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How To Teach Your Dog To Fetch: A Step-By-Step Guide

How To Teach Your Dog To Fetch

Some dogs, like retrievers, may naturally enjoy playing fetch without much training. But not all dogs get the hang of it right away. The great thing is, you can teach almost any dog to play fetch! While it might take a bit of time and patience for some dogs to learn, fetch is an awesome game for you and your furry friend to enjoy together. We’ll guide you through step-by-step on how to teach your dog to fetch, offer tips if you run into any challenges, and provide lots of helpful advice along the way.

Before You Begin Training

First, gather the things you need to start training:

  •  
    Your dog’s favorite toy or ball
  •  
    Small training treats (like Zuke’s Mini Naturals)
  •  
    Your clicker if you’re using one for fetch training (you can learn more about clicker training)

It’s also helpful if your dog already knows basic commands like “sit” and “drop it.” This makes training easier and faster.

During training, remember to be patient and use positive reinforcement. Give your dog lots of enthusiastic praise when they do well. Never use a harsh voice, negative body language, or punishment if your dog struggles. These can be harmful to your furry friend.

How To Train A Dog To Fetch: Step-By-Step

Let’s start training in a small, quiet place with not too many things going on. This makes it easier for your dog to pay attention and less likely for them to run off with their toy. Once you both get the hang of it, you can try playing outside or at the dog park. Also, it’s a good idea to keep training sessions short, around 10-15 minutes per day, especially if your dog is still a puppy.

#1.Get Your Dog Interested In The Toy

 

For some dogs, getting excited about a toy comes naturally, but others may need a little encouragement.

Sit close to your pup and move the toy around in an exciting way to catch their attention. You might need to roll it around or toss it gently to make it more fun.

When your pup grabs the toy, give them praise or use a clicker if you’re using one, and give them a treat to show them they did a great job.

Let them play with the toy for a bit, then toss another treat in front of them so they’ll let go of the toy to eat the treat.

Repeat this process as needed until you can see that your pup is excited about the toy.

Expert Tip: If your dog doesn’t seem interested in one toy, try offering a different type. Some dogs prefer balls, while others might like squeaky plush toys or rope toys better.

#2. Teach Your Dog The “Drop It” Command

 

Now, let’s work on teaching your dog to drop the toy, which is the final step in fetch. This is a good time to practice the “take it” and “drop it” commands.

  • Get your dog interested in the toy by waving it in front of their face.
  • Say “take it” and let your dog grab the toy.
  • After a few seconds, say “drop it.” You may need to hold a treat near your dog’s nose to encourage them to let go of the toy.
  • When your dog drops the toy, give them the treat and praise them.
  • Repeat this process until your dog reliably drops the toy when you say “drop it” and show them a treat.
  • Once your dog understands the command, try giving it without showing them a treat first. If they drop the toy, give them a treat from your pocket and praise them.
  • If your dog doesn’t drop the toy without seeing the treat, give the command, wait a few seconds, and then show them the treat.
  • Gradually increase the time between giving the command and showing the treat until your dog learns to drop the toy without expecting a treat right away.

Expert Tip: Slowly increase the amount of time your dog holds the toy before you say “drop it.” This helps them understand that it’s okay to hold onto the toy for longer periods.

#3. Make Your Dog Chase The Toy

 

Many dogs naturally chase after a ball or toy, but some may need a little push. Begin by tossing the toy a short distance. You might need to run alongside your pup at first to show them how exciting it is to chase after it. Keep practicing until your dog starts chasing the toy on their own. Then, gradually increase the distance you throw the toy as they become more comfortable with the game.

#4. Condition Your Dog To Bring The Toy Back

 

This part of teaching fetch can be tricky, so be patient. It might take a while for your dog to get the hang of it, and it can also be challenging to figure out how to teach a puppy to bring a ball back.

  1. Start by throwing the toy a short distance. Your pup might pick it up right away, or you might need to tell them to “take it” until they understand.
  2. Once your dog grabs the toy, call them back to you with a cue like “bring” or “come.” You might need to wave your arms excitedly while you walk backward.
  3. When your pup comes back to you with the toy, tell them to “drop it” and give them lots of praise, clicks, and treats.
  4. Ask your dog to sit so they don’t jump up to get the toy.
  5. Repeat these steps until your dog understands the return cue. They’ll catch on because they know they’ll get rewarded when they bring the toy back.

Overcoming Common Hurdles Teaching fetch can be a journey, and some dogs need extra time to catch on. Here are tips for handling common hiccups along the way.

If Your Dog Prefers Chase While chasing is fun, fetch time isn’t the moment for it. If your dog grabs the toy and dashes off, turn your back and walk away. This signals that the game stops if they don’t bring the toy back. Usually, the pup will return seeking your attention. If not, take a break and try again later.

If Retrieval is the Issue Two common fetch hurdles are dogs refusing to return the toy or dropping it midway. To tackle this, try using two toys or a toy and treats. Show only one toy, throw it, then reveal the second toy once they’ve picked up the first. Ideally, they’ll want the second toy, encouraging them to bring the first one back. You can also try this with treats. Over time, they’ll learn that returning the toy leads to rewards, and you can phase out the extra toy or treats.

When Fetch Just Isn’t Their Thing If your dog isn’t into fetch, don’t fret. Try different toys; maybe they prefer something else. But if they still don’t engage, it’s okay. Not all dogs are keen on fetch, and that’s perfectly normal. You’re not failing as a pet parent; it’s just a matter of preference. Keep bonding with your pup in other ways that they enjoy. Whether it’s a game of two-toy fetch or something entirely different, what matters is the time spent together.

What If My Dog Doesn’t Like Fetch?

Don’t lose hope! Experiment with different types of toys. Your dog might prefer certain ones over others. But if fetch still doesn’t click for them, don’t stress. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad pet parent or that your pup has a problem. Some dogs just aren’t into toys or fetch, and that’s perfectly okay.

Even if your dog loves playing with toys, they might not find fetch exciting, and that’s fine too. While it’s a fun activity for many dogs, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. You can still bond with your furry friend through other games or activities they enjoy. Whether it’s a two-toy game or something entirely different, what matters most is the quality time you spend together.

Best Fetch Toys

If your dog isn’t thrilled about fetch with the usual toys, it might be time to try something different to amp up the fun. On the flip side, if your furry friend adores fetch, they’ll likely go crazy for these toys. Here are some of the top-rated fetch toys we highly recommend:

Do You Need Help With Training?

If teaching your dog new tricks or dealing with certain behaviors feels tough, you might want to try an online dog training course or app. They’re affordable and run by professional trainers. These courses cover everything from basic commands like sit and stay to more complex issues like leash pulling or aggression. Some even let you chat with certified trainers online.

Remember: This info is for training purposes only and shouldn’t replace professional help. Always consult experts like your vet or a trainer for specific advice. Products and services mentioned are from third parties, and we don’t guarantee how well they work or how safe they are. We’re just here to help you learn!

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