We often see dogs happily chasing balls and bringing them back to their owners. And while a game of fetch may come naturally to some, others have quirky fetching habits like running away with the ball or not even wanting to fetch at all.
How to teach a dog to fetch with a few common situations:
The Problem: My dog fetches the ball, but drops it 15 feet away instead of bringing it back to me.
The Solution: Patience! When your dog drops the ball out of your reach, don’t go for it. Instead, motion to your dog to pick up the ball and move it closer. Repeat this if necessary until your dog is touching your hand with the ball. This will likely cause a bit of frustration in your dog, and that’s OK. You’re trying to reward small steps toward your end goal, which is putting the ball in your hand.
So let’s say you’re starting with your dog regularly dropping the ball 15 feet from your hand. Only throw the ball when he brings it a little closer, let’s say 10 feet away. Then wait until he drops it five feet away. Finally, wait until your dog puts the ball right in your hand to throw it again.
The Problem: My dog won’t drop the ball at all or worse, makes me chase him all over the yard with it.
The Solution: Use a second ball. Some dogs think fetch is fun because they get to play with you, while other dogs think it’s fun because they get to play with the ball. If your dog thinks you’re the fun part of fetch, you likely don’t have this problem. But if your dog thinks that toys are more fun than you, you’ve got to change his mind!
To make yourself more fun, try using two balls or toys instead of one. Toss one toy to your dog, and when he picks it up, immediately play exuberantly with the other toy. When your dog drops the first toy or comes to you to investigate what’s going on, immediately throw the other toy. Repeat this until your dog is chasing the first toy and immediately looking at you for what kind of fun antics you’re up to.
If your dog doesn’t care to join your game, restrict the amount of space that he has to play on his own by working in a small room or with a leash tethered to a doorknob or sturdy table. Another way to make this game more exciting is to utilize new toys that your dog hasn’t played with before.
The Problem: My dog doesn’t like to fetch at all!
The Solution: Train a formal retrieve. While some dogs are natural retrievers, others can’t seem to be bothered by this silly game. If your dog falls into the latter category, you may be able to teach him to enjoy retrieving by making it into a training game. Using a clicker and some treats, begin by clicking and rewarding your dog for touching the ball with his nose. When he’s got that down pat, withhold your click until he puts his mouth around the ball in your hand. Then graduate to having your dog pick up the ball, and eventually put some distance to this by having your dog track out away from you to pick up the ball and return it to you!
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