The ‘fetch’ is one training exercise that works well with certain breeds such as Labrador retrievers. Just try throwing an object in front of a retriever puppy; now compare what he does with the actions of cocker spaniels or terriers! Somehow, without even training it, your lab retriever puppy will know what to do. He will fetch the object and bring it to your feet, literally begging you to toss it out again. Having said so; it is very much possible to train any dog to fetch and retrieve items. You only need to treat the exercise as a game and follow some important pointers and tips which we have discussed below. Here are some simple ways to teach a dog to retrieve items like a Frisbees, ball, newspaper, beer and even birds.
Basic tips to teach a dog to fetch
It is best to teach a dog to fetch items when he is 4-5 months old. Most retriever puppies will show a willingness to fetch at this age.
Vary the fetch object
Some retrievers get attached to only one toy/object. If you wish to teach your dog to fetch and bring you all kinds of things, vary the toys from time to time.
Don’t throw it too far
At least in the beginning; throw the object no more than 6-7 feet away. Later, when the dog is steady in retrieving, you can throw it as far as your arm allows. If it falls out of sight, let him go look for it.
Name the toys/objects to fetch
You can name the fetch toys you want him to retrieve, such as ‘small ball’, ‘squeaky ball’, ‘big toy’ etc. This way, you can also ask him to retrieve specific objects.
Graduate to other items
Once he has learned the basic steps of how to retrieve items, you can teach him to bring the newspaper, a beer, your slippers or shoes and even birds. Clever breeds can also retrieve items that you drop accidently and deliver them in your hand.
‘My dog won’t fetch’-what to do?
As stated before, treat this training exercise of fetch as a game. You might even run with your dog a bit to get the object. Most dogs love to run alongside their masters. Use this trick liberally for a dog who isn’t at all interested in fetching. This will get him interested in the game and you can then sober him up to fetch seriously. If he continues to show disinterest in fetching, run with him and show him the object while saying ‘take it’. Know that some breeds are born retrievers-they will know what to do even before you train them! Likewise, other breeds are not meant to retrieve; they are simply un-trainable. Many will actually turn away as if they are actively ignoring your authority!
Daily training is the key to teaching your dog to fetch and retrieve. Do a bit everyday and use lots of praise and rewards/treats when he does what you want him to do.
Steps to teach a dog to retrieve items
1. Show him the object
Start by showing your puppy the object or toy you want him to fetch. Wiggle it a bit and then toss it a few feet away. Encourage him to get it. If he picks up the toy praise him. Do not ask him to bring it back just yet. Let him enjoy the toy for a few moments.
2. Once he brings it back
If your pet brings the toy back to you, do not look at it or reach out for it just yet. If you do, you’d be giving it too much attention which will then make him not want to give it back.
3. Praise your buddy
As soon as he brings the Frisbee or ball back to you, bend down and pet him. Say thank you. Now you can take the toy.
4. Continue the game
Praise your pet and once again wiggle the toy. Toss it a few feet away from you. Once again, encourage him to fetch it.
5. Walk away playfully
Once he picks up the toy, clap your hands and walk away playfully. If he follows you with the toy, stop moving. Once he brings the toy to you, praise him.
6. Once he is consistent…
If your pet consistently retrieves items, continue to open your hand as a delivery target. Do not reach out for the toy/item. Just wait patiently with the open hand. Do not look at the pet or at the object; continue to look at the open hand. This will draw his attention to your hand and he will know he is supposed to drop it there.
7. Make him deliver the toy in your hand only
If at this point, your pet drops the toy, make him pick it up and drop it in your hand only. Accept the retrieves only when they at least touch your hand.
8. Do not fall for his games!
Some dogs will want you to chase them for the object. Do not fall for this trick. He wants this game more than you do so he will eventually do what you want him to do.
9. Read a magazine!
If you get bored while he retrieves, read a magazine. Throw the toy, lay your palm open in your lap and continue to ignore your pet until the object/toy touches your open hand. Smile, praise and toss the toy again. The hand-delivery rule will teach your pet that if he wants to play, he has to deliver the toy in your hand.
Use these basic tricks to help your dog master the game of fetch.