Today we are going to discuss my favorite lesson, the game of fetch. I have been training dogs for almost a decade now and I never get tired of teaching fetch. It is as enjoyable for me as it is for them. The process is not that complicated but these few guidelines will make learning “the game” for your pup that much easier.
Dogs will naturally chase a ball or stick but the return part is the tricky part for some dogs. Many would rather you chase them instead of returning the ball to continue the game of fetch.
There are 4 steps to the fetch game.
- Throw and chase the the ball
- Return the ball
- Drop the ball
- Wait until the ball is thrown again
I break this down because each step is a teaching moment and requires your dog to think. When a dog thinks it releases more energy and tires the dog out quicker.
- Throw and Chase – Most dogs do this natural but some dogs may not understand what a ball is so we have to introduce it to them in a fun way. Get your energy up and be excited about the ball. Bounce it so it doesn’t go to far above eye level for your dog so he doesn’t lose site of it. Also roll it around in front of him at different speeds but don’t let it go too far away. The key is keep it within his reach so he doesn’t lose interest.
- Return the Ball – This part takes a little practice. In the beginning I suggest throwing the ball in a short hallway or any area that is somewhat narrow so that the dog has little chance to avoid you and start the chasing game. This way when you call your dog to return, using an excited positive voice, (use same word every time) he will eventually come to you. When he comes to you always give him lots of praise and love.
- Drop It – Once your dog returns the ball to you, you want to put your hand below his mouth with your palm facing up and say the command drop it. If he doesn’t understand that’s okay, simply hold the ball while it is in his mouth (don’t try to tug on it or pull it away from him ) and repeat the command until he releases the ball. You must wait, if he shrugs and runs away simply try again until you achieve the desired result. This takes some patience and practice but he will eventually get it. Doing this exercise in a hallway first is key because he simply has nowhere else to go and will figure out what you’re asking quicker.
- Wait for the throw – This is the icing on the cake. It is not required for the game but I like to include it because it makes your dog concentrate and work for his reward of fetch. Once your dog drops the ball, have him sit and wait till either the ball is thrown or you release him from the sit after the ball is thrown. Its your choice.
Remember the most important part of this game is to have fun and bond with your dog!