HomeNews5 Steps To Teach Your Dog To Fetch

5 Steps To Teach Your Dog To Fetch


While fetch is a beloved game for many dogs, and certain breeds like retrievers seem to be born with a natural affinity for it, it's not universal. Some dogs exhibit little interest in toys or lack the instinct to return them after a toss. In other instances, rescue dogs might not have been exposed to toy play as puppies, leaving them unsure about how to engage with a toy. This can be frustrating for pet owners who look forward to a game of fetch with their dogs, only to see their furry friend sit still or refuse to return the thrown toy.


This blog aims to make the process easier and more enjoyable for both you and your canine companion. Dbpettoy will teach you through the basics, provide useful tips, identify potential pitfalls to avoid, and ultimately help you master the art of this wonderful game.


What You'll Need to Prepare Before the Game


As you embark on this exciting journey of teaching your dog to fetch, you'll need a few essentials. These items are not just designed to facilitate training but also to ensure that your furry friend stays safe and enjoys the learning process. Here's what you'll need:


Proper toys


Teach Your Dog To Fetch

When teaching a dog to fetch, I like to have an array of toys available. This will let you get a feel for what kind of toys your dog is going to like. Some dogs are ball lovers while others prefer plush toys. If your dog is really not toy motivated especially if he is a rescue dog who didn’t have a lot of exposure to toys as a puppy it can help to find toys that have a velcro compartment to put food in can be very helpful. I’ve even used fun fur pencil pouches filled with smelly treats for teaching fetch to dogs who are especially reluctant to put something in his mouth.


Some popular fetch toys include:


  • Standard tennis ball
  • Squeaker footballs or tennis balls
  • Retriever plastic or rubber bumper
  • Discs and flyers made of soft, flexible rubber — especially those that are extra-soft for sensitive mouths or designed to remain flexible in colder weather
  • Rope toys, with rubber attachments
  • Plush dog toys in animal shapes


Durability is also an essential factor, as your dog will give the toy quite a workout. At Depettoy, we pride ourselves on creating durable, engaging, and safe toys for your pet. Our range includes everything from classic balls and durable stuffed toys, all designed with your pet’s interest in mind. Our plush toys are a hit with dogs who prefer a softer catch and dog TPR and rubber toys are durable choices for those who love a good chew. All our toys are designed with durability in mind, ensuring a lasting fetch experience. Try out a few Depettoy options to see which toy excites your dog the most for a fetching good time!


Lots of Treats


Teach Your Dog To Fetch

No matter what skill, game, or trick you are teaching your dog your most essential and effective training tools are great reinforcers to ensure your dog enjoys the learning activity. A reinforcer is something your dog adores, is quite small, and is super easy to give. Pieces of human food, like cheese or low-sodium lunch meat work really well, as do many types of store-bought dog treats made with only dog-friendly ingredients. In the following steps, the word treat means we are using our dog's favorite food reinforcer.




Teach Your Dog To Fetch

A clicker (used in clicker training) is a great example of a marker. If you don't have a clicker you can use a word like "yes" but be sure to pick one word and use it consistently. In this guide, we will use a clicker and wherever we say "click" you will use your marker.


Click (or mark) the very second you see the behavior you want to reinforce. See the behavior, click, and immediately give a treat. Clicker training can be especially useful to help you communicate with your dog in the early stages of teaching the trick.


What If the Dog Isn’t Interested?


Teach Your Dog To Fetch

If your dog doesn’t understand fetch or seems disinterested in retrieving toys, begin with a few basics:


Experiment with different toys


It's possible that your dog isn't intrigued by the toy you're currently using. Experiment with different types of toys - some dogs might prefer balls, others might like frisbees, and some could even prefer soft plush toys. Also, make sure the size of the toy is appropriate for your dog.


Put treats inside of a toy


If your dog is food-motivated, consider using a toy that dispenses treats. This can spark their interest and motivate them to engage with the toy.


Change the Environment


If you always play in the same location, it might get monotonous for your dog. Changing the environment can make the game of fetch more exciting. Try a new park, a beach, or even different areas of your backyard.


