How to Train a German Shepherd Puppy to Fetch

Medium
2-4 Weeks
Fun

Introduction

Have you ever arrived home at the end of a long day to find your puppy bouncing off the walls with energy? You don't feel like going for a walk yourself, after being on your feet all day, but your poor guy has been sitting at home all day, unable to stretch out his legs and really run. What if you could take your puppy out your back door, into a fenced-in yard, and sit or stand in place while your puppy did all the work?

Playing fetch is a fun and easy way to exercise your puppy once he has learned how to play. Your puppy will probably naturally chase after the ball due to his predatory instincts and the movement of the ball. He might even bring the ball back on his own. He also might need a little bit of encouragement before he will bring the ball to you, and perhaps need to unlearn the game of "keep away". With some training and encouragement, your German Shepherd can likely excel at the sport though, and fetching will give you both hours of enjoyment for the rest of his life.

Defining Tasks

In addition to being fun, 'fetch' is also a wonderful command to teach your German Shepherd, because it will mentally and physically stimulate him, especially if you add some structure to the game, such as having him sit and wait for the ball between throws. German Shepherds need a job to do, and many Shepherds are prey driven and have a desire to chase something. Learning how to chase after and bring back a ball for you can satisfy your dog's longing to chase and perform a job.

Once your puppy has learned how to fetch a ball, then you can also teach him to bring you other items by using the same methods, but with a different object in place of the ball. You can teach your dog the name of the object first, then once your dog has learned the name of the object, you can have your dog chase after that object when you throw it, and then eventually bring you the object even while the object is stationary.

If you are using the 'Long Leash' method, be sure to toss the ball only half the length of the leash, so that your puppy will not get jerked by hitting the end of the leash. Another reason for only throwing the ball half the length is so that you will have enough length left in the leash for your puppy to run after the ball if it rolls or bounces after landing. Also, practice this method while your puppy is wearing a padded harness that you can attach the leash to, rather than a collar, so that if he does get jerked by the leash, his throat will not be damaged.

Because your puppy's bones have not finished growing, he should not be exercising too strenuously until he is past one year of age, when his growth plates have closed. When you play fetch with him, keep the exercise moderate, and do not let him run long distances, jump at this age, or become exhausted to the point of injuring himself. Some dogs love the game so much that they will play until they literally collapse--do not let your puppy get anywhere close to that point.

Try to always end the game on a positive note. If your puppy is getting too tired or is losing interest in the ball, throw him just one more ball, and praise him enthusiastically when he brings it back, then end the game. You always want to try to end the game while your puppy is still having fun, so that he will want to play again next time.

Getting Started

To get started you will need two similar balls, treats that are easy to eat, and a safe, enclosed, and spacious area to teach this in. If you are using the 'Long Leash' method then you will also need a lightweight thirty or fifty-foot leash, and a padded back clip harness to attach the leash to. If you are using the 'Movement' method then you will also need a bit of silliness and excitement to get your puppy to come to you. If you are using the 'Run Away' method, you will need to be able to run away from your dog excitedly. With all of the methods, you will need a great attitude, a willingness to have fun with your dog, and patience while he learns.

The Run Away Method

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Step
1
Choose a location
To begin, go to a safe, enclosed location, such as a fenced yard or spacious room, where there is room to run. Show your puppy the ball and have him sit.
Step
2
Throw the ball
When your puppy is sitting and focusing on the ball, tell your puppy "OK" to release him, and toss the ball a few feet away from your puppy.
Step
3
Run away
When your puppy reaches the ball and picks it up, excitedly say "Fetch!", while you run away from him. This should cause him to chase after you with the ball still in his mouth.
Step
4
Return to the ball
If he drops the ball then run back over to the ball, pick up the ball, and toss it toward his feet. When he picks it up again, run away while commanding "Fetch!". Do this every time that he drops the ball, until he will keep it in his mouth while he chases after you.
Step
5
Command 'drop'
When your puppy catches up to you while you are running, turn to face him while praising him for catching you. Command him to "drop", while quickly showing him another ball. If he drops the ball when he sees a second ball, then step on the first ball, and command him to sit. When he is sitting, reward him by telling him "OK", and throwing the second ball for him. If he does not drop the ball when he sees a second ball, then touch a treat to his nose while you command "drop". Do this until he lets go of the ball to get the treat. Praise him and offer him the treat on his nose when he drops the ball.
Step
6
Practice
Repeat this process until your puppy will automatically sit when you show him the ball, will bring the ball back when you say "fetch", even without you running away from him, and will drop it when you say "drop", even without you showing him a treat or another ball. When your puppy can do all of that, then all that is left is to keep practicing and enjoy playing fetch. Be sure to end the game when he shows signs of being tired or disinterested, so that he will want to playing again next time.
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The Movement Method

