Dog Trick: Teaching your dog Fetch

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One of the joys of owning a dog is taking him or her to the park or the backyard and playing a good old fashioned game of fetch.  When attempting to play fetch with a dog, people often make the same mistakes going outside and throwing the ball as far as they can and expecting their dog to get the ball and bring it back.  The problem is, all dogs don’t naturally retrieve or know the rules of the game that you are attempting to play with them.  We get asked a lot if we can teach someones dog to fetch; the simple answer is Yes.  However, teaching your dog to fetch can sometimes be a process in itself.  This article does not cover forced retrieves, blind or multiple retrieves, but simply shares information on how to start a young pup or even an older dog on bringing toys back to you.

The first step to teaching a dog to fetch is finding a toy that interests them.  Pay attention to what your dog likes to pick up or carry around naturally.  It may be a stuffed toy, a ball, a rope toy, a toy with a squeaker, or even a random item from around the house, such as a sock.  Whatever the case may be, build some excitement with the toy and raise the dog’s interest level.

Start by placing your dog in a environment that is lacking distractions so he can be successful.  We usually like to start fetch in a hallway with all of the doors closed so the dog has no other distractions; you and the toy are now the most exciting things.  Start peeking his interest in the toy by teasing him and making it look like fun.  Keep him leashed so that once he has the object you can guide him back to you and the game does not end up with you chasing the dog for the toy.  Refrain from praise until he comes back; this is key as many people praise the dog when he is chasing and/or mouthing the ball and the game ends there.  Make a big deal that he did a great job by coming back to you with the toy.  It may be helpful to hav an identical tennis ball or sock and throwing the second object as soon as the dog releases the first.  Remember, we are playing fetch, not tug-of-war.

If you get 2 great successes stop there and you may want to save the object that most interests him for your next play session.  By stopping the game before your dog loses interest, it will leave him wanting more.  As he starts to catch on what the game is and really doing well, you will no longer need the leash to guide him back to you.  Change locations to a room with less boundaries, and then graduate to outside in the yard.  You may need to take a step back and reattach the leash to guide him back to you, and remember to keep the distance of your throws short.  Once he does well, start increasing your distance.