How to Train Your Dog to Fetch

Easy
1-4 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

You love your pup to pieces, but sometimes giving him enough exercise can wear you out…

As the saying goes: "The devil makes work for idle paws." If your canine companion has a long-lasting battery and walks your legs down to stumps while he's not even out of breath, then teaching him to play fetch could be the answer.

It doesn't take much imagination to see how having a dog chasing after a ball and returning it can be of benefit. These days you don't even need a strong throwing arm, because neat little throwing devices can shoulder the effort. Imagine the difference this will make to walks. Heck, you can even sit on a park bench, relax, and take in the air while your dog runs to and fro, tiring himself out in the process.

The net result is a happy dog whose nicely tired and ready to return home for supper and a snooze, rather than rampaging through the house with pent-up energy.

Defining Tasks

So what exactly do we mean by 'Fetch'?

Fetch is a retrieval command, where the dog seeks out and brings back a given object. The pawfect 'Fetch' involves the dog dropping the ball or toy at your feet, ready to be thrown again. This latter part is the mark of a well-trained dog, which prevents the game degenerating into an unwitting game of tug.

Teaching 'Fetch' is a fun way to engage with your dog, get him listening to you, and get exercise at the same time! Can't get better than that. You can start teaching the basics to a puppy, as he will naturally chase after favorite toys and hopefully bring them back to continue play. The joy of 'Fetch' is you can teach it indoors with a soft toy, or outdoors with a ball.

As with any command, use reward-based training methods, which encourage the dog to act correctly, rather than punish mistakes.

Getting Started

You will need:

  • Two identical balls or toys that the dog loves to play with
  • Tiny, tasty titbits to use as rewards
  • A longline
  • Time and patience

Start training in a quiet, distraction-free space so the dog concentrates on you. But as his skills improve, you can seamlessly extend his training into play sessions in the park.

When practicing in public places, it's helpful for the dog to have a strong recall. If he is liable to run off, then use a longline so that you keep control if he gets distracted and takes off.

Remember, give your 'Fetch' command in a clear, excited voice, so he gets caught up in the spirit of the play and enjoys himself. But stop if the dog is losing interest and before he becomes overtired.

The Basic Fetch Method

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Basic Fetch method for Fetch
Step
1
Sit
Have the dog perform the 'sit' command.
Step
2
Get his attention
Get the dog's attention and show him the ball.
Step
3
Toss the ball
Now toss the ball a few feet away and say "Fetch".
Step
4
Encourage the chase
As the dog runs after the ball, say "Yes" in a happy voice to encourage him.
Step
5
Encourage return
As he picks the ball up, make as if to move away from him or slap your thigh. The idea being to have him run back to you, rather than run off.
Step
6
Get excited!
Act excited as your dog runs towards you.
Step
7
Return the ball
Once he arrives at your feet, have him sit and then drop the ball into your hand or at your feet. You may give him a treat in order to get him to drop the object
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The Without Treats Method

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Without Treats method for Fetch
Step
1
Use two balls
Have two identical balls, but keep one in a pocket out of sight.
Step
2
Toss the ball
Start by tossing one ball a short distance away.
Step
3
Encourage return
Attract the dog to you and praise him for bringing the ball back.
Step
4
Introduce the second
If he doesn't 'Give' the ball, produce the second ball from your pocket.
Step
5
Entice with the second ball
Show him the second ball and act like it's the best ball ever! Pretty quick, he'll drop the first ball (add a well timed 'Drop' as he opens his jaws).
Step
6
Sit and toss
Now have him 'sit' and toss the second ball to chase.
Step
7
Pocket the ball
While he's high-tailing it after that ball, pick up the original one and pop it out of sight into your pocket..
Step
8
Repeat!
Keep it up! Repeat the steps above to train your dog how to fetch without any treats.
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The Phase Out Method

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Phase Out method for Fetch
Step
1
Toss the ball
Proceed with the basics of fetch, throwing the ball and having the dog bring it back.
Step
2
Establish exchange
Once the dog is regularly exchanging one ball for another, you can phase out the second ball.
Step
3
Withhold the second ball
This time, when the dog arrives at your feet, don't produce the second ball
Step
4
Wait
Wait him out.
Step
5
Return the ball
Say "Drop"....and wait.
Step
6
Praise and continue!
Eventually, he will let go of the ball, at which point make a huge fuss of him and toss the ball for him to fetch
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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