A classic game of ‘fetch’ is probably one of the first images that come to mind when the majority of people picture playing with a dog. Spending hours tossing a ball or frisbee for our canine companions and having them return it, eager and waiting to give chase again, is one of the simple pleasures that makes dog ownership so worthwhile. Not only is playing fetch an excellent way to keep your dog fit and healthy, but it is also great at building a solid bond between dog and owner.
Although the instinct to chase and retrieve is deeply embedded in a dog’s genes, there are some dogs that don’t understand the game of fetch. Whilst most dogs will naturally play fetch the ‘correct’ way, there are others who may chase the ball after it has been thrown, but will not then bring it back, whilst there are others who will just stare at their owners with a confused look because they are not sure why their human keeps throwing their toy!
If you’re having trouble playing fetch with your dog, don’t fret. In this article we will provide all of the information that you need to successfully teach your dog how to fetch.
Picking the Right Toy
One of the first things that you need to consider is choosing the right toy. Many dogs are extremely picky when it comes to the types of toys that they will play fetch with. Some are fine with a simple old tennis ball, but there are others that need something a little more amusing. Experiment with a variety of toys in order to discover which ones excite your dog the most. Some popular options include frisbees, rubber toys, squeaky toys and plush animals.
When choosing a toy for your dog to fetch, you should take care to avoid any that they could accidentally swallow. In addition, you should not use something that is edible, such as rawhide. If a frisbee is their toy of choice, do not use one that was specifically made for humans as these are often quite hard and can chip or damage their teeth. There are plenty of soft frisbees that are made just for dogs available at any good pet store.
If you find that your dog does not like to put toys in their mouth, try soaking it in chicken stock first. This will entice them to go after the toy because of the delicious smell and taste. When they finally go after it, reward them with lots of praise and one of their favourite treats. Eventually, they will figure out that putting the toy in their mouth is fun and they will want to keep doing it.
What If Your Dog Doesn’t Chase?
If your problem is that your dog doesn’t run after what you’ve thrown, you need to begin by teaching them the basics. If they enjoy playing tug-of-war, teach them to retrieve the toy so that they can play tug-of-war with it. Start by playing the game with them as usual, then proceed to remove the toy from their mouth and throw it just a few inches away, tossing it a little further away again when they try to go for it. If they stare at you rather than going after the toy, shake it around on the floor to make it desirable again. Soon, they will continue to go after the toy whenever you throw it and then you’ll be able to start throwing it much further for a true game of fetch.
If your dog doesn’t especially enjoy tug-of-war, don’t worry, as they can still learn to play fetch as well! All you have to do is show them that they will get a yummy treat if they bring back the toy. Begin by throwing the toy a few inches away. Encourage them to go after it with an excited tone of voice and by waving your hands towards it. When they go towards it, praise them more and give them a treat! Repeat this process but gradually throw it farther whilst encouraging them to come back to you by holding a treat in your hand. Continue giving them treats while they are learning. Once they learn how to fetch, they will enjoy the game itself without expecting a treat after each round.
Dogs Who Don’t Bring the Toy Back
If your dog has no problem chasing after the toy but doesn’t bring it back to you, there is a simple solution that involves using two identical toys. Show your dog one of those toys, and then proceed to throw it. The instant they pick it up, show them the other toy and make it look like you are going to toss it in the opposite direction, which will make them run back to you. Repeat this sequence several times as it will get them use to picking up a toy and running back towards you. Next, call their name when they go to pick up the first toy, but do not show them the second toy. They will then run towards you, hopefully, with the toy still in their mouth. Use the “drop it” command when they get close, and show them the second toy. They will drop the first toy in order to go after the second one. This game will super easy for a dog to pick up and it will also tire them out fairly quickly. With a little bit of practice, your dog will learn that they should be picking up the toy and bringing it right back to you. At this point, you can play the classic game of fetch without the need of the second identical toy.
Teaching your dog the ‘rules’ of fetch requires both time and patience. Some dogs will take to it like a duck to water, whilst others won’t get it right away and will need much more help from you. Puppies will be easier to teach, though older dogs are perfectly capable of learning how to fetch, and can be trained with plenty of repetition and praise.
Do your best to practice several times each day, and at least two to three times per week. The more time that you are able to spend practicing with them, the quicker your dog will learn to fetch. Keep training sessions short and frequent, and keep them as fun as possible in order to keep them excited about what you are teaching them. When you stick to the techniques described in this article, you’ll be enjoying great games of fetch with your dog in no time!