Why Dogs Like To Play Fetch



Your dog, Rocko, loves to play fetch. In fact, you named him Rocko because he fetched rocks when you first got him. He always starts slobbering and jumping up and down when you pick up a ball, and once Rocko gets fetching, you have a hard time stopping him. Honestly, you have never really thought about why Rocko loves to fetch. You have also never really wondered about if fetching could ever be an issue. You just know that Rocko loves to fetch and you enjoy being outside too. Is fetching part of Rocko’s nature? Do some breeds like fetching more than others? Read on to find out more. 

The Root of the Behavior

Some breeds of dogs enjoy fetching more than others. Retrievers earned their name because they love to retrieve. Herding dogs, such as Collies, love to bring stuff back too. But many other breeds love fetching as well, probably due to the amount of energy most dogs have. When offered the opportunity to exercise, most dogs will take it. Some also argue that dogs see their owners as an extension of themselves and when you throw something, Rocko not only wants to please you, but he also may feel that you lost something, and he is doing you a favor by getting it back. As you know, this process can go on for hours because your dog is very eager to please. Dogs also have all the physical characteristics to make good fetches: high energy, a stellar sense of smell, tough teeth. They want to use these canine benefits when they can; fetching offers a well-needed and engaging outlet. And let’s not forget that we kind of bred dogs to fetch. One of the first common uses for domesticated dogs was hunting. this involved many breeds of dogs retrieving the hunted. Think about those images with a duck in a dog’s mouth. Even before domestication, dogs hunted. They ran and tracked down their prey and sometimes brought it back to the den to eat it. Today, fetching a bone is sort of similar. Part of the love of fetching is also chemical. When humans run, they feel a runner’s high, and the brain releases neurotransmitters. The same happens to dogs with extensive exercising. Let’s just say Rocko is getting a” fetch high”. Running around and fetching makes him feel good, so why not continue? Fetching is a typical dog behavior, and if Rocko enjoys it, it is mostly good for him, and it might be beneficial to giving you some well-needed exercise too. 

Encouraging the Behavior

Overall, fetching is a great source of exercise for your dog and can usually be encouraged, but there are a few issues that you may want to watch out for. One issue with fetching is that dogs sometimes don’t know when to stop. This can become dangerous in very hot weather as dogs can become dehydrated and overheated. If Rocko is breathing heavily, panting beyond control, or just stops and lays on the ground, odds are, he’s had enough and needs to go inside and get some water. Also, fetching releases adrenaline and cortisol, which are beneficial in small doses, but can actually cause stress in a dog in large doses. This is why it is important to be aware of how long you play fetch and under what conditions. As with so many other things, it’s about balance. Listen to your intuition, and if Rocko seems overtired or dehydrated, give him a break.

On the opposite end, if Rocko has always loved fetching and all of a sudden shows no interest, seems lethargic, or overly depressed, it’s important that you observe these new behaviors because it might be a sign of something more serious. There are usually reasons why dogs show dramatic disinterest in activities they previously loved.

Other Solutions and Considerations

Sometimes it can be difficult to stop your dog from fetching. Or maybe your dog finds objects around the house and becomes a nuisance because he keeps on expressing his want to go outside and fetch by nudging the tennis ball that he found underneath the couch onto your side. You may get annoyed with the excess slobber and may not have all the time in the world to play fetch with your darling pooch. If this is the case, set clear boundaries. Teach your dog the commands to not only "fetch” but also to “drop it”. This is especially important if you have small children in the house because dogs may think they are playing, but may accidentally bite a child that is trying to get a ball or bone out of your dog's mouth. The command “come” can also be used when your dog knows that you are trying to get him inside, and she wants to stay outside and play fetch for two more hours.


Fetching is a great exercise for both you and your dog. But pay attention to the weather and Rocko’s temperament. Make sure you always give him a lot of water before and after playing. And it might be wise to teach him some basic fetching commands so you can eventually get him back inside. And remember that Rocko’s inclination towards chasing after that ball or bone is natural and in no way far-fetched.