How to Train Your Border Collie Dog to Fetch

Easy
2-4 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

There is nothing quite like a good game of fetch.  You with the ball in your hand, your pup dancing around your feet yelling "Throw the ball, throw the ball!" in his mind. So, of course, you throw the ball out in the yard and your pup goes tearing after it, grabs it in his mouth and then goes off in a completely different direction.

Doesn't sound much like playing fetch, does it? Of course not--one of the first things you need to teach your pup is how to play fetch if you want him to bring the ball back to you every time. Border Collies are by nature a very intelligent dog, one that is quite capable of mastering a wide range tricks. Once your pup has mastered 'fetch', you can teach him 'hide and seek', hunting, herding, how to bring you your slippers, how to bring you a beer, and so much more. 

Defining Tasks

Fetch is a relatively simple game that will keep you and your pup entertained for hours at a time. You can start off teaching him to fetch a small toy or a rubber ball, but with time and patience, you can train your Border Collie to fetch just about anything he can carry. The game involves throwing a toy or ball out in the yard where your dog can find it, pick it up, and bring it back to you and then repeat it over and over again until one of you tires out (bet it's you first).

Imagine how much fun it will be for both you and your pup to show off when you have company come over. You could start with the simple basic game of fetch with a ball. Your friends will say "Oh, any dog can do that!" Then you ask your pup to fetch your slippers. "Wow!" your friends say. And then you hit them with your pup going to the fridge and bring you a nice cold beer. This literally blows their minds--all of this starts with the simple game of fetch. 

Getting Started

Before you can try to teach your dog to play fetch, he will need to have mastered the four important basic commands, 'come', 'sit', 'stay', and 'down'. After he has mastered these, you should be able to train him to do almost anything. There are a few things you need to have on hand for your training sessions. These include:

  • Treats: To use as rewards and as training aids.
  • A ball: You can use a small rubber ball (think tennis ball).
  • Leash: For training purposes.
  • Space: You need plenty of space to train in.
  • Patience: You need a lot of this.
  • Time: To make this training go faster, you should plan to practice with your pup at least once a day every day until he gets it.

Fetch can be a great game, but only if you can get your pup to bring the ball back to you instead of running off and playing with it. Take your time, make it fun, and the two of you have a new game to play for the rest of his life. 

The Use a Friend Method

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Step
1
It all starts with 'sit'
Go outside in the backyard, call your dog over to you and have him sit. At this point go ahead and hook him up to his leash so he won't go running as soon as you toss the ball.
Step
2
Toss the ball
Toss the ball out in the yard and tell your assistant to go 'fetch' the ball using his name. For example, say "Chris, fetch!"
Step
3
Chase the ball down
At this point, your friend should chase the ball and hold it up so your pup can see he has the ball.
Step
4
Bring me the ball
Go ahead and tell your friend to bring the ball back to you. When he comes back, take the ball from him and praise him excited. Pet him and get excited about it, this will help get your pup excited at the new game if he isn't already bouncing at the end of his leash. Repeat this step a few times until you think your pup has got the idea.
Step
5
His turn
Now repeat the above training steps with your pup. You must use the exact same method with your pup that you used with your friend to ensure he doesn’t get confused. It won't take long before he masters this simple game and the two of you can spend lots of time playing together.
Recommend training method?

The Going in Reverse Method

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Step
1
Give me the ball
Start out by making sure your pup will drop the ball in your hand when you ask him to using the 'drop' command. This step is the one that most dogs find the most rewarding.
Step
2
On-leash fetching first
With your pup on his leash, toss the ball on the ground about a foot away from your pup. When your pup grabs the ball, hold your hand out and encourage him to drop the ball in your hand. Be sure to praise him and give him treats when he does.
Step
3
Keep working with your pup
Repeat this step several times until your pup will drop the ball in your hand each time you toss it on the ground in front of him.
Step
4
Add distance to your throw
Gradually add distance to your throws along with letting him off the leash. This will help build distance and duration at the same time and make it more fun for both of you.
Step
5
Practice makes perfect
While practice might make perfect, it is possible for you to overdo it. If you push your dog too hard, you may find he won't want to play anymore. Your pup will let you know if you are getting too carried away. The other thing you have to worry about is that during the hot summer months, your pup could end up with heat stroke if you play for too long.
Recommend training method?

