20. The "Take It!" (Reaching On Command)
If your dog will reach for an object when you say "Take it!" the training outlined here will not be necessary. If the older dog has never learned to take things from your hand, or you have a dog that refuses to pick up an object because she is tired of playing games, put the dog on leash and make her sit at your LEFT side.
Your dog must first reach to take things from your hand on command before she will reach to take things from the floor.
Slip the collar high behind the dog's ears, and keep it there by applying slight pressure with the LEFT hand. Hold the dumbbell, or whatever object you are using, in the RIGHT hand. When working with a small dog, squat or sit on the floor and you will be more comfortable. Your command should include praise, such as "Take it!— Good Girl!" Timing is of special importance. Hold the dumbbell close to the dog's muzzle and give a SINGLE command. Use a quiet tone of voice! While you are saying the "Good Girl!" tighten the collar slowly with the LEFT hand by pulling the leash UP and FORWARD. This brings the dog's head to the dumbbell. At the same time, pry open the dog's mouth with the middle finger of your RIGHT hand, slip in the dumbbell, release the collar, then pat the dog. After she holds the dumbbell a few moments, command "Out!" and take the dumbbell away. While working, move slowly and handle calmly. Each time you tighten the collar, increase the amount of pressure slightly, until your dog will open her mouth automatically when she sees the dumbbell coming, or when you tell her "Take it!"
The steady tightening of the collar, used for the first few lessons of the "TAKE IT!" exercise, gradually changes to short, quick snaps. Hold the leash in your LEFT hand as usual. Place the dumbbell close to the dog's muzzle, and this time, while you are saying the "Good Girl!" give the leash a sharp tug. The severity with which the leash is jerked depends upon the size of the dog, her temperament, and upon the length of time the dog has been in training for this particular exercise. If too much force is applied early in the training, the dog's attitude will be one of defiance. You will have the problem of keeping the dog's spirits up, as well as teaching her the exercise.
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