Take it, Hold It, Give!

In this topic you are going to continue with building your dog’s Mouth Targeting Tricks. You have already worked on the Hold It, so you will now be extending this behaviour with the Take It, Hold It and Give.

Take it

Present the object to your dog by holding it in front of their nose and use Take It to ask them to take the object in their mouth.

Hold it

When you dog has taken the object, use Hold It to ask your dog to keep the object in its mouth. With the Hold It part of the sequence you need to start building the duration that your dog is holding the object.


Finally introduce the Give command and take the object back from your dog.

When teaching this sequence, a common behaviour that most people have is to start moving their hand towards their dog when they ask their dog to “Give”. What then happens is their dog starts associating the hand movement with the “Give” command. The behaviour you want is for your dog to give the object only when you use the verbal command “Give” without any body cue.

To teach a strong Hold It, move your hands around before asking your dog to Give. As you are moving your hands you can keep using the Hold It command to reinforce that your dog should continue to hold the object. As you previously did in the “Hold It” trick you can also gently touch the object your dog is holding but still ask it to “Hold It”.

I the following video we can see that Leo is developing a good understanding of the Take It, Hold It, Give commands but he is anticipating the Give based on Emily’s hand movements. As such Emily starts moving her hands around before asking for the Give to break the association of the hand movement to the Give command.

It is important to that you work on the Hold It to get a solid behaviour before progressing any further.  

For the next video, Emily had continued to work on Leo’s Hold It so that Leo really understands that it is the command to Give that means let go of the object. Because Leo’s hold has improved, Emily can now ask Leo to Hold the object for longer durations and continue to hold whilst she stands up.

Once you have a solid Hold It behaviour the next stage is for you to work the sequence with a variety of different objects and with larger distractions. It is likely that as you introduce a new object to your dog you will see that it will be initially less confident with the Hold It and may start dropping the object before the give command. This is quite common and is one of the reasons why you need to work with different objects to reinforce the Hold It.

There are some dogs, particularly if they are toy orientated, that once they have been given an object, they do not want to give it back. For some this is because they consider it is a game, but for others it can be because holding the object boosts their confidence and they consider that simply holding the object is a reward. As such they are less inclined to give the object back. The way to deal with this is turn the Take It and Give behaviours into a game.

We cover this in the next video. One of Manouk’s favourite games has always been playing tug. As such when he is given an object, particularly a flexible object like a piece of rope, fleece or rubber ring for example he is disinclined to let go because he is expecting a fun game of tug.

The key points to the Take it – Give game introduced in the video are:

  • Offer the object to your dog and use the Take It command so that your dog takes the object in its mouth. Make the Take It behaviour exciting for your dog.
  • As soon as your dog has hold of the object, let it go the object and then get hold of your dogs’ collar. Now offer your dog a food treat from your other hand and use the Give command. You are transferring the reward from the object to the food.
  • When your dog is confidently letting go of the object when you use the Give command start fading the food reward.
  • When you have faded out the food, continue playing the game. As the Take It behaviour becomes more exciting to your dog than the Give, this behaviour now becomes the reward.