Teaching your puppy to play fetch
Teaching your dog to retrieve an object is a very fun and rewarding game to play with your dog. Not only does it add to the repertoire of games you can play with your dog but it allows your dog to burn up plenty of energy running around chasing and retrieving a ball while you can be as active as you would like to be. It is also great for the days when you may not have as much time as other days to exercise your dog as they will get a great workout in a very short amount of time. While some breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Groodles and Labradoodles have an instinct to retrieve, most dogs can be taught to retrieve an object as it is a natural behaviour for dogs to pick objects up in their mouth and carry them around. The trick is to teach them to bring it back to you! It is important to remember that while there is a certain nostalgia about playing fetch in the park with a stick, dogs chasing sticks routinely injure themselves as the sticks can shatter, splinter or impale your dog. Always use a dog toy or ball to make sure your dog is safe. Once your dog has mastered the idea of retrieving on the ground you can start to try throwing the ball into shallow water to get them accustomed to playing fetch in the water which is a favourite summertime activity for many owners and their dogs.
Steps to teaching your puppy to retrieve
- If your dog will chase after her toys, then that is great and half the work is already done, but if not you will need to teach them to chase the toy for the reward of a treat.
- Show your dog her favourite toy and wiggle it around so she wants to come and grab it and say “fetch”. When she does, give her a treat and repeat this a few times until she gets the idea that when you wiggle the toy and say “fetch” she is to chase and ‘catch’ the toy.
- Once your dog will chase her toy, throw the toy a couple of inches away from her and say “fetch” again and reward with a treat when she picks up her toy.
- When your dog will reliably pick up her toy, encourage her to come back to you when she has the toy in her mouth. You can try this with verbal praise and reward her when she does it or for the dog that wants to grab her toy and run, you may need to hold the other end of the toy and slide your puppy over to you and then give her the treat.
- Your dog will eventually understand that they get the treat only when they bring the toy over to you, so if she drops the toy, hold off on the treat while pointing at the dropped toy and saying “fetch”.
- If your dog does not want to relinquish the toy once they bring it back, you will need to use a command like “off” to get them to release the toy.
- Give the command “off” and offer your dog a treat so they will have to release the toy to get the treat and soon they will learn that the quickest way to get the treat is to retrieve the toy and give it to you.
Practice this fun new trick as often as you can and be patient with your puppy. You can increase the distance your dog has to retrieve the toy a little each day and then after a while, use different toys and reward with praise rather than food treats.