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Your dog has so much energy and never seems to tire. You take him for a walk but it barely takes the edge off his energy. Indeed, even straight after a walk the dog comes home and tries to dig up the backyard, just for something to do.
A friend suggested playing fetch as the perfect solution. This seems a great idea as the dog has to run, fetch the toy, and bring it back to you. This way the dog gets to run around heaps while you could potentially take it easy sitting on a park bench.
However, all did not go well. It seems the dog knows exactly what you're about and is disinterested and lazy when it comes to fetch. You toss the ball and he stares vaguely after it, as if playing fetch is all too much trouble. This is doubly frustrating as he then came home and dug up your prize garden plant.
Fetch should be an exciting, interactive game where the dog chases after a toy and brings it back to you. However, some dogs appear to find this all too much effort and will sit blankly watching as you toss the ball away and have to retrieve it yourself.
The majority of dogs that appear lazy in this way, simply don't understand what you are trying to achieve and aren't motivated enough to run after the toy. Once they grasp the idea of fetch, most come to love the game.
Teaching a lazy dog to fetch simply means engaging the dog with the toy, to make it more desirable. Another great strategy to help him understand what's required is to start at the end and teach the dog to play with the toy, before tossing it for him to bring back.
Once the dog gets the hang of things, play in different places. A change of environment is confusing for a dog, and he may revert to being lazy if the location is different. But when he comes to love the game for its own sake, he'll be prepared to play anywhere and everywhere.
You need relatively little equipment to get going with this one. Indeed, for one method, you don't even need food rewards as the game is reward enough in itself.
Here are our suggestions to get things moving:
- A ball
- Peanut butter
- A tug toy
- Space and time to play
The Start at the End Method
Understand the idea
Most people teach fetch by throwing the ball and expecting the dog to run after it. A lazy dog may not be motivated to so do. Instead, start at the end by engaging the dog's interest in a toy (tug toys work well for this). Then teach the dog to leave go of the tug toy. And finally toss the tugger so that he fetches it to bring back to continue the exciting game of tug.
Get the dog interested in the tug toy
If the dog naturally likes tug toys, great, you're off to a flying start. If he can't be bothered, then your first task is to make the toy so interesting that he wants to play. Do this by wiggling the tugger and making it enticing to grab hold off. A moving toy is much more interesting than a static one, and not many dogs can resist this.
Teach the Dog to Let Go of the Tugger
The next step is to teach the dog to let go of his prize. Simply play tug, and when you want the dog to release the toy, keep the toy still and don't pull back. The dog will mouth the toy, but eventually he will let go completely, even if its just for a second. Say "Yes" in an enthusiastic voice, and give him the toy straight back and play tug. This teaches the dog that he gets the toy back when he lets go and play continues.
Toss the tugger a short distance
Once the dog has got the hang of letting go of the tugger on the payback that the game continues, you can start tossing the toy a short distance. Now the dog runs to the tugger, picks it up, and runs back to you in order to continue the game.
Play tug, have the dog drop the toy, throw the tugger, and when he runs back with it, reward him with a game of tug. Keep practicing, and pretty soon you can throw the toy farther and farther. Hey presto. Your lazy dog is playing fetch.
The Fielding Glitches Method
The dog isn't interested in playing tug
Oh yes, he is! You just haven't made the toy exciting enough. Remember, a moving toy is far more interesting, so wiggle it enticingly on the ground to get his interest.
The dog won't let go of the tugger
The dog loves tugging so much he refuses to let go of the toy! Oh yes, he will. Just take the fun out of the game by keeping the tug toy still. The dog will adjust his grip several times, just be careful not to respond by moving the toy. Eventually, he'll remove his mouth for a split second, if even just to stare at the toy in exasperation. Sometimes this moment doesn't happen quickly, and you need to be prepared to wait 5 - 10 minutes for it to happen.
The dog won't chase the tugger
If this is the case then you weren't making the game interesting enough. Go back to basics. Waggle the tugger. Make excited noises. Pull firmly once he gets hold so as to keep his interest.
The dog chases the tugger but won't bring it back
Easy! Make yourself more interesting by getting him to chase you (with the freshly caught tugger still in his mouth). Toss the toy a short distance. Stand as close to the dog and toy as you can, then run away, encouraging him to chase you. With his new prize fresh in his mouth, he'll keep hold and run after you.
The dog returns but skirts around you
Some dogs will fetch the toy perfectly, but then be reluctant to come close enough to surrender the toy. Again, make yourself more interesting by backing away, and encouraging the dog to chase you. When the dog gets close enough, grab the toy and reward him with a game of tug.
The Engaging Interest Method
Understand the idea
There are many reasons a dog may appear lazy and seem unwilling to engage in playing fetch. Often, it's because they just don't perceive the game is interesting enough, which results in a lack of engagement that comes across as boredom. To overcome this you can make the thrown object more interesting, and also engage in 'chase' once the dog has the object in his mouth.
Make the object interesting
If the dog watches with distain as you toss the ball, then you need to make the ball much more interesting. This is simply done by smearing the outside with something tasty, such as peanut butter.
Show the dog the ball
Let the dog sniff the ball smeared with peanut butter, and once you have his attention, toss it a short distance away. The vast majority of dogs will take off in hot pursuit.
Run away from the dog
If you know your dog will settle down to lick the ball where it lands, you need to make the game more engaging. To do this, follow the dog to the ball (which was tossed only a short distance), slap your thigh and look excited, then run from the dog, encouraging him to follow. Instinctively, most dogs love chasing and will pick up their new prize and follow you.
Add a prize
Once you reach the starting spot, you can stop. If the dog drops the ball spontaneously, praise him. Pick the ball up, smear it with more peanut butter and repeat the process. Over time, the dog learns that by fetching the tasty ball, the game gets to continue, and he learns to play fetch.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 11/21/2017, edited: 01/08/2021