Playing fetch with your dog is a great way to burn off their extra energy and bond with your pet.
But let’s face it, not every dog likes to retrieve or bring back their favorite toy. We can work up to “Fetch” by rewarding our successes (called close approximations in dog training lingo) to the end result, in other
words using “SHAPING”.
The Basics: Come
First, you’ll need to teach your dog how to “come back to you.”
1. Get your dog’s favorite treat or toy (high value) and another not so favorite treat or toy (low value) and start inside the house.
2. Move a few feet away from your dog, throw a low value treat or a toy to the floor and call him back as soon as he grabs the treat.
3. Say your dog’s name followed by the command. Start bubbling up (use a higher pitched mouse like voice) and take a few steps back.
4. When he comes to you, reward the behavior by giving him the high value treat.
5. Repeat until he starts to understand and then begin to practice outside.
6. Move farther and farther away and repeat. Use a long leash if you are at the park or in a place with lots of distractions.
7. Once your dog is comfortable with this task, start to add distractions like other people, toys, or head out into your yard to test their skills.
-Always keep it positive and keep your sessions short, and always end on a good note. We want your dog to perceive training as fun and rewarding!
Once you can reliably call your dog over, you’re ready to start turning this behavior into a game.
How to Teach Your Dog to ‘Fetch’
Step 1: Introduce the Fetch Toy and Grab it
It is very helpful to choose a toy that your dog loves and only let him have the toy while you are working on this training. In that way, he is more likely to pick it up more than a few times.
Start by showing the beloved toy to your dog. Tease him up using a high pitched mouse like voice and when he grabs the toy we are going to say “good boy” “good girl” or ‘yes” followed by a treat. We want to pair our praise with something very positive and at the same time build a positive association with grabbing our mouthing the toy. This is the key to a successful start.
You can do this for 6 or 7 repetitions- 2 times a day for as long as your dog needs it.
Step 2: Throw it next to me
Now, your dog is starting to figure out that grabbing the fetch toy leads to treats. So, next time you do the task in step one we are going to build on it. You have probably noticed that your dog eventually gets tired of holding or mouthing the toy you use for training (and only training). He throws the fetch toy next to you and walks away or lays down to tell you he is done. Well, next time he does this use your praise word and give him a treat.
After you do this a couple of reps start throwing the toy a few feet away from you. As soon as your dog picks up the toy bubble up say your come command and take a few steps back. Once he gets to you show him the treat and when he throws the toy give him the treat.
If he doesn’t show any interest regarding coming back to you get a higher treat, like a slice of cheese or a chicken strip and build his interest. If toys are more rewarding than food, give a toy as THE REWARD. You can attach a leash to your dog’s collar and pull it a little towards you once he has the toy to help remind him to come him towards you.
Practice inside the house in a low-distraction area and repeat this step a few times each session.
In this learning stage of learning you can add the word ‘Fetch’ or ‘Bring it’
Step 3: Building distance and adding distractions
Now that you have the behavior of your dog returning a treat or toy that’s only a few feet away, you want to start adding distance. Take it slow. Set yourself and your dog up for success.
Slowly add distance to the game, and when you have run out of room in the house, go outside to a quiet place and continue the game.
You can add people or dogs to your distractions too.
The musts in dog training
1. Keep it fun
2. Keep your sessions short and easy, always end it in a good note.
3. Have patience
4. Have fun! Remember the command you are trying to achieve is a game for your dog and its made to build a strong bond and communication with your dog
5. Keep track of your achievements and take slow, successful steps, Rome wasn’t built in one day!