There are countless advantages for teaching your dog to fetch. It’s a wonderful way to spend time together. It’s great exercise. It gives your dog a feeling of satisfaction. If you play on cement or asphalt it can even keep their nails filed! Fetching is an inherited instinct for dogs. Chasing a thrown object is affiliated to the wolf pack chasing prey.
To teach fetch, get your dog’s attention by shaking whatever it is you’re gonna throw for them. As you throw it say, “get it” or “fetch”. Only throw it two or three feet at first. Once they pick it up say, “bring it” as you crouch down for them to feel welcome coming back to you. Praise them lavishly. Once they understand the game, start increasing the distance you throw the object.
Never just take the ball or toy from your dog’s mouth. Your dog is very proud of catching their ‘prey’ and is showing off by bringing it to you. If you just take it without acknowledging their stealthy hunt, they’ll begin to mistrust you. Then they won’t want to come to you at all when you call.
Teaching fetch to a young dog
If you have a young dog you might want to have a treat handy for when they get back. Hold the treat in front of their nose and keep your other hand under their chin. Say “give” or “out” to get them to drop it. And use the treat to distract them into dropping it. Give them the treat when they drop it in your hand. Once they get it, start weaning the treats out. Offer a treat every second or third time, then sporadically until you have none at all. That way you won’t become victim to the attitude your dog may develop, “I’ll only do this if you have a treat”.
What if my dog doesn’t want to fetch?
If your dog doesn’t respond within a few minutes, put the toys away. Ignore them and don’t let anyone else pay attention to them for a short while. Then try again. Bring your dog outside and start all over again. But keep it fun and be animated!
I’m sure you’ve noticed how proud most dogs are when they come back with the object in their mouths. They prance around, playing with the toy in their mouths, head held high, chest out. Dogs wear their hearts on their sleeves. If they look proud of themselves, that means they are proud of themselves. So let them have that moment of fame and glory. Let them show off at what a clever dog they are. In their minds they have just retrieved dinner and they want to feel important. So let them! Give them that moment. Then have them drop the toy in your hand and throw it again for them to feel the glory once again.
Mistakes people make when playing fetch
The two biggest mistakes most people make are; One, they just grab the toy and throw it again. They’re simply tuckering their dog out and missing out on all the glory. Two, by missing out on all the glory most dogs tend to not bring the toy all the way back to their owners. It can turn into more of a battle then a game. You get frustrated because your dog seems to always drop the toy too far for you to reach. In reality, dogs want to keep playing but are often discouraged because of your lack of acknowledgement in their stealthy hunting abilities. The end result is that a simple game of fetch is no longer fun for you or your dog. So let them have their moment of pride and engage in the fun. Trust me, your dog will be much happier!
For another fun thing to teach your dog, click here.
Don’t forget, I love feedback so please let me know how these tips worked for you!
Written by Brenda McBurnie, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Natural Nutrition
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