Teaching your dog fetch is a great way to burn some energy. Fetch is a great game you can play with your dog. And it also gives a free recall, since your dog has to bring the toy, ball, or stick, back to you.
It is a simple game. And most owners think they can just be able to do it. Well, no. Yes, there are puppies that are automatically programmed to chase and retrieve objects you throw. But most dogs do not do it on the first try. Or in the second try, third try, and so on.
How to teach your dog to fetch? Well, we will talk about a few mistakes owners make, and then how to play fetch properly.
The Mistakes Owners are Making
So, the FIRST mistake is dog owners usually go after their dog if the puppy doesn’t retrieve the toy. Wrong. It teaches your puppy so many wrong things and wrong behavior.
The good news is you can easily correct it. If your dog doesn’t return the ball or toy and runs away from you, simply double the distance. Move away as well. He will see you are running away and start coming to you. Also, do not throw the ball away again until he leaves it on the floor and allows you to pick it up. If you run and chase your puppy, he learns it is a game of running and chasing.
So, do not chase your dog and wait for him to drop the toy and you can safely pick it up. Eventually, your dog will drop the toy or ball in your hand.
The SECOND mistake owners make is they get their dog too excited. Dogs that love playing fetch can get overly excited the second you touch a ball. And in this case, arousal is your problem. Fetch can reinforce good or bad behavior. So, if your dog gets all excited and starts jumping when you touch the ball, and you then throw it, you are basically teaching him that jumping gives him a reward.
Rewarding the proper behavior is crucial for a well-mannered dog. If your dog gets excited at the mere sight of you looking at the ball, it is time to tone it down. Throughout the day, just reach for the ball. And then put it back down and walk away. Your dog will slowly learn that the sight of a ball is not an invitation for a game. Keep repeating until the dog doesn’t get excited.
Then, progress toward picking up the ball and going to the door, but then returning the ball. Work to the point your dog doesn’t get excited. What you want to do is invite your dog to play fetch with a command. For example, “wanna play?
And even when playing fetch, do not let your dog jump or get excited until you throw the ball. You can use this game to teach good manners. Have your dog sit and wait calmly until you throw the ball. Games are perfect for adding and teaching obedience skills.
How to Teach Dog Fetch
Now that we talked about some of the mistakes you might be doing in teaching fetch, let’s talk about how to teach your dog to play fetch.
Step 1 – Teach him to hold
The first step to teaching fetch is to teach your dog to hold the toy. Here is how to do it.
- Sit on the floor and face your dog. Hold a toy and show it to your dog
- Praise your dog as he sniffs and examines the toy. Reward any interest in it
- Increase the criteria, and wait for your dog to put the toy in his mouth
- The next step is to build duration and not immediately praise and reward your dog. Wait for a dog to hold the toy for a few seconds before rewarding
- Slowly build a second or two and keep your dog successful in holding the toy
Step 2 – Chase the object
If your dog is not much into chasing objects, you should teach him that before playing fetch. Some dogs are motivated by food, others by toys, and some by affection. No matter the motivation, the process is the same.
- Encourage your dog to go after the item
- When he grabs it, reward him with a motivator of his choice and take the object away
- Repeat a few times, and then toss the object at a short distance
- When he goes for the object, immediately reward him
- Repeat until your puppy chases the object
Tip: you can motivate your dog even more by holding him in sit/stay/back position after throwing the toy.
Step 3 – Retrieve
After your dog learns to chase an object, it is time to add the retrieve command. It is basically the core point of the game, your dog to bring the toy/object back to you.
Some dogs do not bring the object back. If this is the case, you can use a second toy. The moment he catches the first one, show him the second toy and throw it in the opposite direction. Chances are he won’t carry the first toy, but you want him to get accustomed to the idea of running back to you after catching the object.
After he masters running back, try calling him back to you while he is holding the object. He will probably drop the first object after you show the second object.
Eventually, your dog learns that if he drops the object, you will throw it again.
Another way to do is by walking in the same direction. For this way, your dog has to know to drop it. Throw the toy, walk toward your dog, and give command drop it. When he drops it, you throw it again.
Choosing the right toy
Some pups will play fetch with any toy they get. Others are a bit picky. When you purchase a fetch toy, you have to consider your pet’s age, size, and ability. For an older dog and puppy, pick a toy that is easy to grasp with teeth. But if you have a dog that is very good at this game, pick a toy that will pose more of a challenge.
Some of the popular fetch toys include a tennis ball, squeaker ball, retriever plastic, rubber bumper, discs, flyers made of flexible rubber, rope toys with attachments, plush toys, and more.