Fetch. The age-old game that humans and dogs have played for generations. Unfortunately, not all dogs intuitively fetch, and for the ones that do, not all are the best fetchers. This post will teach you how to train your dog to be a better fetcher.

Playing fetch is one of the most rewarding and dog-tiring activities that humans can do. For some dogs, you can throw just about anything, and within a few seconds, it will be right back at your feet, waiting for you to throw it again. For others, It’s a journey for your pup to even think about going after what you threw, and if she does, it’s a terror to either get the dog to bring it back or drop it if she does return it. If your dog already fetches, you can scroll down a bit.

Fetch 101 - Chase and Retrieve

Does your dog sit and stare at you when you throw something for it to fetch? If so, start by throwing your object a short distance and encouraging your pooch with treats, affection, or play time when she grabs the item. Immediately take the item away. Once your pup has chasing down, meaning you throw an object and your dog immediately runs after it, you can get your pup to retrieve.

Retrieving is one of the harder things for many dog owners to grasp. Often, you’ll hear an owner at the park say “she loves playing fetch, except the bringing it back part.” If that’s you or someone you know, try the two-toy trick. When your pup chases and grabs toy #1 and doesn’t come back, pull out toy #2 and throw it in the opposite direction. After doing this a few times (and being a consistent human), your pup will learn that she needs to run back towards you to receive any kind of praise or attention (hopefully with the toy).

Fetch 102 - Drop and Go

Once you have the chasing and retrieving down, it’s time to do the hard task: getting your pup to drop the toy to you. Many of us play keep away with our pups, and we are accustomed to chasing our pup around for hours trying to get the toy out of his mouth. The easy solution here is to connect a rope to the toy. Once your pooch grabs the object, pull the line towards you, and as he comes back, praise him for coming back towards you. Do this for a while, and suddenly, your pup comes back.

Finally, many of us play tug-o-war with our rope toy. Our pup is accustomed to tugging and any object that you try to pull out of her mouth. This is problematic in the game of fetch, and can lead to a lot of frustration. The easiest way to systematize the bring it back, drop-n-go routine is to encourage your dog to bring it all the way back to you with a phrase like “all the way” and once your dog is back, not dropping the toy, pull out a treat. Most of the time, the pup will go after the treat and drop the toy, which will result in your praise for dropping the toy. Practice makes perfect!

Optimal fetch

This requires some experimentation, but there is a good chance your dog prefers a specific toy to another (e.g., a frisbee to a ball, or a soccer ball to a tennis ball). Once you know the perfect toy for your pup, buy the best, most indestructible version of this toy. After you’ve mastered fetch, you can do fun things like teach your dog to jump while catching, and you can experiment with different ways to give the toy back to you (e.g., crawling back to you). Many park parlor tricks can be had with a little bit of fetch training.