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Step
1
Choose a location
To begin, choose a safe, enclosed location, with enough space for your puppy to run. A good option is a fenced-in backyard or a large, open room in your home. Show your puppy the ball and have him sit.
Step
2
Throw the ball
When your puppy is sitting and looking at the ball, tell him "OK" to release him, and toss the ball a few feet away.
Step
3
Command 'fetch'
When your puppy grabs the ball, enthusiastically say "Fetch!", and then act very excited by making fun noises, moving your arms and legs, or jumping up and down. Do this so that he will want to come back to you to play. If he returns with the ball in his mouth, when he arrives immediately show him another ball and command him to "drop" the one in his mouth. If he drops the ball in his mouth when he sees the second ball, then praise him enthusiastically. Have him sit again, and then repeat the entire process.
Step
4
Offer a treat
If your puppy does not drop the ball when you show him the second ball, then touch a treat to his nose while you command "drop". Do this until he drops the ball in order to get the treat.
Step
5
Go to the ball
If your puppy drops the ball when you tell him to fetch and act excited, then run over to the ball and make the ball move by kicking it slightly with your feet or throwing it a little ways with your hand. Do this until your puppy grabs the ball again. When your puppy picks up the ball again, then repeat telling him to 'fetch' and act excited to encourage him to come to you with it. Repeat this process every time he drop the ball, until your puppy will hold onto the ball while he comes to you.
Step
6
Practice makes perfect!
Repeat the entire process of telling your puppy to sit, telling him "OK", throwing the ball for him, encouraging him to come to you by acting silly, and telling him to drop the ball. When your pup will automatically sit when you show him the ball, will chase after the ball when you tell him "OK", will pick up the ball and bring it back to you when you say "fetch", even when you do not act silly, and will drop it when you say "drop", even when you do not show him another ball or a treat, then your puppy knows how to fetch! Encourage his love of the game by always ending the game while he is still having fun and by being careful not to over work him while playing, especially while his bones are still growing.
Recommend training method?

The Long Leash Method

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Step
1
Attach long leash
To begin, attach a lightweight, thirty or fifty-foot leash to your puppy's harness. Make sure that the harness is padded and will not chafe your puppy.
Step
2
Toss ball
Have your puppy sit. When he is looking at the ball in your hand, then tell him "OK" to release him while you toss the ball half the distance of the length of the leash that is attached to him. Praise him while he runs after it.
Step
3
Add command
As soon he grabs the ball, excitedly call him back to you by saying "Fetch!" in a happy voice, while your quickly reel him in with the long leash.
Step
4
Add 'drop'
When he gets to you, command him to "drop", and show him another ball. When he drops the ball in his mouth, step onto it with your foot to keep him from grabbing it again. Command him to sit. As soon as he is sitting and paying attention to the new ball in your hand, then tell him "OK", and toss the ball half the distance of the long leash that is attached to him, again. While he is running away, pick up the ball that is under your foot, if you have not already done so.
Step
5
Try a treat
If he will not drop the ball when he sees the new ball, then touch a treat to his nose while you say "drop". When he drops the ball to get the treat, then offer him the treat in your hand, and when he finishes eating have him sit again.
Step
6
Repeat
Practice playing fetch this way, until your puppy will automatically sit before you throw the ball, will bring the ball back when you say "fetch", without having to be reeled in with the leash, and will drop the ball every time that you say "drop", even without another ball or a treat in view. When your puppy has reached this point, then try playing fetch without the long leash attached to him. If he does not listen to your commands, then put the leash back on and practice that way again for longer. If he continues to listen to your commands, then enjoy playing without the confines of the leash! Be sure to end the game when he starts to be lose interest or get tired. Always end the game on a successful, fun note, so that he will look forward to playing again next time.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

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