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Nobody told you quite how much energy your German Shepherd would have. Whatever you seem to do, he never seems to tire. It’s not all bad, it means your kids are definitely ready for bed by the time Buddy has chased them around the house all evening. He also keeps you in good shape as you have to give him a long walk each day. However, because his energy seems to be endless, it means it starts to spill out at home, by chewing your rugs, for example. You want to be able to relax when you’re out the house, safe in the knowledge that he’s lying there peacefully napping.
Training Buddy to retrieve may well be able to help you with your problem. The constant short sprinting will quickly tire him out. Furthermore, this type of training is ideal if you’re going to train him to be a working hunting dog. It will ensure you can have him drop his quarry.
Training Buddy to retrieve isn’t going to be as complicated as you might think. This is because German Shepherds are intelligent and quick learners. You need to break training down into two parts. Firstly, you need to teach him to chase down an object. Secondly, you need to teach him to return the object. Once he understands what you want him to do, you just need to reinforce training with the right incentive. Both toys and food will help to this end.
If he’s a puppy, Buddy should be particularly receptive and keen to please. As a result, he could be consistently retrieving in just a week or so. If your German Shepherd is older and less interested in learning, then it may take a couple of weeks. Get this training right and you’ll have a fantastically effective way to exercise him.
Before you start work, you will need to collect a few bits. Stock up on tasty treats or his favorite food. If you’re not sure what to use, German Shepherds are often prepared to do pretty much anything for cheese. A couple of toys or tennis balls will also be required.
You need a spacious place to practice in, such as a large yard or local field. Then set aside 15 minutes each day for training.
Apart from that, just bring enthusiasm and patience, then work can begin!
The ‘Bring It’ Method
Get him worked up
Choose a particular toy, stick or tennis ball. Before you can teach him to retrieve, you need to ensure he is jumping up and down at the mere sight of the toy. So spend some time each day playing tug of war and generally messing around with it.
Secure him to a long leash
Now head out into a local field with Buddy on a leash. Because he loves the toy so much, he may not feel too inclined to release it once he’s got his mouth around it, so the leash will be needed to start with.
Throw the toy where he can see it. He’ll probably charge towards it like a rocket. If not, run towards it and shout in an animated voice as you go. Also, throw it relatively low so your German Shepherd can definitely see it.
Now encourage him to drop it by holding up a treat. If he doesn’t naturally, slowly reel him in and issue a ‘bring it’ command in a playful voice, just once. As soon as he gets close enough, start praising him to let him know that returning to you is the right thing to do.
Wait until he completely drops it before you hand over the treat. As soon as he does, swiftly give him his reward. Now all you need to do is practice this as frequently as you can. The more consistently you practice, the sooner Buddy will get the hang of it.
The Dual Toy Method
Capture his attention
Head out into a local field or yard with Buddy and a couple of toys. Now hold the first one up to catch his attention. Once you have that, launch it so he can see it. Make sure you keep it relatively low so it stays within his eye line.
Talk in a high-pitched voice and point at the toy to encourage him to chase after it. If he doesn’t seem too interested, running towards it yourself usually does the job.
Hold up the second
Once he does get hold of the first toy, you then need to teach him to return it. To do that, hold a second toy high up in the air so Buddy can see it. Call his name in a playful voice to get him to come back to you.
Wait until he drops the first toy and then throw the second one for him. It’s important you do not give him the second until he has dropped the first. Otherwise he may just try and hold onto both.
You should now be able to throw two toys back and forth in succession. He will quickly get into the habit of chasing one and retrieving it so he can have the second. Then just practice for a few minutes each day while keeping it playful and it will quickly become his favorite game.
The Pull Back Method
Head out into a large space with Buddy, some treats, a tennis ball and a friend. This is an effective method to use if your German Shepherd doesn’t seem too interested in chasing after anything.
Have your friend hold Buddy by the collar. Now stand 10 yards away from him with the tennis ball in your hand. Call his name and talk in an animated voice, then throw the ball so he can see it.
Now make sure your friend holds him for a couple of seconds. Because he can’t run towards it, he will probably start naturally trying to chase towards it. It as simple as wanting what he can’t have.
Release & lure back
Once he has pulled for a second or so, release him so he can chase after it. Shout words of encouragement in a high-pitched voice and you can even run towards it with him. Once he has hold of it, however, you need to lure him back. To do that, hold up a mouth watering treat in your hand.
Call his name to bring him back and once he catches sight of his favorite treat he’ll probably quickly come charging back towards you. Do not give him the treat until he drops the toy first. Be patient, it may take him a little while to catch on to start with. Now practice this for a few minutes each day and Buddy will soon get into the habit of retrieving the ball and dropping it.
By James Barra
Published: 03/09/2018, edited: 01/08/2021