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The sun is shining and the air is warm. It's the perfect day! You grab your pooch and head to the nearest park for some mid-day fun. Once in the park, you let your dog run free. She turns back to look at you. In your hands, you have a ball. The dog is bouncing all around, super excited about the round object of joy in your palm.
You wind up, and throw that sucker as far as you can! You stand there, watching the ball soar through the air. So does your dog. And then you realize, your dog has no idea how to catch a ball.
Many a pup-owner has sat there, wondering in disbelief why their game of catch only lasted one throw. The fact is, lots of dogs don't just “know" how to catch a ball. They have to be taught this trick, and they have to be shown that bringing the ball back to you means even more fun.
But don't worry too much, most dogs figure this one out fairly quickly. Be prepared to spend multiple sessions over several days to help your pooch “catch” on. Sessions should be short and fun. This training is appropriate for all ages of canine, so whether you have a puppy or a senior, go for it!
There are a few things that you should go and get before you begin your catch classes. They are as follows:
- Treats: Catching a ball should be fun. Keep things positive by using lots of treats to reward your pupper when she does well.
- A Soft Toy: Before using a ball, some dogs benefit from practicing with a soft stuffed animal. This way their failed attempts don't hurt them.
- A Lightweight Ball: It's best not to use a heavy ball until your pooch has become a catching pro. Find a tennis ball or something lighter for training.
- An Assistant: There are some methods of teaching a dog to catch that involve the help of a friend. Enlist a buddy who also loves canines if possible.
Rarely, a dog won't catch because he is feeling lethargic or ill. If this is the case, do not push him to play. Seek medical attention from your vet to help make him more comfortable.
Below are some easy methods that you can use to get your furbaby catching balls in no time! Don't feel that you have to use just one; try out all of them if you're feeling up to it.
The Treats to Tricks Method
Grab the treats
Have your bag of treats in hand to start the session.
Have your dog sit
Have your hound plunk his bum a few feet from where you are standing.
Toss a treat
Lightly underhand-throw a treat in your pup's direction.
Pick it up
If Fido misses, grab that treat off of the ground fast. This way, he's not rewarded for missing the target.
Do this several times, then take a break. You can do this exercise up to five times a day every day until your pooch figures it out.
Switch to a ball
Once your pupper is consistently catching, you can switch from treats to a small ball. For the first little while, you can reward a successful ball catch with a little treat.
The Monkey-in-the-Middle Method
Have your friend come
Arrange for your assistant to join you. Schedule a few playdates over several days if possible.
This method works best if played in a backyard or field.
Put the dog in the middle
Arrange yourselves so that you are standing a ways apart from each other with the canine in between.
Begin to play
Start to throw the ball to each other, over your pooch’s head.
Lower your throws
Once your dog starts to get excited about the situation, toss the ball low enough that he can jump up and catch it.
Keep playing this game daily until your dog becomes a catching master!
The Withholding Method
Grab a toy
It's best to use your pup's favorite soft toy for this exercise.
Make a fuss
Convince your dog to get the toy by praising him and making the interaction fun. You can even bribe him with treats if necessary.
Add a toss
Once your pooch is getting amped up about the game, throw the toy a little ways away and encourage him to go after it.
As soon as he goes for it, praise him like crazy so he gets that he's doing the right thing.
Withhold the toy
After your doggo is good and excited, delay the throw for a few seconds. This will get him riled up and make the game even more fun.
Switch to a ball
As soon as your dog starts to reliably catch the soft toy, you can trade it for a ball. Keep practicing and your dog will be a super-star catcher in no time!
By Amy Caldwell
Published: 10/11/2017, edited: 01/08/2021