How to Train Your Dog to Help Gathering Eggs

How to train your dog to help gathering eggs in the chicken yard using simple commands.


| November/December 1987



Dog gathering eggs

Most dogs learn "pick up" readily. Just place an object the dog likes—a favorite toy, a small soup bone, whatever—within the dog's reach.


PHOTO: FOTOLIA/QUASARPHOTO

Putting your pet on hen-fruit patrol can be easy and helps with chores by having your dog gathering eggs while also having fun. 

How to Train Your Dog to Help Gathering Eggs

I don't have to worry about gathering eggs any more because I've trained my dogs to collect them for me. It's a game we play. Dogs really like to work, and it's fun to teach them to help you. Mine fetch firewood and the mail, carry backpacks and work as lifeguards (I live on the shore), while also serving as faithful companions and guardians. For them, gathering eggs is a pleasant diversion.

Any dog past the playful puppy stages—even or eight months—and large enough to comfortably handle an egg in its mouth can learn the game. (Of course, if you're working with an older dog you should always check its teeth for decay or damage before starting any fetch-and-carry training.) I usually work with Bouviers, but I've taught "egging" to collies and mixed breeds too—the kind of dog doesn't really matter. Females, however, do seem to have a lighter, maternal grasp—particularly if they've experienced motherhood. So I prefer to use a female for delicate fetching tasks. Males are able to gather eggs, but females seem to perform the task with less effort.

In any case, don't worry: Eggs aren't as fragile as they seem. In all my training sessions I've had only one egg broken (by a rambunctious pup). So don't be nervous—you and your dog aren't going to end up with egg on your faces. To start, your dog should already respond to basic commands such as "down," "come," "stay," etc. Any previous fetch-and-carry experience is helpful, but not necessary. To become a successful egger, the dog needs to learn only three special commands: "pick it up," "easy," and "release." (Of course, if your pet already responds to instead of "pick it up," for example, or "let go" in stead of "release," there's no need to teach the new ones.)

Most dogs learn "pick up" readily. Just place an object the dog likes—a favorite toy, a small soup bone, whatever—within the dog's reach. Then point to the item while giving the command "pick it up," and lavishly praise the dog when it picks up the object on command and brings it to you. I've been training dogs for over 15 years and have never encountered one that wouldn't respond to "pick it up" almost immediately.

The command "easy" is best taught by offering both a treat and generous praise (some trainers say praise alone is sufficient, but I get better results faster by offering a tangible reward as well). Hold a treat between your fingers and offer it to the dog while giving the command "easy," but release the treat only if the dog reaches for it in a relaxed manner. If your dog snaps or grabs, withhold the reward and scold the animal with a firm "no." Offer the treat again with the command "easy," and give it to the animal, along with abundant praise, if the dog responds accordingly.





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