I agree with Lies having done 2 dogs with retrieves and getting ready to start a 3rd (and having made plenty of mistakes along the way!).
Start with the hold. I also agree to start with something other than the dumbbell. You want all your mistakes and any corrections to be with something else. I've seen people use PVC, PVC wrapped in vet wrap to make it less slick, wooden dowels, wrapped wooden dowels, tugs, and balls all used as the object to teach the hold, depending on how you're doing it. Which depends on your dog. Also agree with back-chaining. Start with the hold, I have my dogs sit, down, fuss, when I'm starting to proof the hold. The more comfortable they are about holding in a variety of positions the less trouble we'll have when I bring in the dumbbell. Once the hold is solid I'll start asking for a front from increasing distance. The very last piece is throwing the dumbbell.
A high drive compliant dog can almost always be taught a motivational hold with the clicker and shaping. When reworking the hold on my first dog I had to go back and do a modified forced hold to get rid of some major chewing. It wasn't brutal and once he understood the hold, I was able to go back and be completely motivational again on the rest of the retrieve. Once again it will depend on your dog.
You can build the retrieve behaviors for sitting, going out, and coming back with toys.
The retrieve is probably the most important thing you will teach you dog and to teach a good reliable one takes a long time and lots of steps. But it's a HUGE amount of points. So take it slow, get all your pieces right before you introduce the dumbbell. The clearer you are able to make it for your dog, the easier it will be.
Bianka vom Eisernen Loewen IPO3, CGC, TC 1-3-08
Cade vom Eisernen Loewen IPO1, CGC 3-25-09
D'Artagnan (Tag) vom Eisernen Loewen BH 2-2-10
G Aiko von Burkndeiros SchH 3, IPO3, FH, TC, KKL2 9-17-02 (Retired)
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