Unit One – The Clicker Retrieve [Introduction To Back Chaining]

There are two ways in which we can teach the retrieve one is to back chain where we start with the end behaviour first. The second is to forward chain where we build up the behaviour from the start.


As we are going to be shaping the dog, there is going to be problem solving and thinking required from the dog itself. This is going to be involving a lot of brain power so I would suggest working in six repetitions of clicks and treats and then giving the dog a break.

What the break does is allow the dog to digest the information of what it has learnt and incorporates latent learning. It also allows the dog to rest so their performance will be of a high quality and the learning will be much more successful.

Most people back chain the retrieve because they have delivery problems or the dog may not want to pick anything up.

To begin back chaining the retrieve, place a variety of different retrieve objects out on the ground. Position yourself low to the ground and count out six treats placing them in the same hand as your clicker. Click and reward any interactions the dog makes with any of the articles. Once you have rewarded the dog six times for interaction give the dog a break and the repeat the exercise.

Giving the dog more articles to interact with gives it more options and will involve less frustration.


Your first criteria needs to be any interaction such as:

1) Looking at it

2) Moving towards it

3) Sniffing it

4) Pushing it

5) Pawing it

Once you have interaction with the objects you can then remove all of the objects and only use one to continue with the exercise. I would suggest using the article your dog has shown preference towards.

It is important that when you give your dog breaks that you do not allow the dog to interact with the object when you are unable to reward it as it may lose its confidence in what it is doing.

Your next criteria will be mouth open from the dog and any kind of contact.

This is an important stage of shaping the retrieve as the dog will need to open its mouth before picking up the retrieve article.

Start the exercise with some engagement from the dog

Once you have some engagement you can then withhold your clicks for engagement and see what else the dog offers


Once you have worked through your six clicks, make sure you give a signal that a break is happening, you can give the dog a fuss or put your clicker away.

You can also put pop you hand in the dog collar, especially once you have motivation to interact with the object.

Once you have reliable and fluent repetitions of interaction you can start to withhold your click and look for duration on the interaction and look for the mouth opening.


Once the dog is confident I would move the article away while you have a break and get your next lot of treats

Once you have had some nice success with the dog, give the dog a long break before you go back and start again.


You success may just be any interaction to the dog picking the dummy up. Progress will be individual to the dog


Watch the Video Tutorial

[s3bubbleVideoSingleJs bucket=”gundogvideos” track=”25 Clicker Retrieve – Back Chain.mp4″ aspect=”16:9″ autoplay=”false” download=”false” cloudfront=”” advert_link=”https://s3bubble.com” disable_skip=”false” /]

This dog trainer and this website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more