Like all forms of dog training, learning how to teach a dog to fetch will take some effort. Fetch training your dog can be tons of fun, but it can also be a little frustrating if your pup doesn’t want to cooperate at first. Over time, though, there’s a very good chance your companion will be able to fetch on command.
Here are a few tips on how to teach your dog fetching. Eventually, you and your pet will look at this as a fun game that will only serve to strengthen your bond.
What You’ll Need To Get Started
There are a few things you’ll want to get together before you start to teach your dog fetch.
Get the right toy – There’s a pretty good chance that your dog has a lot of toys, but only two or three that are their favorites. If your pooch loves to play with a ball, that’s probably the most natural toy for playing a game of fetch. But it really doesn’t matter what toy you choose, as long as you can throw it a fairly long way.1
Pick some treats your dog loves – Most pet parents find that a dog will exhibit better behavior when there’s some sort of reward involved. If your pup loves a certain type of treat, keep plenty of it on hand when trying to teach this new skill.2
Consider using a clicker – While it’s rare, some dogs might not be as motivated by treats as strongly as others. A lot of dogs will respond to love and affection. When they hear the “click” sound after they do something good, they know that love is coming. For some dogs, a clicker is just as effective as a treat.3
Five Steps To Teaching Your Dog To Fetch
Now that you’ve got your supplies handy, it’s time to start teaching your pup to fetch. The trick is to be very patient and loving at all times – even if your pet isn’t as cooperative as you might like them to be.
Step 1: Get Your Dog Excited About The Toy
Take the toy you’ve chosen, whether it’s a ball, a plush toy, or whatever else you’ve picked, and put it near you. As your pup gets closer to the toy, use the clicker or treats as a reward, and give plenty of praise. When they touch the toy, give even more praise and love. The more the dog associates rewards with touching the toy, the more excited they’ll be to play with it.4
Step 2: Get Your Dog To Grab The Toy
Next, you’ll want to make it so that your dog has to move around a bit to grab the toy – and do it when you want them to. Here’s how to do it.
- Hold the toy in some different positions. Start with it at arm’s length, holding it straight out, and then to either side. Give the reward and praise every time your dog touches it. Keep doing this until you’re certain your dog will respond positively every time you grab and hold the toy.
- Next, put the toy on the ground, about an arm’s length away from you. As soon as your pet starts to actually grab the toy with their mouth, really pour on the praise and rewards. Make sure you act excited, so that your dog understands that you really like what they’re doing.5
Step 3: Begin Tossing The Toy A Short Distance From You
Since your dog will be incredibly happy to do whatever you want them to do with the toy, now you can start getting them to run after it.
Start by tossing the toy just a few feet away. When they go toward the toy, use your clicker or toss a treat. This will help do an even better job of reinforcing your dog’s positive association with going toward the toy. Even if your pup doesn’t immediately bring the toy back, continue to give love, praise, and rewards.6
Step 4: Teach Your Dog To Bring The Toy Back To You
You’re almost there. Now it’s time to teach your dog how to return the toy you’ve just thrown.
- As your dog is holding the toy after you toss it, first try calling them to come back to you. While it will be great if they keep the toy in their mouth, there’s a pretty good chance your dog will drop it once you call their name.
- If that happens, that’s OK. As soon as they take one step toward you with the toy still in their mouth, click/treat and give praise.
- Keep doing this until they start taking two or three steps toward you – while still holding the toy.
- Increase the distance until your dog realizes they’ll only get rewarded if they bring the toy all the way back to you.7
Step 5: Teaching Your Dog To Release The Toy
Some dogs just don’t want to let go of the toy once they return it. If this is the case, use a verbal cue such as “drop it” — and then give praise and rewards once they let go of the toy. But don’t give those rewards until they do so.8
The more you practice these steps, the more natural the exercise should become. While it might be easier to teach this trick to a puppy, it should work no matter how old your dog happens to be. Eventually, you and your pet should be able to play a game of fetch whenever you like.
Just Can’t Get Your Dog Interested? Here’s What To Do
There are some instances where our dog will just not respond the way you want. They might not go after the toy, or, once they get it, they’ll just want to run around the yard rather than bring it back. If this is the case with your pup, you might want to consider training on a leash rather than in the open. The last thing you want to do is to turn a game of fetch into a game of chase.9
Another possibility will be cutting a small hole in the toy to insert a food treat. Since your dog will find it very hard to get to the treat without your help, they’ll very likely bring the toy back to you. If they don’t, simply cut the game short and walk away. You can always try again later.
Keep It Fun
Even though it may take some work to learn how to teach a dog to fetch, that work will be worth it in the long run. Just remember to be patient, show a lot of love, and have fun. After all, there’s nothing better than making the bond between you and your beloved pet even stronger.
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