Four Reasons to Train Your Dog to Fetch – and How to Do It
UPDATE: We’ve recently added a five-video series on teaching your dog to fetch to our Dog Training Distance Coaching Program.
With a name like FetchMasters, it makes sense that we have the ability to train your dog to fetch, as well as opinions on the usefulness of fetching. While all dogs do not enjoy fetching, most either do or can learn to. When dogs have the desire and ability to fetch, it creates some advantages for most dog owners. Here are the four big ones:
- Fetching provides a built-in reward system. When dogs love fetching, they will do just about anything to get you to toss the ball. This makes fetching a perfect reward. For dogs who highly value play, fetching often provides a reward superior to treats.
- Fetching provides great exercise for your dog. When dogs enjoy fetching, they practically wind-sprint to the ball and back. Because of this, fetching provides a great way to burn energy (and calories) quickly.
- Fetching provides a way of play that does not involve putting teeth on humans. Dogs love to play-fight with their owners. Generally, I have no problem with this. However, for some owner, biting during play (regardless of how softly the dog mouths the owner) is just not acceptable. Additionally, allowing guests to play-fight with dogs comes with some potential liability.
- Fetching is great for training impulse control. Once your dog knows how to fetch, you can train your dog to remain still while you are tossing the bumper and retrieving it only when given permission to do so. At first, this is difficult for many dogs. But once they get it, it represents a significant increase in their ability to control their impulses.
How to Train Your Dog to Fetch
Several obstacles can arise when training your dog to fetch. Should you encounter obstacles, feel free to contact us for help. But the following instructions provide an easy approach to get you started.
- Get two tennis balls and be ready to keep things fun. If you are stressed or impatient, you may turn your dog off to fetching. To train your dog to enjoy fetching, it needs to be fun and exciting.
- Toss one tennis ball for your dog. Most dogs will chase the ball, but some will not instinctively pick it up. If your dog does not pick it up, keep trying. Over the course of several days, as your dog becomes more excited about the game, he likely will start picking the ball up. Do not proceed from this step until your dog is picking up the ball.
- Once your dog picks up the ball and looks at you, show him the other ball and start running away from him. Most dogs will sprint to catch you. Your dog may drop the ball before he gets to you. If so, keep practicing this step until he makes it all the way back to you with the ball. As your dog’s love of the ball increases, the longer he will want to keep it in his mouth.
- Once he is bringing the ball all the way back to you, you will want to train your dog to put it into your hand. The easiest way to do this is: as you feel him rapidly coming up behind you, spin around and put your hand right in front of his mouth so that his mouth runs right into your hand (and thus, so does the ball). Grip the ball in his mouth while showing him the second ball. This should cause him to release the ball in his mouth. As soon as he releases it, toss the second ball for him. Continue this step until he understands the whole pattern of behavior.
NOTE 1: If your dog runs after the ball, grabs it, and runs all over the yard trying to keep it from you, practice the above steps with a long-lead attached to the dog. This will allow you to control his movement and coach him into the proper pattern of behavior.
NOTE 2: While this process does not represent how we would train a structured retrieve for a hunting dog, it is an excellent method for getting gun dog puppies started with the retrieving process. And it is a quick, fun way for pet dog owners to teach their dogs this fun game.