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Imagine your pup racing across your backyard with a ball in his mouth and then proudly delivering that ball into your hand. Now image your dog racing across a field of grass with a bird that you have just shot down in his mouth, and delivering that bird into your hand. As a pointing and retrieving breed, your Vizsla was born for such activities. You may or may not hunt with your buddy, but either way retrieving is still an excellent skill to teach him. Teaching your pup how to bring something back to you and to deliver it into your hand is essential for both bird hunting and playing ball with your pup. It can also be a useful skill if you would like for Fido to bring you the morning paper when it gets tossed into your yard.
When your dog knows how to retrieve you can teach him a number of related tricks, you can exercise him efficiently in your own yard, and you can teach him more advanced skills, like bird hunting. As a sporting breed, your dog probably thrives when he gets to participate in such activities and he is much happier when retrieving is a regular part of his life.
Some dogs are naturally more interested in movement and retrieving than others. If your pup is not interested in the ball at first, then try substituting the ball for a Frisbee or a favorite tug or stuffed toy. Spend extra time making the toy seem alive and fun for your dog by moving the toy around. Get him excited about the toy before you throw it, and act very excited about the game yourself.
You might have to try more than one method before you find which method is best for your dog. If your pup has a strong chase instinct, then 'The Run Away Method' will probably work very well. If your pup loves to take the ball and run away from you, then 'The Long Leash Method' is probably the best one to use. If your pup loves to play with you and be with you, then 'The Goofy Method' will probably work well and be a lot of fun for him.
To get started you will need a calm, safely enclosed location, such as a fenced-in yard, a ball or a Frisbee, lots of small, easy to eat treats that your buddy loves, and something to place the treats into to hold them for you, such as a treat pouch or a small Ziploc bag placed in your pocket. You will also need patience, enthusiasm, and a willingness to have fun.
If you are using 'The Goofy Method' then you will also need a good sense of humor and the ability to let loose and have a lot of fun while being silly. If you are using 'The Long Leash Method' then you will also need a thirty-foot leash, a padded back clip harness, a second ball or Frisbee, and good timing. If you are using 'The Run Away Method' then you will also need excitement and the space and ability to run away from your buddy.
The Goofy Method
To begin, grab lots of small treats that your pup loves and are easy for him to eat. Grab something to place them into to keep them close by, such as a treat pouch or a small Ziploc bag placed into your pocket, and grab a ball or a Frisbee. Take Fido to a spacious, calm, safely enclosed area, such as a fenced-in yard.
When you are set up, get your dog's attention by showing him the ball, then toss the ball a few feet away. As soon as he picks up the ball tell him "Fetch!" in an excited tone of voice, then jump up and down, wave your arms around, and generally act excited and fun to encourage him to come back over to you.
Hold a treat
As soon as he comes over to you with the ball in his mouth, tell him to "Drop it", then hold a treat against his nose and place your other hand underneath his mouth until he drops the ball into your hand in order to get the treat.
Return to the ball
If your dog drops the ball before he gets to you, then run over to the ball and kick it or toss it a few inches away until your pup picks it up again. When he picks it up again, then back up quickly, tell him to "Fetch" in an excited tone of voice, and act silly until he comes over to you with the ball. Do this whenever he drops the ball.
After your pup brings the ball to you, when he drops it into your hand throw it again and then repeat the rest of the process all over again. Repeat throwing the ball, telling him to 'fetch', acting silly, telling him to 'drop it' when he brings the ball to you, and holding the treat against his nose. Repeat all of this until he will bring the ball to you when you tell him to fetch and will drop it into your hand when you tell him to drop it, even when you do not act silly and do not hold a treat against his nose. Always end each training session on a positive note, while he is still interested in playing.
When your pup will retrieve the ball consistently and drop it into your hand when you tell him to, then enjoy playing fetch with your pup regularly!
The Long Leash Method
To begin, grab a thirty-foot leash, a padded back clip harness, two similar balls or Frisbees, treats that your pup loves, and something to place them in to keep them with you, such as a treat pouch or a small bag inside your pocket. Go to a spacious, safely enclosed area with your Vizsla, such as a fenced-in yard.
When you are all set up, then put the harness on your pup and attach the long leash to the back clip of the harness. Get your pup's attention by showing him one of the balls. Toss the ball a few feet away, and as soon as he picks up the ball tell him to "Fetch" in an upbeat, happy tone of voice, and gently but quickly reel him in with the long leash.
Hold the ball
When he arrives, grab hold of the ball in his mouth with one hand, tell him "Drop it", and then show him the ball in your other hand. Hold onto the ball in his mouth until he becomes bored and drops it to get the other ball. Do not force the ball out of his mouth. If he begins to tug on the ball, the simply pull him a little closer toward you with the long leash and then stand still so that he becomes bored again.
Toss the second ball
As soon as your pup drops the ball in his mouth, praise him and throw the other ball a few feet away.
After your pup picks up the second ball, then repeat telling him to 'fetch', reeling him in, holding onto the ball while you tell him to 'drop it' and show him the other ball, and then throwing the other ball. Repeat all of this until he will come back when you tell him to fetch without you having to reel him in, and will drop the ball when you tell him to, without you showing him another ball.
When Fido will retrieve the ball when you tell him to fetch without you having to reel him in, and will drop the ball when you tell him to drop it without you having to show him another ball, then practice both commands until he will do both consistently. When he will respond to both commands consistently, then you can play fetch off-leash in a safely enclosed area and use only one ball. When you end each game of fetch with your buddy, after telling your pup to drop the ball for the last time that day, then give him a treat or a chew toy in exchange for the ball, to avoid him becoming possessive of the ball in the future.
The Run Away Method
To begin, grab lots of small, easy to eat treats that your pup loves, and a ball. Go to a calm, spacious, safely enclosed area with your dog.
When you are all set up, call your pup over to you and show him the ball. Toss the ball a few feet away from you, and as soon as he picks it up tell him "Fetch!" in an excited voice, and run away from him.
Tempt with a treat
As soon as your pup catches up to you with the ball in his mouth, praise him, place a treat against his nose, tell him "Drop It", and hold your other hand underneath his mouth to catch the ball when he drops it in order to eat the treat.
Go back for the ball
If your pup drops the ball while he is running after you, then run toward the ball and kick it around a little bit, until he picks it up again. When he picks it up again, then run away from him again until he catches up with you with the ball still in his mouth. Repeat this every time that he drops the ball before reaching you.
After your pup has brought the ball to you, dropped it into your hand, and eaten his treat, then toss the ball for him again and repeat the entire process over again. Repeat throwing the ball, telling him to fetch it, running away from him, praising him when he catches up with you, placing a treat against his nose, and telling him to drop it. Do this until your pup will bring the ball back to you when you tell him "Fetch", even when you do not run away from him, and will drop the ball into your hand when you tell him "Drop It", even when you do not have a treat.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 04/30/2018, edited: 01/08/2021