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Q&A with Michael Ellis: Is 1 year old too late to start implementing Michael's training methods?

Q&A with Michael Ellis: Is 1 year old too late to
start implementing Michael's training methods?

Throwback Thursday from 2011. A viewer asks if it is too late to start our training methods on a 1 year old dog.

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Question: My dog runs out to the dumbbell and touches it instead of retrieving it. I don't want to stop working on the send away but I am not sure what to do.

Hi Cindy,

When I throw the dumbbell and she runs out to get it but doesn't pick it up, I either will race out there with her and give it a little kick and repeat bring and "usually" she will pick it up or sometimes I may go pick the d.b. up and put it in her mouth then I run backwards a few yards and tell her to bring and she will normally do this with a front sit (she doesn't hold the d.b. tight, which is another whole different topic).

She likes to retrieve but she is just a little confused about picking it up and bringing it back and thinks she can just go touch it and come back for a tug reward. I didn't really want to quit working on the send away but just not quite sure what else to do. She has plenty of drive to retrieve.

Any input would be much appreciated...

Cindy's Response:

I would back up the training on the retrieve. If you have to go with her and kick and/or repeat the command then she’s not ready for you to throw it so far.

I also would not work retrieves and send aways in the same session right now.

When Rush was learning he would sometimes go out and touch the retrieve item with his paw, I simply said nothing and waiting for him to try something else and when he would act like he was going to pick the item up I would mark with Good and if he picked it up, he got an immediate YES. 

Whenever you have issues with training, go back to the level where the dog is understanding and getting success without so much help and build back up from there. You may also have gone to a toy reward too quick. I used food for a long time before I added the toy.

I hope this has given you some ideas to try. 

Cindy Rhodes

For more questions on this topic, see our Q&A on Obedience.

We get a number of Q&As every week, if you would like to read this week's Q&As, click here and check out the 'Recent Questions' section!

Have a question for Ed & Cindy? Try the Leerburg Q&A Search. If you can't find the answer to your question by using our search engine, you can email Cindy here at Leerburg at If you have your spam filter on, make sure you set it to receive our replies!!!

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Good morning,

I just want to thank you for sending me the orders in perfect condition. I have never seen the unbelievable quality of products... your description cannot compare to the product!!! The harness and collar fit perfectly because you offer so many adjustments, the leather is outstanding it is all perfect... I looked on the internet for several hours trying to figure out an honest product, your web site offered so much... You have a real address where one can speak with people who are more than willing to assist you...  Each item has photos with accurate prices, you have a wealth of information and common sense training tips. I know you have been training and teaching for many years, but I just want to say it is very hard today to find an honest company who proudly sells American made products. I could go on and on, but my dog Gidget will be safe in your harness and collar and that’s the bottom line.

Thanks again,

The Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers

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