AKC GoodDog! Helpline Trainer Erin Rakosky tells us how to get any dog interested in picking up and retrieving toys. Fetch is a great game to play with your dog and also a good way to exercise your pet.
Some dogs naturally pick up fetch while others may have no interest. Some dogs like the act of chasing the ball but won’t bring it back, which really ruins a good game of fetch. And some dogs don’t see the point of either chasing after a toy or bringing it back to you. Try following the advice here to teach a dog to fetch. We think you’ll both enjoy it.
For training fetch, the tools you will need are an appropriate amount of tasty treats, a clicker or a marker word, and plenty of fun toys. For teaching fetch, we are going to use what trainers call “shaping.” Shaping means allowing your dog to figure out how to perform a behavior with minimal help from you.
First, you want to choose a toy that your dog is willing to put in his mouth. Some dogs have a preference for plush toys while others like balls. After he learns the behavior, you will be able to ask him to retrieve anything.
For the purpose of teaching, we will use the case in which your dog has no interest in playing with toys.
The main goal of this exercise is to show your dog that fun comes from playing with you with the toy – no matter what type of toy!
Get four or five toys that your dog enjoys playing with and set them in a circle. Outside, in a fenced area is best for this. But if you don’t have access to an enclosed outside area, a large indoor space will work too.
Start playing with one of the toys with your dog. Act very excited, like this is the best game in the world. When your dog is really into the play, take off running to the next toy.
If your dog follows you, start playing with the new toy with him, again remembering to be super excited. If your dog is still playing with the first toy, play with the new toy by yourself. This is when it is really important to act like you are having the best time playing with this toy.
Eventually, your dog will want to join in the fun and come over to you and the new toy. Continue this exercise, running from toy to toy. If you do this exercise a couple times a week, your dog will learn that you bring the fun and not the toy!
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