Despite what some people might believe, most dogs weren’t born knowing how to play fetch. “It’s not complicated, but there are some guidelines in the beginning to help with how to teach a dog to fetch,” says Eric Pliner, owner and trainer at Dog Training with Eric in Denver, Colorado.
The tricky part when it comes to how to teach a dog to fetch is actually the return part. “Dogs will naturally chase a ball or stick, but the return part is the hard part for some dogs,” says Pliner. “Many want to play the game of chase instead of returning the ball to continue the game of fetch.”
Steps to Train Your Dog to Fetch
“I break this down because each step is a teaching moment, and requires your dog to think,” explains Pliner. “When a dog thinks, it releases more energy, and the dog gets tired out more quickly.”
Throw and Chase
Most dogs will do this naturally, says Pliner. Some dogs may not understand what a ball is yet, however, so you have to introduce it to them. “Get your energy up; be excited about the ball,” suggests Pliner. “Bounce it so it doesn’t go too far above eye level for your dog so he doesn’t lose site of it. Also roll it around in front of him at different speeds, but don’t let it go too far away.” The key here, says Pliner, is to keep the ball within his reach so he doesn’t lose interest.
Using a fun product like the KONG AirDog Squeakair Ball, the Chuckit! Classic Launcher, the KONG Squeakair Birthday Balls Dog Toy or the Planet Dog Orbee-Tuff Fetch Ball with Rope could help keep your pup interested, as well. Try out a couple different products and see which one gets her the most excited and engaged.
Return the Ball
When it comes to how to teach a dog to fetch, Pliner says this part requires patience and practice. “In the beginning, I suggest throwing the ball in a short hallway, or any area that’s somewhat narrow, so that the dog has little chance to avoid you and start the chasing game,” explains Pliner. “This way, when you call your dog to return using an excited, positive voice, he will eventually come to you.” Use the same word to call your dog back to you every time, says Pliner. Always praise him and pat him when he obeys. If you’re using dog treats as an incentive, Honest Kitchen’s Smooches are the perfect bite-size treat for training.
Once your dog returns the ball to you, put your hand below his mouth with your palm facing up, and say the command, “Drop it.” “If he doesn’t understand, that’s okay,” says Pliner. “Simply hold the ball while in his mouth and repeat the command until he releases the ball. Don’t try to tug on it or pull it away from him.” If your dog runs away with the ball, try again. “This takes some patience and practice, but he will eventually get it,” explains Pliner. “Doing this exercise in a hallway first is key because he simply has nowhere else to go, and will figure out what you’re asking for quicker.”
Wait for the Throw
This isn’t necessarily required for the game, but Pliner likes to include it because it makes dogs concentrate and work for their reward of fetch. To teach it, once your dog drops the ball, have him sit and wait until either the ball is thrown or you release him from the sit after the ball is thrown.
Training your dog to play fetch is easy if you have a little patience and can follow these four steps. Don’t worry if your dog isn’t interested in the ball. Try a fun dog toy like the West Paw Design Zogoflex Zisc Dog Toy to achieve the same result. Fetch is a bonding experience for you and your dog. The most important thing is to stay patient and have fun!
By: Cheryl Lock
Cheryl Lock is a writer and editor who lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, daughter and cat, Penny. Her work has appeared in dozens of newspapers, magazines and websites. Cheryl has written about everything from pets and politics to parenting, travel and food. Find more of her work at CherylLock.com, or follow her passion for travel on her blog at WearyWanderer.com.