how to teach a dog to fetch

How to Teach a Dog to Fetch

Your dog needs exercise and playtime to be able to burn off its extra energy and of course, to keep it entertained. It is also a way for the pet owner and dog to bond with each other. While many think that playing fetch comes naturally to dogs, there are dogs that have no interest in it at all. There are some pets that like to chase but do not want to bring it back.

Still, playing fetch is one of the best activities with your pooch, so even if it is not interested, you can still teach your pet how to do it. To do so, you would need to prepare some treats and dog toys.

dog catching ball

Step One: Training Your Dog to Fetch

In some cases, dogs are not even interested in fetching the toy or the ball. The first step in teaching your dog to fetch is to get it to run after the toy first.

You have to find a toy that your dog likes to put in its mouth, whether it is a plush toy or a ball. If it has no interest in any toys at all, put the toy on the ground and whenever your pooch looks at it, use a marker word and reward it with a treat. Any succeeding action of your dog that leads to picking up the toy (sniffing it, putting it in its mouth), you use your marker word and give it a reward.

After some time, you will reduce the reward, giving it only when it puts it in its mouth, especially when you say “Fetch!” Depending on the dog, this might take a couple of days or longer. The trick is to not overdo it so that you or the dog gets bored or frustrated.

The next step is to teach your dog to keep the toy in its mouth and not drop it. Just make sure you click or mark before it is dropped, otherwise, you are reinforcing the wrong behavior.

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Step Two:  Running After the Toy

Teaching your dog to fetch or run after a toy can be easy, as lots of dogs love to chase things that move. You can start by playing with the toy with the dog until it gets very excited about it. Then you can throw it away and say “Go!” When it goes after it, you can use your marker word and give it a reward. If the dog only goes part of the way, do not do anything or give a treat until it goes in the right direction. If this happens too often, try throwing the toy closer so that the dog does not get discouraged or lazy to run after it.

Step Three: Teach Your Dog to Bring You the Toy

Once the toy is in the dog’s mouth and holding it for a few seconds, you can start going further away. Ideally, your pet will start running towards you with the toy still in its mouth. You can also call its name, but it might drop the toy. Give the treat later until it is close to you or until it has brought the toy all the way to you. Soon enough, it will be able to make it without dropping the toy along the way.

Step Four: Giving Up the Toy

In some cases, dogs tend to run away with the toy or be very reluctant in giving it to you. You just need to train it to drop the toy in its mouth, saying “Drop” or “Give” as verbal instruction. When it opens its mouth and gives up the ball or toy, give it a treat.

If your pet does not want to give the toy up, you can try putting some dog treats on the floor so that it will be willing to drop the toy. You can also teach your pooch to give the toy in your hand by keeping your hand under the toy until it gives it up. 

You may also teach your dog these steps separately, putting them all together once it masters every step. In the beginning, you may use different toys but once it masters the steps, try using only one toy so that it can continuously accomplish fetching a toy. In time, you will see your dog confidently playing fetch with you. It is, however, important to not overdo it (nor the steps) so that your pet does not get too tired or frustrated with it and refuse to cooperate. This way, you also teach it that playing fetch is fun.

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  1. Sassafras Lowrey, CTDI, How to Teach a Dog to Fetch, AKC
  2. How to Teach a Dog to Fetch, Pets WebMD

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