This is a very easy trick to teach if you have a dog who willingly picks things up and carries them. If you have a dog who’s not a big fan of holding items in his mouth, don’t worry. I’ll give you some tips.
The following post includes the steps I used to teach my own dog to get his leash, but they should only be used as a guide. You know your dog best, so feel free to tailor this anyway you’d like.
First, teach the dog to “take” items in his mouth.
You can use the command “take” or “take it” to tell your dog to take the item in his mouth. To do this, start out by using objects that are attractive to your dog such as a favorite rope toy, or a squeaky toy. Shake the item around a bit to tease your dog if he’s uninterested. Once the dog “takes” the item in his mouth, praise him and give him a highly valued treat. Repeat this about five times and quit.
Practice in short sessions a few times per day, eventually using more challenging items. Depending on how eager your dog is to “take” the items, you may not need to use treats every time.
Add the “hold” command
To get your dog to remain holding an object, you have a few options. Some dogs may voluntarily hold an item because it makes them feel proud! If that’s the case, encourage your dog by telling him what a good boy he is. You may or may not need to add an extra command such as “hold.”
If your dog needs a little more encouragement to keep holding the item, you can gently put your hands on his mouth and say calmly and slowly, “Hooolllllld. Gooood booooy.” Then give the drop command followed by a treat and lots of praise. At first, you should only expect your dog to hold the item for two or three seconds, but you can gradually increase the time to five seconds, 10 seconds and so on. The main thing is not to train the dog too quickly.
My dog had an easier time holding an item if he carried it while walking. I just handed him his leash and started walking in the living room. He happily carried it and followed me.
How to teach your dog to get his leash
Once your dog is comfortable holding items in his mouth, you can begin teaching the command, “Get your leash.” The key is to break it into very simple steps so your dog is successful.
Step 1: Fold the leash up into a small bundle.
Hold it right up to your dog’s mouth and say “Get your leash.” If he needs some encouragement, shake the leash a bit to tease him. If you need to, you can try to gently open your dog’s mouth to encourage him to take the leash. Some dogs may prefer to grab the leash when it’s not folded up, and that’s fine too.
If he takes the leash in his mouth for even one second, give him a treat and lots of praise. “What a good boy! Yay!” Repeat this about five to 10 times and quit.
It helps to point directly at the leash. Some dogs will catch on right away and pick it up. If so, treat and praise.
If your dog is confused or unwilling to pick it up, don’t repeat the command. Just wait a few seconds and see what he does. If you stand there silently for a few seconds, some dogs will try to figure out what to do and they might try to pick up the leash.
If he continues to sit there staring at you, it’s OK to pick the leash up and hand it to him. Then give him lots of praise like he just won the lottery. Repeat that a few times and he’ll soon catch on – “Oh! You want me to pick it up off the floor? I see!”
Step 3: Slowly increase the distance between your dog and the leash.
Start out by setting the leash about three feet away. Then four or five feet, then six feet and so on. At this point your dog may not be bringing the leash all the way to you. But if he’s at least walking over to it and picking it up, that’s great! Keep increasing the distance but do so very slowly so your dog is successful and not confused. Keep using treats to reward.
Step 4: Encourage your dog to bring you the leash.
At this point, your dog is willing to walk halfway across the room to pick up his leash. When he picks it up, encourage him to come to you with the leash in his mouth. Then give him lots of praise! If your dog knows the command “hold,” this is where it becomes very useful.
If your dog drops the leash before bringing it to you, then decrease the distance between you and your dog. You can help your dog out by putting the leash back in his mouth and quickly backing away a foot so he naturally follows you. Then give him lots of praise if he brings you the leash.
As your dog is successful, slowly increase the distance between you and your dog. This was the hardest step for my dog, so just be patient and don’t expect too much at first. Be positive and encouraging so your dog is having fun.
Step 5: Encourage your dog to get his leash from more difficult spots.
Once your dog seems to have a good handle on the concept “get your leash” you can start making it more difficult for your dog. For example, you can be sitting on the couch and when you say “Get your leash” he could go and grab it from the other room or from his basket of supplies or from the coat rack.
Just be patient and encouraging and keep rewarding your dog for trying new challenges.
Since dogs love walks, you can always ask your dog to “get your leash” right before a walk. You can do this no matter what stage of the training you are in. For example, if you are on step one, you would say “get your leash” and hold the leash directly in front of your dog’s mouth. When he takes it, give him lots of praise and then head out for a walk.
There are multiple ways to teach a dog any command, so don’t feel like you have to follow my plan exactly. Your dog is a unique individual, so feel free to adjust these tips in any way for your own dog. Then tell me what you did in the comments.
How did you teach your dog to get his leash?