Sunday, June 17, 2012

How Many Retrievers could a Retriever Retrieve, if a Retriever Retrieved Retrievers?

For some time now, I've been realizing just how many things Mill'E-Max does for me through out the day. As she ages, I know that eventually she will get tired of being the house elf, at my every beck and call. After thinking about this, I started realizing all of the every day things she does for me, that I don't even really think about while she's doing them. And then I think about teaching all of this stuff to the next service dog, and my mind just boggles at the mir thought of this monumental task.

All in all, Mill'E-Max does six kinds of retrieving at different times through out the day. It's an awful lot once you break it down like this.
The first kind of retrieve is the Regular Working Retrieve. An example of this is when I drop something, and she gets it with a "take it" cue.
Second kind is the Named Retrieve. This is when she retrieves something by name. Some examples are shoes, Coke, leash, hearing aid, water bottle, phone, or her dish. (water bottle means my metal water bottle. Coke means any plastic bottle). She may have to search the house for the named objects in question before retrieving them.
The third kind of retrieve is the Matching Retrieve. Sometimes I want her to retrieve a specific item which has not been formally named. If I get a similar looking item and show her, she will search the house and find the thing that looks closest to the thing I showed her. This is helpful if Gracy has stolen an item of clothing to sleep with, and I can't find it. Gracy is actually the reason I trained this retrieve to begin with. I have used this retrieve to find everything from a medicine bottle to a laptop bag.

The next retrieve is the repeated retrieve. This is used if I need her to do something multiple times. This is used for things like unpacking suitcases, emptying the dryer, or helping me to unload groceries. It is not a one shot deal; several things need to be retrieved, usually not from the floor but "out of" something. She will either bring this to me, or put the item somewhere else.

One of the most useful retrieves is the Thinking Retrieve. All retrieving requires some thought but this relies upon the dogs observation and problem solving skills. Sometimes I will drop something which does not have a name, and which does not have a matching item. If I do this out of her sight, I still need her to get it. She needs to come into the room or area where I dropped said item, and search the room for the thing that doesn't belong. If something is in the wrong place, she will bring it to me if I ask.

The final kind of retrieve is the Retriever Retrieve. Bristol, my retired goddess has lost all of her hearing. when she is off leash somewhere, or in the back yard, Bristol may not see me sign to her, and can't feel the vibrations of me stomping to recall her. She wears a short traffic leash, and I can send Mill'E-Max out to grab Bristol's leash, and bring her back to me. This took a lot of training-- for both Mill'E-Max, who needed to learn to walk slowly, and pause before going up the steps, before bringing me the leash. Bristol needed to learn to trust Mill'E and how to walk with her.

Mill'E-Max performs between 20-30 retrieves a day. She has retrieved a dime from a hardwood floor, and has carried a gallon of laundry soap to the laundry shed. She used to love going to the mini-mart because I would let her carry one of the items the two blocks home. One time someone saw Mill'E-Max leave the store with a bag of chips in her mouth. The person went to store management, offering to pay for the chips. She assumed that Mill'E-Max had stolen them while I wasn't aware.

Mill'E-Max can have a sense of humor about retrieving. She likes to cary wrapping paper tubes in her mouth. She holds it by the end, and enjoys walking around the house making a ggrrr sound into the tube. She looks like a dog smoking the worlds biggest cigar. Also it is very hard not to collapse, helpless with laughter while she is walking around the house, tail furiously wagging, with this tube sticking about 2 feet out in front of her. I need to get video of this!

And that, my friends, is probably more than you ever wanted to know about the retriever who retrieves retrievers!


  1. That's awesome! I need to teach my labrador retriever to retrieve my golden retriever for the same reason you need Mill'e-Max to get Bristol. Any suggestions? He's smart if you show him what to do, but has no common sense otherwise-he'd never understand most of what Mill'e-Max does.

  2. That is too funny!

    You, Mr PawPower & the pack need to come visit and teach me how to teach Rogue & Canyon to do the retriever retrieve :) I would have loved to have had Cessna show me or retrieve Phoenix when he was wandering in the yard, so this will be my mission before Aspen and Cessna get too old.

  3. Here is an idea that might help you and Bristol as well... Maybe. Have you heard of a vibrating remote trainer? Petsafe makes one that resembles a shock collar without the dreaded shock. It has 15 levels of vibration that can be custom fit to your dog. I have a 10-pounder I use this on to curb barking, and the highest level does not freak her out at all. She happily wears the collar and acts like nothing is wrong. I have heard this same thing can be used with deaf dogs because of the amount of time vibrations can be prolonged. You can go from a short one just by briefly pressing the button on the remote, and if that doesn't get the attention of a dog, you can hold the button down for a longer period.

    1. I will have to check this collar out. Bristol sometimes does not wear a collar in the summer because it irritates the skin on her neck. But she could wear it for short periods. Do you know who sells this collar online? Thanks! :)

  4. The manufacturer Petsafe sells it at Amazon may also have some. It is called remote trainer with vibration, and the item number is PDT00-12892. Check around for price comparisons. I got mine for $109 including shipping, whereas the manufacturer sells it for $159. The good thing is that there is an electronic copy of the manual on the manufacturer's site, and even though I am almost totally blind, I was able to pair the receiver and remote with very few problems.

  5. I forgot to mention that the receiver can be taken off the collar that comes with it and put on any 1-inch nylon or leather collar with the standard metal buckle. The collar that comes with this is kind of plastic-like. For my little dog, I had to cut a huge chunk of it off so that it didn't look ridiculous hanging down. LOL