Once the dog is interested in the toy, it’s time to start the game of fetch. Start out by throwing the toy a few feet. As your dog catches on, be sure to show your enthusiasm so they want to please you by playing more. Gradually increase the distance you throw the toy until your dog understands the fun of chasing after something.


5 Steps to Teach Your Dog to Fetch


Training your dog to fetch and bring the toy back takes practice! It may also require you to act a bit crazy about the fetch toy to increase your dog's excitement if they aren't too keen on toy play to begin with. Learn more here about how to get your dog interested in toys for fetch.


Let's break down these steps one by one so you can get started with your dog:


Step 1: Build Interest in the Fetching Toy


Teach Your Dog To Fetch

Once you’ve picked out a good toy, introduce it to your dog so they start to get excited about fetch.


Place the toy near you. As your dog gets close to it, click (or say "yes!"), praise, and give a treat.

If they touch their nose to the toy, click, praise heavily, and give treats.


Continue this process until your dog really likes interacting with the toy.


You can increase excitement over the toy by moving it around for your dog to chase or play tug with it. It all depends on what your dog finds fun, so don't be shy in acting a bit crazy about the toy to encourage your dog to follow suit!


Step 2: Teach the Dog to Chase the Ball


Teach Your Dog To Fetch

Having established your dog's interest in the toy during step one, the next move is to teach them to interact more dynamically with it. In this stage, we're focusing on getting your dog to chase after the toy.


Start off by throwing the toy a short distance away from your dog. Most dogs instinctively enjoy chasing objects, so this should come naturally. Enthusiastically encourage them to go after the toy with prompts such as "go get it!". Reward their chase with praise and treats to reinforce this behavior.


If your dog doesn't immediately understand the purpose of the toy, don't worry! This is a great opportunity to illustrate how fun the toy can be. Engage your dog's curiosity by playing with the toy yourself - bounce it around, roll it on the floor, or even pretend that it's very interesting to you. This will likely pique their interest. If they seem unsure about chasing the toy, try to coax them by increasing the level of excitement in your voice or actions.


Step 3: Practice to Return the Ball


Teach Your Dog To Fetch

Once your dog consistently chases after their ball or toy you can move onto one of the trickier parts: getting your dog to bring the item back to you. Break down the dog fetch command into three parts:


Throw. Throw the ball a short distance—like down a hallway, across a room or about 10 feet if you’re outdoors.


Call your dog back. Using a positive, excited tone, call your dog back to you, using the same word every time. That word might be “come” or “bring.”


Reward. Reward your dog with lots of happy expressions, belly rubs or a treat when they come back to you with the ball. Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Tender Beef Recipe Soft-Moist Training Dog Treats are the perfect bite-size training treat.


Repeat: Repeat this process to give your dog time to learn the cue. You want them to understand that there’s a reward associated with bringing back their ball. Once your dog reliably brings the ball back to you, move onto the next step.


Step 4: Drop the Ball on Command


Teach Your Dog To Fetch

After your dog has learned to fetch the ball and return it to you, the next step is to teach them to drop the ball. Start by teaching the command "drop it" or "give".


Begin this training phase in a calm environment to ensure your dog's full attention. Start by holding the toy and enticing your dog to take it from you. As soon as your dog has the toy firmly gripped in their mouth, offer a treat close to their nose while simultaneously saying your chosen command, "drop it" or "give". Your dog will likely be motivated to release the toy in favor of the tasty treat.


Once your dog drops the toy, reward them with heaps of praise and the treat. Repeat this exercise consistently until your dog becomes fluent in dropping the toy upon hearing the command. Remember, every dog learns at their own pace, so remain patient and persistent with your training.


Step 5: Add Distance to the Toy Toss


Teach Your Dog To Fetch

Once your dog shows they understand that the game includes following the toy after a toss, grabbing in their mouth, and approaching you with the toy, you can begin to add distance to your throws.


Begin by throwing the toy slightly further than you have in previous steps. Patiently wait for your dog to run after the toy, pick it up in their mouth, and return all the way back to you. As soon as your dog returns with the toy, click (if you're clicker training) and reward your dog with praise and a treat.


