Most people assume that all dogs love to fetch balls, sticks, toys, or Frisbees. Some dogs will naturally fetch objects, and other dogs seem to have no interest whatsoever in fetching. Training your dog to fetch may either be a quick lesson, or it may take a lot of time and patience; it just depends on the dog. Follow these steps below, always use positive reinforcement, and eventually you and your dog can have fun playing fetching games.
What You Will Need:
- A ball, a Frisbee, stick, or another easy-to-throw object
- Plenty of space to run in a fenced-in area
- A dog that knows the “come” command
Teaching your dog to fetch is much easier if your dog already knows the "come" command. Take the time to teach your dog this essential lesson first, and then progress to the ‘fetch’ lessons. Before a fetch lesson, it can help to warm up with a few “come” repetitions because it will help get your dog or his or her mind set on coming back to you.
Find something that your dog is interested in picking up. This could be a favorite toy like a ball or stuffed animal, or it could be a stick; whatever the object is, it shouldn’t be able to be quickly destroyed or eaten. Choosing a toy that has a lot of moving parts (stuffed animal, plush Frisbee, oversize tennis ball) can be helpful in the beginning because they tend to be more animated and will help raise your dog’s interest level.
Find an area that does not have a lot of distractions. The dog park may be difficult to start with because it’s easy for your dog to get distracted. Starting in your basement or private backyard will help eliminate any competition for your dog’s attention, and will help insure that you remain the center of attention. Throw the dog’s fetching object just a few feet away from you. As you throw the fetching object say the word, or words you want to use for the fetch command such as ‘fetch’ or ‘get it.
When your dog grabs the object immediately give the fetch command; if your dog comes to you with the object in his or her mouth take the object, give a treat, and repeat the lesson. Some dogs will drop the toy and then come to you; if this happens with your dog you will need to repeat Step 3 a few times a day, no more than 10 minutes at a time, until your dog finally comes to you with the object in his or her mouth. As soon as this happens praise your dog with a lot of enthusiasm and then give your dog a favorite treat.
Practice the ‘fetch’ lesson at least twice a day at 10 minute intervals on a regular basis. Gradually increase the distance that you throw the object; once the fetch command has been learned phase out the treats, and continue with verbal praise and petting rewards.
Don’t take “fetching” too seriously. If you treat the training sessions as a bonding session with your dog and have a little fun while you’re doing it, the process can be less stressful if your dog doesn’t seem to get the hang of things right away. Don’t use your favorite balls or Frisbees when playing fetch. Dogs have powerful jaws and sharp teeth, which will result in some cosmetic damage to the items you use. Some dogs will refuse to release the toy, opting for a game of tug of war or chase instead. You may have to tempt them by switching up the treats so something especially decadent to entice your pet to release the object.
You may notice that your dog responds better to fetching certain items than others. Your dog may love to fetch sticks, but has no use for balls or Frisbees. Stick with what works for your pet.