I wanted to build on the first Trick of the Week (check it out here) by teaching “Carry”. “Carry” is having your dog hold an item while moving, usually at the handlers side. Variations would be “Bring”-carrying an object to you and “Fetch”-sending the dog out to pick up the item and then bring it to you.
Why train the “carry”? Not only is it the basis of the really impressive dog tricks like “Walk another dog” or “Tidy up your toys” but it is also used by service dogs to retrieve items, for their elderly or disabled owners.
While I had attempted this trick before, in reality Thor learned this trick all on his own! I was asking him to hold an object and realized I forgot my treat bag and phone (camera) in across the room. I ran across the kitchen to grab it and when I looked down he had followed me, still holding the wallet. I could not believe it! I started racing around in little circles, praising him with “oh your such a good boy” “what a little man” ” your so smart, your so smart” all at some time around midnight. I’m sure if anyone saw me they would think I was mental. I was even more shocked when I took the item from him, gave it back, walked a couple feet and after just a moment of hesitation he trotted over with it like he had done it all his life!
(Not great quality video, but this was filmed the morning after our midnight training break through!)
Where to start? I would not recommend the “carry” until your pet has a solid hold. For most dogs getting over the feeling of strange objects and textures in their mouth and/or awkward mouth positioning is harder to adjust to then walking with that item.
I’m sure starting with just a step or two at a time and building up to carrying longer and longer distances is the ‘correct’ way to train it but for us it didn’t happen that way. He went from only rarely being able to “hold” and change position from sit- stand to walking a good 10 feet and he even jumped up on and off the futon with the wallet, because he was already so used to holding onto all sorts of different items.
- If Thor had not followed when I ran, I would have started by coaxing him forward with praise, food, whatever it took. He knows that he can not drop the item until my hand is back on it so I may have been able to get him to “carry” by putting my hand just out of reach so he would have to take a step to give it to me.
- If your dog takes a few steps but then drops the item I would cut down the distance so that each time they are successful.
- If you have a dog that already likes to fetch, moving a few steps backwards while they are coming towards you or turning and having them follow/ chase you may work as well.
- Start with smaller objects, the feeling of an item dragging on the floor may distract pets that are just learning the behavior.
How to build on it:
- Retrieve/ Fetch item to you
- Carry your purse
- Walk another dog
- Pull a cart
- Teach your dog to paint
- Pick up your toys
- Begging for $$ or food
All dogs learn differently and remembering that it’s the journey and not the end result is just as important as the time and effort you put in!