The Multiple Toys Method

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Step
1
Lay out several toys
Start by lining up a few of your pup's favorite toys. You will be using them throughout the training sessions.
Step
2
Toss one toy
Toss one of the toys a few feet in front of you and point it out to your pup.
Step
3
If he brings it back
If your pup goes out and grabs the toy and brings it back to you, shower him with praise and give him a treat. If he doesn't bring the toy back to you, try running away from your pup, he will probably try to chase you down. When he does, if he still has the toy in his mouth, give rewards and praise.
Step
4
Add the cue
Now as you toss out each toy add in the cue "Fetch" so that your dog associates this command with the desired response.
Step
5
Repeat with more toys
Keep repeating the training using different toys from the lineup to get your pup used to fetching more than one object. In a couple of weeks, your pup will be bringing you the toys he wants to play fetch with.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Loki
Border Collie
10 Months
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Loki
Border Collie
10 Months

Hi there,

Ive got this problem with my collie that he doesnt bring the ball directly to me. He's a 10 month old brown and white male. And when it comes to playing with a ball, he's over the moon excited. It's by far his favorite thing. Our yard is about 15m - 20m long. So when i toss the ball, he runs and fetches it with great gusto. But when bringing it back, he always drops the ball 3 or 4 meters away from me. He NEVER brings the ball to me/my feet. And when i take him to the park, it's even worse. I think because of the much bigger playing field. He drops the ball at around 6m - 10m away from me. Then i throw it again, and the same happens. So we end up moving forward the whole time. And no matter how much i call or coax him into bringing the ball to me, he never does. He just doesnt bring the ball to me at all.

It's really frustrating to the point that after just a couple thows, i get irritated and dont want to play anymore. Coz i have to keep walking after him. 


Is it a training situation, or perhaps somethign else i dont know about/understand. Any advice would be appreciated.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
706 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Check out the article linked below. Especially read the Come and Drop It sections of the article. You will need something to trade pup - for putting the ball into your hand, and a long leash so that you can reel pup in when needed. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-to-fetch/ Most dogs besides retrievers actually have to be taught to bring the ball all the way back - you are not alone in this. A herding breed will naturally want to chase the ball, but not necessarily feel compelled to bring it to you. My own Border Collie had the same tendency before I taught him to drop it into my hand - so try not to get discouraged and know that it can be taught with a bit of training and practice. When practicing this, since pup will be on a long leash and the training is new, don't teach this at the dog park. Teach it in a calm location. Once pup can do it well in a calm location, practice around distractions in places like regular parks until pup is really good at bringing the ball back all the way. You don't want to have to use the long leash in the dog park because that could cause a fight. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Blue
Border Collie
8 Weeks
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Question
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Blue
Border Collie
8 Weeks

I would like to know how to train him from pooing and weeing inside the house and to also train him to poo in the same spot in the backyard please. Thankyou 🙂

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
131 Dog owners recommended

I am sending you information on potty training as well as crate training. There is a lot of information, but it should help you with this process. Potty training: Know Your Pup. As you spend time with your puppy, learn your puppy’s love language. Just as some people prefer gifts, touch, or time spent together, puppies can be the same way. Some puppies love praise or pets, while others prefer treats. As you get to know your puppy, consider what reward your puppy loves the most. Create a Daily Schedule. It is best to have a routine for your puppy. A schedule helps them understand when to eat, play, and “go to the bathroom.” Your puppy should go out frequently and the routine should be the same every time. When? Start the day by taking your puppy outside, and repeating based on age and ability. They should also go out after napping, chewing, playing, and within 10 to 15 minutes of eating. Although some puppies can sleep for seven hours, it is important to set an alarm and take your pup out during the night. When you do, don’t make a fuss about it. Quietly take them outside with minimal stimulation and light. Praise them if they go to the bathroom and gently return them to their bed or crate. You don’t want them to get stimulated and ready to play in the middle of the night! As you get to know your puppy, you will become aware of their individual habits. Click here to learn more about house training schedules for puppies. Where? Take your puppy to a specific area to urinate or defecate. Be consistent. You can create an area by using urine-soaked paper or bowel movements to help create an aroma to stimulate your puppy. How? Take your puppy out on a leash so they can focus on the desired activity. This will help prevent them from wandering off to play. Once your puppy is in the selected area, use your verbal cue, such as “Hurry Up,” “Poopies,” “Go tinkle,” or any phrase your puppy responds to. What? Know the signs that your puppy has to go to the bathroom. Every animal may have a different “I gotta go” gesture, which often include restlessness, sniffing around, circling, scratching at the door, barking, and, eventually, squatting. At the first sign that your pup has to go, calmly and quickly take them outside to their bathroom spot. Deal with Accidents. Accidents are a normal part of house training a puppy. What to Do If you see your puppy in the process of urinating or defecating inappropriately, calmly and quickly interrupt them in the act. Tell them to stop (either by a jarring sound or command), and immediately take them to an appropriate location for elimination. After your puppy goes to the bathroom, lavishly praise them and offer a treat. Thoroughly clean up accidents, so your puppy is not attracted to this area again. Create a consistent feeding and watering schedule. Depending on the age of your puppy, they will eat three to four times a day. A consistent feeding routine can create a regular bathroom schedule. Take away water about 2 hours before bedtime. Learn more about ideal dog schedules here. What NOT to Do Don’t punish your puppy when they have an accident. At that point, it is too late. When a puppy has an accident in the house and they walk away, within seconds they have already forgotten about what they did. Taking them to the scene of the crime and yelling and/or rubbing their nose in it does not help and, in fact, can harm your puppy! Supervise. The best thing you can do is to prevent accidents and the best way to do this is to supervise your puppy at all times. You can tether your puppy to your waist with a five or six-foot leash and carefully observe them for signs that they need to go to the bathroom. If you can’t supervise, then crate or confine your puppy. The more accidents your puppy has in the house, the more confusing it will be for them and this can delay house training. Reward, Reward, Reward. It is important to give your puppy a reward for their good behavior. This can be for commands such as sitting and coming to you, or for appropriately eliminating outside. In a puppy, a reward can be a couple kibbles of puppy food or a treat, such as a small piece of meat. The treat should be exciting for them and only available as a result of good behavior. Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don't go too fast. Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn't one of them: Bring them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and secured so that it won't hit your dog and frighten them. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that's OK; don't force them to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days. Step 2: Feed your dog meals in the crate After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding them their regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If they remain reluctant to enter, put the dish only as far inside as they will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back in the crate. Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat their meal, you can close the door while they’re eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they’re staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If they begin to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving them in the crate for a shorter time period. If they do whine or cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so they'll keep doing it. Step 3: Practice with longer crating periods After your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short time periods while you're home. Call them over to the crate and give them a treat. Give them a command to enter, such as "crate." Encourage them by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time and then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you're out of sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting them sleep there at night. This may take several days or weeks. Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys in the crate. Vary the moment during your "getting ready to leave" routine that you put your dog in the crate. Although they shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate them anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your departures emotional and prolonged—they should be matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don't reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to them in an enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low-key to avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone. Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs should also initially be kept nearby so they don't associate the crate with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Potential problems Whining: If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again. Separation anxiety: Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures.