Gradually increase the distance of your throws each time, ensuring your dog is comfortable with the current distance before pushing the boundaries. This incremental approach will help your dog adapt to longer distances while maintaining their enthusiasm for the fetch game. Remember to keep the process fun and exciting to ensure your dog stays motivated throughout the training.


Tips for Training A Dog to Fetch


Teach Your Dog To Fetch

Some dogs might never learn to love to fetch. Maybe you can teach them the behavior, but they just don’t get to the point where they enjoy the game. If this is the case with your dog, don’t worry. There are some yips to get your dog to practice: 


Use the power of language


Dogs, remarkably attuned to human language, possess an impressive capacity for understanding our words. By consistently pairing specific phrases with corresponding actions, you can develop a unique linguistic bond with your pet. Your dog will swiftly associate these phrases with the desired behavior, creating a clearer communication pathway between you. For example, words like "fetch," "drop," "wait," can become powerful cues in your fetch game.


Beat boredom


Just as humans crave variety and excitement, dogs too need stimulation to ward off the doldrums of monotony. Even a beloved game like fetch can become yawn-inducing without occasional changes. Innovate with your fetch game to keep it fresh and interesting. For instance, inject a dash of patience training into your game. Hold onto your dog's collar as you toss the toy, employing the command "wait." Only when the toy lands do you release the collar and give them the go-ahead to retrieve. Not only does this make the game more exciting, but it also sharpens your dog's obedience skills.


Patience, patience, patience


Adapting to a new skill is a journey that requires time and patience, and it's no different for your canine companion. Just as we stumble through the learning curve, our furry friends can also struggle. If your dog doesn't ace the fetch game immediately, resist the urge to express frustration. Instead, consider it a recess, an opportunity to break, breathe and bounce back later. Remember, the game of fetch should be a joyous bonding activity, not a rigorous obligation.


Keep consistency


As with any form of training, consistency forms the backbone of teaching your dog to fetch. Establish a regular routine, dedicating a few minutes each day to practice. A consistent schedule creates a sense of expectation and security in your dog, fostering quicker learning. Gradually, your dog will decode your commands and understand their role in the game. Maintaining consistency not only accelerates your dog's fetch aptitude but also reinforces trust and rapport between you two.


Things that Dog Owners Should Avoid  


Teach Your Dog To Fetch

Teaching a dog the fetch command requires patience, practice, and positivity.


Don’t Scold: Always use positive reinforcement during training sessions, which means rewarding your dog for positive behavior versus scolding them for doing something incorrectly. If you find yourself getting frustrated, step away and try again tomorrow.


Don’t Push: Be aware of your dog’s physical limitations. Not every dog is physically inclined to play fetch. While fetch is a fantastic way for dogs to get exercise, too much of it can lead to exhaustion or physical injury, especially in puppies or older dogs. Be mindful of your dog's energy levels and never push them beyond their limit.


Don’t Practice in Unsafe Spaces: Make sure the area where you're playing is safe for your dog. Avoid places close to busy roads, areas with hazards such as sharp objects, or areas with overly rough terrain that could injure your dog.


Don't Force Your Dog: Not every dog will naturally love the game of fetch. Some breeds are more inclined towards fetching than others. It's essential to respect your dog's preferences and never force them to play if they don't want to.


Avoid Punishment: If your dog is struggling to understand the game or makes a mistake, never resort to punishment. Negative reinforcement can lead to fear and anxiety, which could make your dog less willing to play and learn.


In Conclusion


Teaching your dog to fetch can be an enriching experience, full of shared laughter, minor setbacks, and triumphant breakthroughs. Fetch is more than just a game; it's a testament to the bond you share with your furry friend, a testament to patience, understanding, and mutual respect.


With consistency, patience, and positivity, not only will you teach your dog a new game, but you'll also strengthen your bond, improve their obedience, and keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Enjoy the fetching journey, and remember - the goal is to create joyful, unforgettable memories with your beloved pet. Follow these steps in your training sessions, encourage your dog along the way, and remember that playing fetch is all about having fun!



Previous article
Next article