guide dogs for the blind
- Military dogs
- Search and Rescue
- Show dogs
To this day, the retriever blood is still coursing through their veins. If you’re lucky enough to have a poodle and are interested in teaching it to retrieve for you, it might be the best choice you’ve ever made.
Prepping Your Dog for Training
While you could spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to have your pooch professionally trained, you might want to try a few things to decide if your dog is truly interested in the process. Some dogs really do fit the lifestyle of the couch potato, but luckily, most poodles are active animals who love a challenge.
You might also not have such lofty goals as teaching Fido to retrieve then heading off to the lake for some quality time with the ducks. Your interests might lie more in the area of just fetching toys during play, or possibly as an assistance dog. No matter what your end goal, here are a few tips to help determine if retrieving is something that will hold your pooches’ interest.
Since poodles are highly intelligent, athletic, and more than willing to learn new things, there are three ways to choose from to help determine if your dog has any interest in retrieving things.
- A natural interest in retrieving
- Playful interest in retrieving
- Treat training
Many dogs exhibit a natural interest in retrieving, an instinct they just seem to exhibit on their own with no prompting on your part. These dogs are usually the easiest to train because all you’ll need to do is encourage their natural desire and ability to go get an item and return it to you.
This type of dog also tends to be very proud of themselves and loves the reward of their handler, showing them an appreciation for a job well done. Whether it’s a duck, pheasant, or a ball you threw across the yard, their natural instinct will play right into your hands.
Start small, with something they are interested in such as a toy or ball. Give it a toss, then say the command you’ve chosen to get them to retrieve. Be consistent in this word, or you’ll risk confusing the dog and slowing down training.
Once your dog has picked up the item, praise them profusely as they return to you, to show them you’re happy they’ve done the right thing. If they drop the toy, try grabbing for the item. This action often makes them want to pick it up again. Once they’ve picked it back up, call them to you with a command you’ll use consistently for this request.
This process may take a little time for your furry friend to grasp completely, but consistency is the key. Repeat the process a few times, keeping in mind that dogs are like humans. After a while, it gets boring, and it’s time to move on to something else. You can always try again later.
If your poodle prefers a more playful approach to life, consider using that to your advantage. Begin with a tug toy or rope they like to play with. Tug and retreat with them until they are actively involved in the game.
Once you’ve got them hooked on the game, win the tug of war. Have your dog sit, if trained, to build the suspense. This will help keep their attention on the toy. Once you’re sure their attention is firm, throw the toy. Using the chosen command, tell them to go retrieve the toy.
Praise them profusely on their return to you, then continue the tug game. Once you’ve tugged and tossed awhile, they’re likely to catch on to the commands and what you want. Just like a natural instinct, this can become old and tiring after a time. Be sure to give your pooch breaks in play and come back to it later when they’ve regained interest.
For the poodles who are more motivated by food than anything, don’t lose hope, there is a way. Get a toss worthy toy that holds treats, one that they can’t easily open. Fill it up with something they like, then let them smell it. Training poodles to retrieve by using food is nothing new.
Once it catches their attention, give it a toss. When they head for it, give the command you’ve chosen to retrieve. After they pick it up, call them to you with an enthusiastic, happy voice before they can open it.
If they bring it to you, praise them excessively. If not, take the toy away and break out a few treats. Calling them to you, offer a treat as they move towards you and when they arrive at your feet. Close the toy up and repeat the process.
Don’t worry if it takes a while; all dogs learn at different rates. If you make it fun and rewarding, they’re bound to catch on. At that point, you can take it to the conclusion you were hoping for.