How to Teach a Dog to Fetch
Not all dogs know how to fetch things. They are unlike Retrievers and other dogs that seem to have a talent for fetching objects straight from puppyhood. This does not mean that you cannot help your dog learn how to do it. If you can picture yourself enjoying a lazy afternoon playing a game of fetch with your dog in the backyard, then you can motivate yourself to train your dog. Like everything else, there are many ways in which you can train a dog to fetch things. However, to simplify things, we will share with you simple tips on how to teach a dog to fetch.
Train Your Dog the “Sit” Command
The “sit” command is something that all dogs should be able to perform to a certain level of mastery. The key takeaway here is for your dog to always start any activity in a calm and relaxed state. Sure, the dog can start an activity standing up on all fours. However, the general consensus is that a dog is calmer and more relaxed if it is in a sitting position. Hence, do everything you can to teach your dog the “sit” command first before you start learning how to teach a dog to fetch.
Teach Your Dog the Recall or “Come” Command
The “come” command is also important in a game of fetch. The idea here is for you to make sure that the dog will come back to you after grabbing the fetch toy with its mouth. One reaction that you don’t want your dog to do is to run away with the fetch toy. If it does, then issuing the “come” command should help it run back to you. However, if it hasn’t mastered this command yet, then there’s a chance that it will run off with the fetch toy. If such is the case, then you will not have a game of fetch, but a game of catch-me-if-you-can.
Pick the Right Fetch Toy to Use
Whenever you are teaching a dog anything, it is important to use the right tool for the activity. In this case, an appropriate fetch toy is a must. Unfortunately, different pet owners may have a different take on what constitutes an “appropriate” fetch toy. For some, it often means using a piece of ordinary stick. Others may use old tennis balls. Some may also improvise on what they can use in how to teach a dog to fetch.
Whatever the case, it is important that you pick a fetch toy that is both sturdy and pet-safe. Dogs will use their mouth to pick the fetch toy from the ground or floor. Hence, you do not want this item to be leaching harmful chemicals into your dog’s mouth. Furthermore, you would want the item to last as long as possible. If you have a heavy chewer in your midst, then you have to pick a fetch toy that will not disintegrate in a flash.
Introduce the Fetch Toy to Your Dog
Most dogs will not require any introduction to their fetch toy. They somehow already “know” what to do with it. For instance, if you show them a fetch toy, some dogs will almost immediately stand up and show interest in what you have. Others, however, need a little coaxing. Don’t worry, though, as this is quite easy.
The trick here is to always associate a desired dog action with something pleasant. If your dog is like majority of dogs, then it should respond well with yummy treats. We also recommend using a training clicker to mark the desired behavior. As an alternative, you can use a verbal cue or verbal marker. However, it is crucial that you show consistency in the use of the verbal cue. Do not keep on changing the verbal marker; lest, you confuse your pet.
Bring out your chosen fetch toy and present it to your dog. Place it on the floor. If your dog notices it or looks at it, mark the behavior and give your dog its reward. Do this several times. Every time that your dog “looks” at the fetch toy, mark the behavior and reward your dog. With several sessions, your dog will learn that looking at the fetch toy will bring a tasty reward.
Now, try to up the ante a bit. Place the same fetch toy on the floor. Your dog will look at it, but hold out your clicker. For the dog, this will look strange. Hence, it will try to “interact” closer with the fetch toy. The dog will try to sniff the fetch toy. If it does, mark the behavior and reward the dog. Again, practice this step several times. Your dog has to learn that it needs to interact more with the fetch toy if it wants a yummy treat.
The next step is to encourage your pet to grab the fetch toy using its mouth. You can employ the same tactic as above, enticing the dog to do more with the toy than simply sniffing it. Sooner or later it will try to open its mouth and grab the fetch toy. If it does this, then mark the behavior and pretend as if you are the happiest pet parent in the world.
Start Playing a Game of Fetch
Always start playing with a game of fetch indoors where it is safer and you have better control of variables. Command your dog to sit beside you. Now, throw the fetch toy about 3 to 5 feet from you. The response you want is for your dog to go straight to the fetch toy and grab it using its mouth. If it does, then you should mark the behavior and reward the dog.
But, you’re not done yet. Call your dog or issue the command “come”. It should return to you with the fetch toy still in its mouth. As always, mark and reward if the dog comes back to you.
Teaching your dog to play fetch is not that difficult. However, it is best to start with the basic obedience commands. From here, you can then incorporate other commands necessary to complete the game of fetch with your dog.