How to Train a Poodle to Fetch

Easy
1-6 Days
Fun

Introduction

Poodles are very intelligent dogs that enjoy both mental and physical stimulation through training and exercise. Training your Poodle to fetch is a great way to do both--and give her a skill that will come in handy for life.

Poodles can be high strung, so being able to take her out in the yard and wear her out with a half hour of vigorous fetch definitely has its advantages! Plus, many Poodles end up loving fetch so much that it can become a reward used to train other behaviors later.

It will not be difficult to teach your Poodle this simple trick. Our guide will cover three different methods for training this trick. In most cases, your Poodle can learn this fun game in a few short sessions. However, play often and keep the energy high and exciting if you want fetch to become a favorite game. 

Defining Tasks

Identify Motivators

What works to motivate your dog to train? Does she like little bits of turkey or will she work for some kibble? It is important to find some food rewards that keep her engaged in the learning process. Food motivators are great because they can be repeated often without disrupting the flow of training.

Even though it is easiest to start training new behavior with food, you can taper off food rewards once a behavior is fully learned. This is particularly true for fetch, which is so fun that it will become a reward on its own after some practice.

Get the Right Ball

If your Poodle is not interested in the tennis ball, try a different kind of ball. Or, rub a little of his favorite food on the ball and try again. Sometimes you can start to teach fetch with a plush toy, switching to a tennis ball once the game is fully learned. Poodles can be a little picky about what they put in their mouths--they have dignity after all! 

Getting Started

Focus on Success

You do not have to use any punishment to teach fetch to your Poodle. In fact, punishment during training sessions is very likely to cause your Poodle to disengage from your attempts to teach her, given their sensitive personalities. Instead, consider it your job to make sure your Poodle is getting lots of opportunities for success and that you move your expectations only as fast as she is ready to oblige. You can just ignore failures.

Clicker Training

One of the methods we will show you in this guide uses clickers, the preferred training tool of choice for most professional trainers. They are very inexpensive and can be purchased at your local pet store for just a few dollars.

They make a clicking sound when you squeeze the button. This sound acts to “mark” the behavior that you like and is always followed by a reward. You can also just use a special sound such as a whistle or word that you only use for training--always followed by a food reward.

The Clicker Method

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Step
1
Interesting ball
Sit on the floor with your Poodle and get the ball out, acting like that ball is the most interesting thing you have ever seen. Drop it on the floor, letting it roll just a few feet.
Step
2
Reward nose touch
If she goes to touch it with her nose, click/treat. Wait a few seconds and if she noses it again, click/treat. Repeat 10-20 times.
Step
3
Raise the bar
Over time, you want to use the fact that she is expecting the click/treat to try to get more and more aggressive nosing of the ball until she puts it in her mouth. Over time, you will gradually raise your expectations as she gets closer and closer to an eventual fetch. This can take anywhere from 20-50 repeats and may take a few sessions.
Step
4
Distance
Once your Poodle is retrieving reliably with the ball close, start to add some distance to this game. Remember to keep sessions short so that she doesn’t get bored.
Step
5
Outside
After she has the basics down, you can move the fetch game outside to practice with even longer distances. Make sure that you are happy with her retrieve before rewarding. Fade rewards over time, choosing the top 10% to reward.
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The Two Balls Method

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Step
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Ball one
Do you have a Poodle that loves a ball so much that he refuses to let it go once he has it? This is the right method to train him fetch. Grab two balls and toss one on the ground, letting your Poodle get it.
Step
2
Ball two
Then take the second ball and make sure he knows you have it, and that it really is a better ball. Play a little keep away and get his attention on this new ball. Once he comes over to investigate he will probably drop the first ball.
Step
3
Two ball fetch
Make a loud and immediate praising sound, followed by throwing the ball in your hand with some degree of excitement. Praise when he gets the new ball and be sure to get the other ball in hand before he returns. Repeat the last few steps until you are playing fetch with two balls.
Step
4
The toss becomes the reward
In most cases, the chase after the toss becomes the most rewarding part of the game. For many Poodles, this means that you are really just about done training this game because the throw of the second ball is the reward for retrieving and dropping the first.
Step
5
Single ball fetch
You can transition to using a single ball later by teaching “Drop it!” and using another reward such as food until your Poodle understands that only letting go of the ball at your feet gets him a new toss for a fast and fun retrieve.
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The String Ball Method

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Step
1
Setting up
Playful Toy Poodles are often a bit more timid with fetch than their larger cousins. This innovative way to teach fetch is great for small Poodles that may not be very interested in the ball at all. Start by finding the right size ball and poke a hole on both sides. String a long piece of yarn, 15-20’, through it. Secure it with some knots.
Step
2
String toy
Using the string, pull the ball around like a cat toy, getting your Poodle interested in the ball. Keep ramping up the energy of the game, trying to get her so excited that she picks up the ball with her mouth.
Step
3
Praise and reward
At this point, give her some verbal praise, followed by a small food reward. Repeat 10-20 times.
Step
4
Raise the bar
You want to gradually start raising the bar; praising and rewarding the next step closer to an eventual fetch. For example, start by rewarding the ball in her mouth, followed by a step towards you, followed by a few steps, and finally only praising and rewarding when she brings the ball to you and drops it at your feet.
Step
5
Practice
Now you have trained your Poodle to fetch and you can remove the yarn. You will want to add some distance and practice before taking the training to a more distracting environment such as outside. With plenty of practice and fun, fetch will be its own fun game and a reward all on its own. In fact, you can even use a quick toss of the ball as a reward for other behavior you want to train down the line.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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