How to Train Your Boxer Dog to Fetch

Easy
1-4 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

Your Boxer used to be a nightmare to walk. He's strong, pulls like a steam-train, and almost hauls you over. The problem is a vicious circle where the dog has too much energy to focus on obedience training. You need to unleash some of that energy for him to listen, and yet his recall is non-existent and he pulls hard on the leash, which makes it near impossible to calm him down enough to train. 

Bizarrely, a friend hit on the perfect solution: Playing 'fetch' on a longline. This hits the sweet spot of allowing the dog to dash off, but while keeping him under control. 

An unexpected benefit is that the dog loves playing fetch so much, that he spontaneously runs back with the ball ready for you to throw again. Now that is what you call a win-win situation. By playing fetch not only his he burning energy but he's also learning to come back to you. Genius! 

Defining Tasks

The Boxer is a high energy dog with a reputation for exuberant behavior. If you don't want the dog to cause havoc in the house, then it's essential to give that energy an outlet. Of course, long walks are the mainstay of exercising any active dog, but what do you do if the dog's stamina is greater than yours?

The answer is a game of "Fetch". The simple idea is to toss a ball or toy some distance away, have the dog retrieve it and drop the object into your hand ready to be thrown again. This has the genius result of causing the dog to run much further than you, hence tiring him out faster than you. 

Getting Started

Puppies love to chase after things, and 'fetch' is a game you can play with soft toys. Tossing a softball away and praising the puppy when he collects it, is a great way to build enthusiasm for chase and fetch. 

The equipment needed to teach any dog to play fetch is fairly basic, and the sort of stull you're likely to have lying around at home. It includes: 

  •  A couple of balls or soft toys suitable for the dog to chase after
  • A tug toy
  • Peanut butter
  • Treats to reward the dog
  • A treat pouch for ease of access to those tasty rewards. 

The Start at the End Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Understand the idea
This method breaks the act of fetching a ball down into small steps. These are taught one at a time, starting with the last action first (dropping a ball into your hand). Then each action is added to the last to make the chain of actions that is you throwing the ball and the dog retrieving it.
Step
2
The dog gives you the ball
Give the dog a ball to hold. Then hold your hand underneath her mouth, and wait for her to drop the ball into it. Be patient. Eventually, she will release the ball, at which point give it straight back again. If she's determined to keep the ball, help things along by offering a small treat. Your aim is for the dog to recognize that giving up the ball is a good thing that is rewarded with a treat or more play. This sets the dog up for the final act in a game of fetch, giving you the ball so you can throw it again.
Step
3
Step toward you carrying the ball
Now let's add in a bit of distance...just a step or two at first. Keep the dog on the leash so she can't run off with the ball, but drop the ball an arm's length away. Encourage the dog to pick it up, and then hold out your cupped hand into the 'receive' position. If the dog practiced the first step enough, she should now come toward you and drop the ball in your hand. If she doesn't, then go back and work some more on dropping the ball.
Step
4
Increase the distance
Now throw the ball a little further. If the dog is doing well and consistently returning it to you, then allow her off leash and toss it further still. Hopefully, you now have a dog that chases the ball and brings it back to drop in your hand.
Step
5
Add some self-control
Teach the dog to sit and wait for the ball to be thrown. Have her 'sit' and 'stay' before you toss the ball, with her reward being the game of fetch itself. Twice the training for a single action!
Recommend training method?

The Reluctant Chaser Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Understand the idea
Does your Boxer stand and stare, as you toss the ball away? If your dog gives you the 'look' and stays rooted to the spot, then you need to teach the dog that chasing an object is fun. Once the dog has mastered this, you can move forward start teaching a proper game of 'fetch' as in the 'Start at the End' method.
Step
2
Restrain the dog
If the dog doesn't usually chase after thrown objects and just sits down, then try this. Show him the ball and toss it around in your hand to get his attention. Then grasp his collar and throw the ball. The fact that he's unable to chase after it immediately will often increase the dog's interest. As the dog tugs against you, encourage him in an excited voice, and then let go of the collar.
Step
3
Use a favorite toy
Make the object the dog is to chase, something that motivates him. It might be he loves a game of tug, in which case use a tug toy. Engage the dog in tug and when you break off, toss the toy a short distance and encourage him to chase after it. Reward the dog with another game, and then repeat, tossing the toy a little further away.
Step
4
Make the object irresistable
If your Boxer stares blankly after a normal ball, then make it irresistible and impossible to resist. Most Boxers are highly food motivated, so try rubbing a little peanut butter onto the ball, letting the dog sniff it, and then toss the ball for the dog to retrieve.
Step
5
Add a cue word
Once you have found a way of getting your reluctant participant to chase after something, add in a cue word, such as "Fetch" as he runs to retrieve the object. This then helps the dog know what is expected of him when you throw a normal ball that isn't baited with peanut butter, and helps him engage in a game with you.
Recommend training method?

The Troubleshooting Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Never punish your dog
If the dog is slow to catch on or runs off with the ball, never punish him. If you chase after him yelling, he's more likely to keep going than to return to your side. In addition, he may associate coming back to you with punishment, which makes him even more reluctant next time.
Step
2
The reluctant returner
If your Boxer tends to chase the ball then disappear into the distance, try some reverse psychology. Instead of running after him, move in the opposite direction. Walk or jog away, slapping your thighs and making excited noises. This should pique his curiosity and have him come after you to see what's happening.
Step
3
Holds onto the ball
Fetch should be a two-way thing with the dog releasing the ball back into your hand to throw again. If your Boxer holds onto his prize then you need to use some canine cunning yourself. Have two identical balls, and when the dog retrieves the first but refuses to give it, show him the second ball. The prospect of chasing after another ball is usually sufficient for the dog to drop the first one. You may even wish to label the moment the ball drops as "Give", so you are halfway to teaching a new command.
Step
4
The dog runs off
If the dog repeatedly abuses the freedom to chase, then use a longline. This gives the dog the illusion of freedom while you say in control. A longline is far preferable to a flexi-lead, as the tension on the latter teaches the dog to pull against his lead. Teaching fetch on a longline can be a useful way of improving a dog's recall, especially if the dog is highly ball motivated and so comes running back so he can chase the ball again.
Step
5
Engage with the dog
When playing fetch with your dog, be sure to play an enthusiastic part. Get excited and applaud the dog as he chases after the ball, and praise him when he returns. Thus, your attention rewards the dog as well as the game itself, which all adds to the enjoyment. Don't be the person walking round the dog park transfixed by a cellphone screen.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd