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As a general rule, most dogs require exercise in their day to day lives. Walking, running, swimming, or sports are all typical outlets for the energy that dogs have to expend, but there is nothing more simple than the game of fetch. Used by dog owners worldwide, fetch is a super simple way to bond and play with your dog while also providing stimulation, training, and exercise. For the working class of dog, fetch is a useful tool for channeling the excess energy that comes with a working breed.
One of the more common working breeds is the German shepherd, bred for herding and generally used for all types of work from military to police. The German shepherd is the perfect fetching companion, as they are quick to learn and eager to please. For a high energy breed, teaching fetch is probably the best way to ensure that you’ll always have a go-to game to play on any day.
The game of fetch typically consists of a few commands that your dog should know in order to properly play. There is the actual act of fetching, holding the ball or toy in his mouth, and then the act of bringing the object back to you in order for you to throw it again. For a German shepherd, this process is typically fairly easy to pick up on and only requires some repetition. However, there are some dogs who may be a bit confused on how the game works. It may help to learn the game in steps in these cases.
You can start teaching fetch once a puppy is old enough to venture outdoors. Typically, this may have to wait until after his vaccinations, for health purposes. Fetch is perfect for any adult German shepherd to learn and should really only take two to three days to establish the way the game is played.
The only real thing you need to get started playing fetch is your dog’s favorite toy and ample space to throw it. The toy should be large enough to keep your dog from swallowing it, but small enough that he can reasonably carry it back to you. Good places to play fetch are in a large backyard, in a fenced-in area at the park, or in any other safe outdoor space. Avoid playing fetch in a dog park, as it may invite other dogs to steal your dog’s toy or chase after and harass your dog. Playing fetch should be a time to bond between you and your German shepherd without any other distractions.
The Fetching Method
Get your German shepherd excited about the object you’re throwing by making it exciting. Wave it around, make noise, and keep it in front of your dog’s face before tossing it.
Make it smell
Use smelly treats and rub them on the toy or ball to give it a distinct scent. A German shepherd’s nose is very good and he may use the sense of smell to drive him to chase after the toy.
Toss it close
Start by tossing it just a few feet away to encourage your dog to go after it without losing focus.
Toss it far
Gradually toss the object farther and farther when your dog starts to reliably go after it every time. Test him with increasing distances or alternate directions.
Continue to throw it in order to increase reliability in your dog going after the toy.
The Holding Method
Make it easy to hold
Use a ball or a tug rope which are made to fit nicely into your dog’s mouth.
Make it fun to hold
Use a new toy or something that squeaks, which can be interesting and exciting for your German shepherd to hold and chew. Test out a few different toys with her to see which may be more interesting.
Make it easy her to hold onto it by keeping close by. Being too far away may cause your dog to get easily distracted and drop the toy in favor of something else.
Only increase the distance between you and your dog when she can reliably hold onto the object after fetching it.
Whenever she holds onto the object for a few moments at a time, provide plenty of verbal praise for your German shepherd to ensure that she knows that holding onto after chasing it is a good thing.
The Return Method
Keep the toss short
When training your dog to return the object to you after fetching it, stay in close for the first few tosses. This will make it easier for him to return to you without getting distracted.
Hop up and down or run back and forth to present an enticing reason for your German shepherd to run back to you. The more exciting you are, the more likely he will want to come back.
Call your dog
Use your German shepherd’s name in a high pitch to encourage him to run back to you.
Reward for return
Any time your dog returns to you with the object, reward with tons of affection, play, and excited sounds.
Challenge your dog
Start throwing the object farther and farther, repeating the steps to call your dog back to you each time. Make the game fun by moving around and changing direction. The more fun you have with fetch, the more fun your dog will have.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 02/26/2018, edited: 01/08/2021