Eliminate all retrieving during the entire hold-conditioning sequence. Continue to simultaneously work on items 1-7 with the exclusion of #2. Viable substitutes are non-retrieve exercises including sit to the flush, steadiness, honoring, recall past diversions, etc.
It is helpful to have a small, stable table to elevate the dog to waist height. A truck tailgate or picnic table will suffice. Let your dog become familiar and comfortable with elevation for a couple of days prior to beginning. Trust and confidence is important. Tie the pup securely to eliminate evasive movement. Note this very important point: Once the process is begun, it must be continued each day in one or two 5- to 10-minute sessions until the entire process is complete. Sessions should consist of about five repetitions.
To avoid spoiling your pup's enthusiasm for training dummies, use a wooden dowel as the hold object. A wooden hammer handle will work too. Secure the pup on the table by the collar to prevent movement or lying down. Reach across the bridge of the dog's nose to open the mouth and insert the dowel just behind the canine teeth. Place one hand just behind the head on the neck, while using the other to apply light pressure upward under the lower jaw to assure closure. Be sure to clear the pup's lips from between his teeth and the dowel to prevent pinching. Keep a calm, soothing tone of voice and stroke the pup gently. As the pup begins to understand what is being asked, begin repeating the command, "hold," and gradually release the pressure on the lower jaw. Short repetitions at first, with lots of praise for small successes, will produce results. Tone of voice is very effective in communicating satisfaction or displeasure in this process. Positive reinforcement for results, no matter how small, is far more effective than the application of force for long-term compliance.
Now introduce the release command, "drop," "dead," "give," etc. - just be consistent. Insure that the pup understands to maintain the grip until the release command is given. The objective in Sequence 1 is to have the pup:
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1. Hold the dowel securely for at least 2 minutes continuously
2. Hold the dowel calmly while untied on the table
3. Continue to hold while you are absent from sight for brief periods
4. Totally understand the "hold" command and the release command
5. Hold securely as you approach and touch or tap the dowel