Fetching is very strongly rooted in dogs, especially in hunting breeds. For pets with a strong instinct for objects and a tendency to cooperate, learning to fetch can become an excuse for great fun, which promotes cooperation and strengthens the bond between dog and owner. It is an excellent opportunity to learn new dog skills, teach obedience, and concentration exercises memory and strengthens fitness. So how to teach your dog to fetch?
Before you start teaching your dog to fetch, you should consider what kind of toys your pet prefers. The fetch should also be suitable for the size of your dog’s jaws. The right choice of fetch accessories will greatly facilitate later training. For fetching, we can use all kinds of balls, fabric ropes, frisbees, latex sticks, squeaky figurines, Ringo, and dumbbells. Small, light, flexible objects that can be thrown over a considerable distance work well. A great solution is toyed with a special surface to make it easier to grasp the object and bright, vivid colours to encourage play, also making it easier to find the toy if it gets lost. When choosing, it’s also important to make sure that all accessories are safe for your pet, and made of durable and flexible material that won’t hurt their gums. As some dogs are reluctant to give up their fetch, it’s worth getting two items so that you can swap one for the other if necessary. Or, of course, ordinary sticks can be used.
Learning for the reluctant
There is a group of dogs that have to fetch in their blood. But how do you deal with a dog that is not interested in this activity? First of all, once you have chosen a suitable fetch, you must teach your dog to hold the object in its mouth. Place it on the ground and reward your dog for its reaction to the object. Each time it is sniffed or caught in its teeth, it should be verbally praised and rewarded. If the dog still shows no interest in the fetch, we can smear it with something encouraging or tasty. We can also pretend for the dog to run away with the object. We must be aware that this stage may require a lot of invention and energy from us. When the dog finally picks up the fetch from the ground and holds it in his mouth, we praise him, but we give the reward in form of a treat only after a few seconds. On subsequent attempts, gradually increase the time until the favourite snack is given. Of course, if your dog lets go of the fetch too soon, he doesn’t get his reward.
How to teach your dog to fetch – fetching the toy
Even if your dog is already happy to hold and carry an object in its teeth, it doesn’t always want to part with it. He plays with it, bites, tosses it, and even buries it. It doesn’t even think of giving it back to the owner. To change its behaviour, we can try to escape, that is, we start running while calling the pet. Usually, in such a situation, the dog starts chasing, still holding the fetch in its mouth.
How to teach a dog to fetch – giving back the toy
In the next stage, usually the most difficult, we try to teach the dog to return the fetch. Very often we can observe a scene when a dog runs up to its owner with a fetch and stops at a certain distance from him. Then he releases the object from his mouth and waits for a reaction. Of course, when the handler moves toward the dog, it immediately grabs the fetch and starts to run away with it. This is a game of tag rather than fetch.
A good idea in this situation is to show the dog a second fetch. We show the dog a second object (more attractive) and in this way, we encourage him to give back the one he is holding in his mouth. If we have previously used the escape variant, when the dog catches up with us we can turn around and put him on the leash, making it impossible for him to escape. Another, usually effective method is to exchange the fetch for treats or food. We show the treat to the dog, placing it close enough for it to become interested and trying to reach it with its mouth. When the dog reaches for the treat and releases the toy, we pick it up, reward the dog and a moment later we can throw the fetch again.
We can end our training at this stage. You can also go a step further and teach your dog to react to the verbal command „fetch” before it runs for the object thrown by us. However, this requires strenuous training, including exercises in self-control and attention. Such training is quite a challenge for a dog, as it interferes with his instinct for cheerfulness.
There is one more point that should be taken into consideration before we start teaching fetching. Every physical activity and form of exercise should be adapted to the age and abilities of the dog. Of course, we know that an older dog should not be overloaded with intensive forms of exercise. We should also not overload young dogs, i.e. puppies in the growth stage. Every dog activity has its limits, both in terms of age and time. It should Rely on regular rather than exhaustive exercise to avoid serious illnesses, especially irreversible joint damage and bone lesions.