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When you first get a dog, if from a pup, training is part of your dog growing and maturing. As your dog ages, they become more active and then you take them outside. Dogs love to play with sticks and balls. You start to feel that little bit of excitement as you can now start to teach your dog how to fetch. It should be simple. Your dog loves his ball / stick, he loves bring it to you, he loves it when you throw it. Teaching a dog to fetch is going to be easy. Right? Think again...
Fetch is quite a frustrating game.
We play fetch with Ralph, in the house, 5 yard throws. He retrieves the ball, brings it to us and refuses to let go. He sometimes doesn’t even bother getting it and you have to fetch yourself. Great, I have trained myself to fetch or my 3 year old son anyway).
We go outside, we throw the ball, straight to the bottom of the garden annnnndddd, Ralph is stood behind us, staring, wondering why we have thrown the ball so far away.
Several days pass by and we continue to try this then suddenly one day, Ralph bolts out the door and straight to the ball. Picks it up and comes trotting back, one proud dog. He has the ball and brought it back to us.
Some dogs are born with the fetch instinct and will just naturally go and get the ball with little training. This is a rarity and most dogs will require a lot of time, patience and plenty of treats. The look of disbelief when you throw the ball so far away is one that most dogs give making you feel like a bad owner.
Starting out, you may want to get an indestructible dog toy as dogs who dont like to fetch will try to destroy any dog toy you provide them. These toys are great for fetch and play times and will last throughout your training.
Once your dog has mastered fetch, then why not treat them to an automatic fetch machine. This will then free up your time as you won’t need to throw and retrieve the ball. Some even treat your dog for you.
To help with Teaching a Dog to Fetch I have provided a few tips below to help with the process.
1) Motivational Treats
Struggling to get your dog to chase the object you want them to fetch? There are three ways to help improve this. As your the only person that knows your dog there are several ways to stop your dog just sitting and staring. Offering affection, regular treats for retrieving or some fun play time after the object has been retrieved.
However you wish you motivate your dog, you should use this to continue to drive encouragement towards the item your dog should be fetching. Once your dog has retrieved the item, reward him then remove the object from them. Continue the same process several times, throwing the object just a short distance until your dog starts to immediately retrieve without encouragement.
Next step to improving the fetching process is restraint. Your dog should have mastered step one and will continue to return with the object thrown. Try holding your dog while you throw the ball / stick for your dog to fetch. You should feel your dog trying to escape your grasp and pushing/pulling you to get loose. Once you release the dog, they will be off at the speed of light, chasing the object. Again, reward with a treat and extra encouragement once they return.
3) Bringing Back the Object
Training your dog to bring the object back to you all depends on your dogs behaviour. Some dogs will naturally bring the object back once you shout them. Other dogs will run to the object and then leave it there and come back or just sit chewing it. There are a couple of things you can do to ensure your dog brings the object back to you and then drops it to allow you to throw it again.
When your dog has reached the object, try calling them back. If they don’t return, get a second toy or a treat and shout them. This should encourage them to return. This may still leave the first toy where you threw it but it gets the dog used to returning to you. When your dog has the first toy in their mouth, try the same trick whist its in there mouth. Some dogs will just naturally run back with the object in the mouth.
Alternatively you could throw the second object behind you so they think they have to chase that one. This will get them running back passed you to get the second object.
Once they have mastered running back and forth between you and the object, then try encouraging them to return with the object. Once they have it in there mouth, shout them back / show them the second toy. Once they start to return with the thrown object, reward them. Regular rewards will encourage them to fetch the object more and more. By showing them the treat, they will naturally drop the object too so you can throw it again.
4) Commands to Use
Dogs that fetch do tend to drop the object before returning to you, this can be a pain as you then need to go and fetch the ball or stick yourself. A couple of commands that work with most dogs. “Get it”, “Fetch It”, “Bring It” are three great commands that work. If your dog retrieves the object and brings back then reward them. This is a great way of encouraging. Also naming the object too i.e. “Ball” or “Stick” before throwing and when retrieving will help the dog understand. So when you ant them to find it, you can just say “Ball” and they should return with the ball.
5) Finally and most importantly;
Picking a toy or object your dog likes is THE most important step to this whole process. Dogs will not chase after a toy they never play with.
By starting the training in house you wil know which item your dog wants to play with most. This is the object to use ALL the time when training.
Regular treats, regular praise and regular encouragement will help this process. Remembering, REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT!!
also check out this amazing video on How to Teach a Dog To Fetch
Good luck with your training and feel free to share your stories.