I was reminded today how useful “Get It” is as a command when my handy dryer ball bounced off the wall and under the bed as I was doing laundry. Yes, I could have gone to get a flashlight, discovered the batteries were almost dead, find the batteries, replace the batteries, then go back to the bedroom and crawl around on the floor to find the dryer ball. Instead I just pointed under the bed and said “Get It” and two of my dogs went into competition to “Get It” first. That’s so much easier!
“Get It” is one of the first things my dogs learn, along with its opposite “Leave It.” “Get It” with a finger point of what “it” is, will get “it” brought to me, whatever it is: Remotes, fallen socks, leashes, junk mail, etc. The command came in particularly handy when I had an emergency appendectomy and couldn’t bend when I got home. “Get It” got my dogs to hand me their bowls, help pick up the many things I clumsily dropped, and generally made life much easier. My dogs are not “service dogs,” but teaching “Get It” is a something most dogs love. If your dog loves “fetch,” you’re 80% there!
I teach the formal, competition “Get It” retrieve, the “fetch” retrieve and the “if I point at it and say these words bring it to me” retrieve. Since dogs are contextual they don’t get confused using the same command for all circumstances. “Get It” simply means “Go pick it up and hand it to me.”
There are many ways to train the retrieve, and again, I use them all. Hold something in your hand like a ball or a toy, say “Get It,” treat or click and treat if you’re using the clicker. Mouth on toy gets treat. Once they’re physically taking it, put it on the floor, “Get It”. Any mouth on the item gets a treat. You’ve taken a step back because you’ve changed the way the dog sees the item. It was in your hand, now it’s on the floor so it’s different. Once they’re picking it up, treat. Then getting it high enough for you to get it from them, treat. Once they’re doing that with consistency you can throw the item further and further away. Great! They’ve got that down, now do it with another item. Something that’s not a toy or a ball; keys, a remote, a piece of mail, etc. and repeat the process of handing it to them first. Once they have the idea that “Get It” can mean a lot of different things start putting two items side by side and pointing to the one you want. When they guess right, LOTS of treats! You can continue for lots of items, but be fair to the dog and separate them out so there is no confusion about which item you want.
I do the above process very informally, sometimes using treats and sometimes using “Good Girl! Thank You!” This is a great way to get your dog involved in your daily tasks. Doing laundry? Oops! I dropped a sock! Can you “Get It”? Cooking dinner? Oops! I dropped a spoon! Can you “Get It?” Again, be fair to the dog, don’t expect them to hand you food… yet. Have kids? Let the dog help with picking up their toys. Watching TV? There’s probably a multitude of pens, notepads, mail, remote, etc., you can “accidentally” drop. During every commercial you get 2 minutes to do a little training! How great is that?
Using “Get It” in lots of areas of the house during your normal day encourages the dog to stay by you and pay attention. “I better go help with the laundry and see if I can get some treats!” What a great way to spend the day with their human!