Monday, August 16, 2010

ASK THE DOG TRAINER: Teaching "Go Get the Newspaper"

by Judith Joseph, DOI
(c) Judith Joseph
FatBoy Brings News!

Dear Judy:

I am glad this blog got a trainer. I really want to teach Zen how to go get the morning newspaper. He is very trainable, but I am not sure how to go about this. Can you give me some steps and tips to get us started? Wish us luck.

Oh I guess I should tell you that Zen is an English Setter. I hope that retrieving a newspaper is not just a job for Retrievers.

Zen's dad

Teaching your dog to perform a task is best accomplished by breaking the task into segments and chaining (linking) the segments together to form the complete task.  If you start with the end result (the last step), and work backwards to the first step, she will perform tasks with greater efficiency.  Repeat each segment 3-4 times a day in 5 to 10 minute training sessions for best results.

Let’s teach her to retrieve the newspaper. You can watch a short video at the end of the post.  

Start by teaching “Drop It”.  Place a tasty treat like cheddar cheese or hotdog bits at her nose so she will drop what’s in her mouth to eat the treat.  Command “Drop It” the instant she releases the item, and give her 2-3 treats at once.  Practice every time she has something in her mouth so she learns to ‘drop’ upon command.  

Next, place the newspaper gently into her mouth and praise her for holding it even if only for 1 second.  Label the task (command) “Pick It Up”.  Extend the amount of time she holds it by encouraging her with plenty of praise and rubbing to show your approval.  Don’t offer treats during this training because she’ll have to drop the paper to eat the treat.  Once she is holding the newspaper for a few moments, begin placing it on the ground and encourage her to “pick it up”.  Place it in her mouth 2 or 3 times if necessary.  Remember to be excited about her picking it up and holding it.  

Next place the paper on the ground 1 foot away and command “pick it up”.  When she begins to respond reliably, place the paper 4 feet away, working up to a distance of 15 feet.  Always command “pick it up” before sending her to pick up the paper, and praise her for all correct responses.  Finally, without her seeing you, place the paper where it will normally be (i.e., at the front door).  From about 15 feet away command “pick it up”.  Guide her on leash if necessary the first few times.  Remember the more excited you are the more she’ll want to please you.  My dogs would retrieve our neighbor’s newspapers, so we had to teach them “leave it” as well.  

Once she masters the commands, she’ll retrieve anything that fits into her mouth.  When I drop my cell phone or keys I simply request whichever dog is closest to “pick it up” and “drop it” into my hand.  Remember: Patience, Repetition and Reward are your greatest training tools.  

For assistance teaching Tricks, “Leave It” and other obedience commands, visit Total Control Dog Owner Assistance or email me at

(c) Judith Joseph

Good luck,


(c) courtesy of J.Joseph
Judith Joseph, DOI
Write to her at

For more information on Judith Joseph and her training, you may find her at TCDOA Dog Training. A personal appointment will likely provide more specific information on your dog's issues and your questions.

Stop in at 5 Minutes for Fido, where Tanner has some thoughts on this newspaper fetching stuff. He may surprise you with his views from a Golden "Retriever's" perspective.

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Dawn said...

Too cute! This same technique can probably be used to teach your dog how to put his toys away. That would probably be easier than teaching your kids how to put their toys away! :)

Xena, Tanner and Oliver said...

Well, Judy, you've been challenged. Can you teach FatBoy to put his toys away? If so, I'll be calling you to do the same with Tanner. I suppose I could, but it sounds like a lot of work. :? said...

We call our Maggie the "papergirl". She retrieves all paper products for us - the newspaper, paper towels, toilet paper, old boxes which she loves to tear up into pieces.

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