Fetch is one of the most common games for dogs, and it can be immensely enjoyable for breeds that are meant to retrieve game – such as Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, or Kelpie Cross Labradors. However, any dog can play fetch, and it’s an easy way to give your dog some great exercise.
It’s a relatively easy task to teach, but it does require some patience and consistency. The following steps will help you teach your dog the basics of fetching.
How to Teach Your Dog to Fetch
Establish a Cue
Before attempting to train your dog to fetch, it’s important that they understand the cue or command you want them to follow. This can be anything from “fetch” or “get it” as long as you remain consistent with what you say.
Use treats or verbal praise when they respond correctly so they know this is what you want them to do.
Start with an Object
Choose an object that is easy for your dog to grab onto such as a tennis ball, Frisbee, or even a stuffed toy. Show your dog the object and give them the cue while pointing at it. When they take the object in their mouth, offer lots of verbal praise and a treat if desired.
Repeat this several times until they understand that when you give the cue, it means they need to pick up the object.
Teaching Them to Bring It Back
Once your dog has mastered picking up the object, start teaching them how to bring it back. Hold out your hand and give them the cue again while saying something like “bring me!” If they come closer but don’t drop the object yet, gently reach for their collar and encourage them forward with verbal praise and treats if desired.
When they drop it in your hand, offer more praise and reward them with a treat if appropriate.
As your dog gets better at bringing back the object, begin increasing the distance between you two by throwing it further away each time. As soon as they pick up on what you want them to do, offer lots of verbal praise and reward them with a treat once they return with it in their mouth.
Keep repeating this process until your dog is able to fetch the toy no matter how far you throw it. Just keep the distance manageable, as throwing it too far may send your dog into an unsafe situation!
After mastering all of these basic steps, try adding some variations into the mix. You can use different kinds of objects such as sticks or rocks instead of toys so that your dog practices using their nose instead of just their eyes when searching for things.
You may also even throw multiple smaller toys at once, and try to get your dog to fetch them all before returning. Some toys are also designed to bounce unexpectedly, making your dog have to work to keep up with the unusual trajectory of the toy.
Remember to Have Fun
Ultimately, playing fetch should be enjoyable for both you and your dog – so make sure you’re having fun while doing it. Keep things interesting and keep your dog engaged during each session of playing together. If they seem uninterested at any point during a game of fetch don’t push them; instead, take a break and come back later when they are ready once again.
You don’t need to have marathon play sessions, as shorter, more focused play sessions tend to be more effective for dogs who get distracted easily.
With some patience and dedication, teaching your dog how to fetch is possible for any dog of any breed or pedigree. With consistent practice sessions throughout each day – including plenty of positive reinforcement – soon enough they’ll be bringing back all kinds of objects on command.
Just remember that every dog learns differently so don’t get discouraged if progress doesn’t happen immediately. Keep working at it until both of you are happy with their progress. Good luck!