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Question
Oliver
Border collie mix
1 Year
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Question
0 found helpful
Oliver
Border collie mix
1 Year

Hello! I'm attempting to teach my young border collie mix to fetch. He's a very smart dog and extremely hyper. He knows how to do several commands with treats (sit, stay, no, down, and come). He struggles with to do these commands when he is excited. Anyway, when I try to play fetch with him, I throw the toy and he runs and grabs it. Then he lays down with the toy. If I get close to him after that, he grabs the toy and runs away with it, wanting me to chase him. How can I get him to return the ball to me? When I use treats and tell him to come, he drops the toy and sometimes won't fetch afterward because he knows I have treats.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
131 Dog owners recommended

Hello! Here is information on fetch. Step 1: Introduce the Fetch Toy Once you’ve picked out a good toy, introduce it to your dog so they start to get excited about fetch. Place the toy near you. As your dog gets close to it, click, praise, and give a treat. If they touch their nose to the toy, click, praise heavily, and give treats. Continue this process until your dog reeeally likes the toy. Caution: See why you should avoid throwing sticks for your dog. Step 2: Move the Fetch Toy Around Now that your dog is starting to figure out that touching the fetch toy means treats, start moving it around so they have to move to get to it. Don’t throw the toy yet, or even move it very far. Simply hold the toy in slightly different positions — at arm’s length — and encourage your dog to touch it. Each time they touch the toy, click, treat, and praise. Continue this little dance until you’re sure the behavior has stuck. Dog Catching FrisbeeStep 3: Get Your Dog to Grab the Fetch Toy Now it’s time to start rewarding your dog when they actually grab the toy with their mouth. This can take a little patience on your part. The key is to watch your dog’s behavior and reward when it starts to look like the behavior you want. Place the toy on the ground at about arm's length. If your dog moves from touching their nose to the toy and begins using their mouth, it's time to click, praise, and treat. Each time they get a little closer to biting the toy, continue to reward. If and when they pick up the toy with their mouth, act like it’s the best thing you’ve ever seen (and don’t forget to click and give treats). Remember that your dog will be looking to you for reassurance that they’re on the right track Step 4: Play Little Games of Indoor Fetch At this point, your dog should know that placing the toy in their mouth means they get a treat. The next phase is perhaps the trickiest, but you only need to follow the same method of rewarding small steps toward success. Toss the toy a few feet away from you. When they pick it up, click, treat, and praise. Continue this until they understand what they’re supposed to do. Then toss the toy and encourage your dog to bring it back to you. When they do, click, treat, and praise. Step 5: Throw the Fetch Toy Farther Once your dog has realized that they get treats when they get their toy and bring it back, start "upping the ante" by throwing the toy farther. It might help to find a hallway (which will reduce distractions) and toss the fetch toy farther and farther away. With each successful fetch, offer treats and praise, then toss the toy a little farther. Repeat as many times as necessary for your dog to understand what this fetch game is all about. Step 6: Add Some Words This part is optional. If you would like to add a marker word like “fetch,” now is the time to do so (when your dog is successfully fetching their toy). Say the word before throwing the toy, then lay it on heavy with treats and praise when they successfully fetch for you and say something like “good fetch.” Of course, it’s not necessary to say “fetch” or another similar word. By this point, your dog has probably learned to enjoy the game itself — with or without a verbal cue.

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