Teaching a Hold with Reverse Luring

Over 2 years after I posted about using Reverse Luring to train duration behaviors it remains my most popular post.  I am thrilled that while reverse luring is not my invention, I am able to help spread it's use to other trainers around the world!  And by far the most common search landing on it's page is how to use reverse luring in teaching a hold.  While the short video I made demoing the technique does show using reverse luring to teach a hold, the video was never meant as a how to guide and the clip showed dogs at the intermediate level.  Not as helpful to those looking for more step by step instructions!  So due to so many people having questions, I decided to make another video!

Note- I personally almost always train a shaped retrieve to hand BEFORE I start hold training.  I find that teaching dogs to move with an object in their mouth is usually easier and thus develops a strong reward history with the object before beginning more stationary work.  There are many ways to shape a retrieve and I outlined my methods here.

Zumi was a perfect subject for my video as I started teaching her first hold lesson earlier this month and just a few lessons later she has a pretty solid 5 second hold of a variety of objects.  Unfortunately due to the quickness in which she picked up the skill, I didn't have as much video of her struggling in the initial stages as I had hoped for.  For those new to training a hold, realize that the first 3 seconds are the hardest to get!  Typically once I build to 3 seconds it isn't long before I have 5 then 10 then 30+ seconds!

Video below:


And more written steps for those who like to read :)
1. Once I have a dog who already knows how to bite an object and target my hand with it I begin hold training.  My first step is reviewing the concept of don't stare at the food, offer a behavior.  If this is brand new to the dog I usually start this concept with hand targeting.  Can the dog do a nose touch to my hand if my other hand has food visible?  Don't be tempted to cheat and move your hand away!  If the dog wants to stare at my food hand I let him!  Too much staring and I might just reward for the dog offering eye contact, but then I'll help them out by wiggling my other hand.  This is a very important step and can be hard for many dogs, so don't skip it!  I find that working on the concept of moving away from food is crucial to a lot of advanced obedience training!

So at the end of this step the dog is confidently biting the object even with food held out at nose level.

2. Tug backs.  Most new dogs will have a very loose grip on the object as they bite it.  To get more full bites I typically reward the dog for closer and closer steps to actually tugging back on the object.  Downside of this is that many dogs will start offering backing up with the item as they go to bite it.  I don't care, it's easy to train out later :)  Regardless of what you choose to do, try and click for more solid bites vs wussy mouthing!

3. Shaping.  No different than any other method, you need to build duration very slowly.  You can either keep your free hand on the object as the dog bites it, or briefly let go.  I personally have better success letting go.  Remember the click ends the behavior so I don't care if it falls to the floor when it drops!  At this step I try and get to using reverse luring to help the dog with a feedback system.  Open hand=dog is correct, closed fist or removed fist=dog was wrong (ie dropped the object or rolled it in his mouth).  In the super early stages I often don't have time to even open my hand (as the dog goes to bite the object) as I click almost right away!  But very gradually try it.  For many dogs the movement of your hand towards their mouth also helps them as it takes their brain off of what is in their mouth and onto the choice they have to make to not go for the food!

Keep working on it!  Patience!  Build up to 5 seconds slowly :)

4. Proofing.  Now you should easily be able to have your hand in the open palm/closed fist feedback and start moving your hand around to tempt the dog.  Move the hand above the dog and towards the ground.  Try having the food on a table you reach for.  Be creative and build your dog's confidence as you further their understanding of what you want.

5.  Movement.  In the above steps you were likely giving the dog the object while they were already sitting.  The dog moving and then being asked to hold is a novel concept!  Experiment with what is easier for your dog to start this concept.  Maybe picking it off the ground and then holding?  Being given the object and then asked to do a trick like spin, or shake and still hold it?  Carrying the object while heeling and then a brief hold as you stop?

My eventual goal is a full formal retrieve of pick up off the ground, come to front, sit, and hold.  You can see how that is lots of steps!  For my dogs, the pickup and hold is somewhat hard at first, but the hold and then move into a sit even harder.

Good luck!  Feel free to write with any tips!
Baby Vito in levitating dumbbell hold!

achieve1dream  – ( June 15, 2015 at 3:05 PM )  

That is such a great video! I was cheering her along as she started to figure it out hehe. I got to the point where Jackal was taking and holding things for a few seconds, but I never did work on duration. I'm horrible about duration, even with clicker training the horse. I've never tried the closed/open hand feedback thing. I bet Jackal would pick that up fast. I might have to give it a try. Thanks for sharing this video!

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