Kiara, my whippet, used to shred the rolled up newspaper in the front yard whenever she could get her paws on it. I decided to try and teach her to find and bring it back instead some time ago. Problem was, she wasn't interested in putting it in her mouth at all. But I had been able to train her to retrieve balls and other toys successfully (so much for whippets not enjoying retrieving), so it should be possible with the newspaper.
We started a few weeks ago. I held the newspaper up in front of her (if it was on the ground, she started shredding it), and clicked her for sniffing. Then for opening her mouth a tiny bit. Then for allowing me to put the newspaper in her mouth for a fraction of a second (not actually holding it). Then for a tiny hold. A slightly longer hold. Dropping it in my hand, not on the floor. Walking one step and dropping it in my hand. And so on. By now, she bounces up to me as soon as she sees the newspaper. Now I can place it on the floor, she will pick it up (not shred it), carry it for a few metres and drop it in my hand. We're ready for the cue now ("get the paper"), and I might start hiding it a little. It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to shape her behaviour with clicker training.
Today Kiara and I went to see Milo, a friend's 4 month old Spanador, to help with his food guarding behaviour. She was not impressed to see me give all my attention to Milo, and proceeded to be uncharacteristically subdued for the rest of the day. I had to make all the encouraging noises in the world for her to finally forgive me and lick me all over!
I ran out of treats this morning! With Kiara currently in active training for loose-leash walking, I did not want to risk confusing her about what I wanted by not having treats ready. So for once, Giro got his turn to be the only one .. and suprised me with how well behaved he now is on the leash! All the tons of treats I have fed him over the years are starting to have and effect. I only used a few high-value treats, which kept him alert to my existence (a challenge in the past).
Even without the dedicated loose leash training collar, Kiara has started to come back to heel position the moment she gets to the end of the leash, or even after briefly attending to distractions. Dogs in close proximity are still a challenge and require more training. I don't leave the house without any treats with her now!
I started my dog journey with Jessie, a small white fluffball bichon-schnauzer cross. She was trained in the traditional way by choke collar and praise via voice. After she died, Giro, my smooth collie, taught me how wrong this approach was. Kiara, my whippet, reaped all the benefits, and can't wait for her training every day, all day!