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Playing fetch with your dog can be rewarding for you both. You get to interact and play with your pup, and he gets to introduce you to his favorite toys as you toss them out into the world for him to go find.
Playing fetch with the dog doesn't always mean you get to do it more than once. Sometimes you toss the ball or a rope out across some expansive space, expecting your dog to bring it back to you, only your dog runs very excitedly to retrieve it and stands on the other side as if mocking you, refusing to let you have it again. This, of course, puts an end to your game of fetch. Teaching your dog to bring a toy back to you is the second phase of training your dog to play fetch. If you want to toss a ball more than once, your dog is going to have to know how to bring it back to you so you can throw it again.
Dogs who understand the second half of this fun game are eager to bring their toys back to their owners so they can, of course, play again. Dogs who just want their toys to be tossed out for a wild chase and then to hold on to them don't quite get that this game is one of enticing intrigue. You will need to teach your dog that he gets to play the game over and over again by bringing back the toy. This might mean you need to trick your dog into believing he only has one toy, and you happen to have it even when it's in his mouth. This also might mean you need to get your dog to chase you, making yourself an intriguing part of your game together.
Training your dog to bring a toy back to you is going to involve encouraging and enticing your dog. To do these things, you will need to have some high-value treats and identical toys on hand to make trades. You may also want to look into getting two of the exact type of toy. So two tennis balls that look exactly the same will work, or two ropes that are exactly the same will also work. Put your running shoes on and be prepared to run around with your dog, including running away from him to encourage him to come find you with his special toy. Turn this into playtime and bonding time with your dog and have fun with it.
The Two of the Same Method
Bring two of the same toys to playtime with your dog. Only let your dog see one at a time.
Get your dog excited to play by showing him one of his two identical toys and then toss it out and ask him to fetch. If your dog does not know the command 'fetch,' you can teach this first or you can get him excited by playing a bit of tug-of-war with him before tossing it.
As your dog runs towards the toy, wait patiently for him to grab it and begin to return it to you. If your dog does not immediately turn to return the toy to you, show him excitement and enthusiasm with words and by calling his name.
Get his attention
If your dog is not returning the toy to you, grab his attention by squatting in place so you are down low at his level and asking him to bring the toy back to you. Do this with lots of excitement in your voice.
If your dog is not bringing the toy back to you. show him the second toy and offer it almost as a trade. This should get your dog's attention, causing him to think about either dropping the first toy or bringing the first toy to you to explore the second toy.
Once your dog comes to you to inspect the second toy, with your opposite hand, take the first toy from your dog. As your dog goes to take the second toy, hold back and don't let him have it. Instead, toss it and repeat the steps above to get him to return it to you.
The Hide and Return Method
Using two of the same toy, preferably balls, get your dog interested in one and toss it out, asking him to chase it or go get it.
Out of sight
Keep the second ball out of sight of your dog and only use it if he doesn't return the first ball.
Ask for return
Ask your dog to return the ball to you by sitting on the ground and encouraging your dog to come back to you once he has the ball. Be sure to use an enthusiastic tone in your voice and be excited to have this ball come back to you.
If you're calling your dog by name, he may return to you just because you've called him. He may not give you the ball back, however. Once your dog has returned to you, hold your hand out and ask him to drop the ball.
Bring the hidden ball out and show it to your dog.
Play with the second ball on your own as if enticing or teasing your dog. He's going to be interested in the ball that you have and will drop the ball he has.
Once your dog drops his first ball, ask him to sit to pause the game. Once your dog is in a sitting position, toss one ball out, hiding the second one. Ask him to go fetch and repeat the steps above if he does not bring it back to you.
The Run Away Method
Teach your dog to play fetch and go after a toy. You may want to use a high-value toy or a puzzle toy with treats hidden inside for your initial games of fetch.
Once you have played fetch a few times with your dog, toss the toy out and have your dog run after it.
Once your dog has the toy you tossed, ask him to fetch or retrieve. Call him back using his name or by patting your leg. Of course, your expectation is that your dog bring the toy back to you. If you're having a problem getting your dog to bring the toy back, move on to the next step.
When you have your dog's attention but you know he has chosen not to come back to you with the toy, run away from him. The idea here is that your dog will want to follow you if you're running away from him.
You dog should begin to chase you. Let him catch up to you. When he catches up to you, ask for the toy back or use a 'drop it' command.
If, when your dog gets to you after you have run away from him, he has no toy because he's dropped it on his chase, walk over to the toy and act as if you plan to pick it up. Chances are, if your dog thinks you're going to pick up his toy, he will pick it up before you.
Ask your dog to give the toy back and repeat the steps above if he does not return the toy. Remember, while he is learning to fetch and bring it back to you to play more, you can trade for a treat.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 11/30/2017, edited: 01/08/2021
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