Take and Drop
Within the allotted one-minute time period, the dog must take an article from the handler and follow the handler’s directions, so as to drop the article as close as possible to a $100 bill, which is taped on the floor approximately 30 feet away. The article (usually a squeaky and/or soft toy) is supplied by the judge and is the same for each dog in any competition but is different for each competition. While giving directions to the dog, the handler must remain seated at all times. The handler is disqualified if the judge can see daylight between the handler’s butt and the chair. Once the dog has placed the object to the handler’s satisfaction, the handler raises an arm and shouts, “Mark!” and the distance is measured. The area is littered with other paper markers, so that it is not a practical strategy simply to teach the dog to go to a single and obvious marker. Instead, to compete successfully in the Take and Drop, the dog needs to be taught to take precise directions from the handler.
Take & Drop is by far the most difficult event in the K9 GAMES because the dog’s performance has to be so precise in an arena with many distractions, including many people and dogs, numerous dropped food treats, music playing and spectators laughing and clapping. A dog that competes successfully in Take & Drop is simply an extremely well-trained dog — an advertisement that he has the good fortune to live with and extremely talented dog handler.
Many dogs become very adept at this game when playing with own toy in their own back yard or in a familiar park, yet they fail in competition. Indeed, a surprising number of dogs even fail to take the object from their handler. Some dogs take the object but fail to leave, and spend the entire minute sitting by the handler’s side. Other dogs eagerly take the object and work well for a while but then become distracted and drop the object and fail to pick it up again. Perhaps even more frustrating are dogs that take the object and follow the handler’s directions to go and sit by the $100 bill, but then fail to drop the object. The object must be on the floor and the handler must shout, “Mark!” before the distance can be measured.
When offered an unfamiliar object, especially in an unfamiliar place, most dogs want to thoroughly investigate the object before taking it. In unfamiliar places, many dogs want to remain close to their handler.
Aside from teaching your dog directional commands, you also need to teach your dog to take any article on command, to pick-up and drop any article at a distance and to do so in a wide variety of settings.
Gun dog trainers usually teach the dog to run out in a straight line and at the sound of a whistle to sit facing the handler to take further directions for left/right and back/forward. For Take and Drop, I much prefer to train dogs to walk backwards. Aside from the fact that this is hilarious to watch, having the dog walk backwards allows for more precise directions because the dog walks slowly and can always see the handler’s hand signals to go back, right/left, sit, or lie down. Additionally, it is a huge advantage to teach the dog to move slowly on cue, especially when instructing the dog to come closer.
The best way to proof for different objects and environments is to train with a friend on a walk. Have the friend bring half a dozen or so different objects for your dog, and you bring half a dozen for their dog. Every 25 yards, stop and train; ask your dog to take the object (from your hand) and to carry, drop and retake the object (from the ground). Tie the dog’s leash to a tree and instruct the dog to pick up and drop the object at a distance. Now practice the entire Take and Drop in a variety of safe settings, indoors, in a friend’s yard and dog parks. Have specific criteria. Choose specific places in the environment to send your dog. For example, direct your dog to go and lie down on a specific spot on the living room carpet, or on a specific floor tile in the hallway. Or, instruct your dog to go and sit by a specific tree or bench in the park. Or, instruct your dog to take and drop the object next to a flower or fallen leaf on the grass.