How To Teach A Dog To Play Fetch!


Ahhh, the game of fetch.  We all know it, its super simple.  You throw the ball, and the dog gets it and brings it back. I would most certainly never enjoy this myself, but my dog absolutely LOVES it!  She will fetch anything for me all day long, and it is a very easy way for me to keep her happy, exercised, and just plain wear out her incredible amount of energy!  Of course, my dog is a border collie/labrador mix, so she has the energy, dedication, and drive built into her from her base breeds.  Not all dogs are so instinctive as the Lab at retrieving things, and not all dogs are as driven as a Collie in wanting to work and be active.  But take heart, even if your dog does not instinctively “get” the idea of fetch, it is easy to teach and they are going to absolutely love the game once you teach it to them!

Teach Your Dog to Play FetchSo, how to teach a dog to play fetch?  The first thing to do is choose a toy.  Choose one toy that your dog really, really likes; some dogs can be somewhat picky with the toy they want to play with.  Make sure you show it to them first, and if they get excited over it, you have your perfect toy!  Some good ideas for toys are bright blue or yellow toys (the brightest colors dogs can see), or squeaky toys that make motion (Two of their most basic instincts to chase).  Tennis balls are a great option, they are cheap, bouncy, and very easy for dogs to see.  When a dog doesn’t really get the idea of playing catch, a good place to start is tug-of-war.  Get a yellow rag, play some tugging with them, and then throw it.  They will want to get it to bring it back and play tug with you again.  From here you can start throwing it further and further, and eventually move on to a ball. Voila!  You have taught your dog how to play fetch.  If your dog likes treats more than play, this process is almost even easier.  Just teach them to retrieve for a treat, eventually when they get the hang of it, fetch will become a treat in itself!  One more popular method for teaching your dog how to fetch is called “back chaining”, which is basically the method of teaching dogs how to fetch in reverse.  To do this, teach your dog to fetch in this order:

5. Let the Dog drop ball into your hand (or on the ground in front of you, whichever you prefer).

4. Let the dog approach you, carrying the ball (then to step 5), reward them

3. Throw the ball, let the dog pick it up, reward them (then go to steps 4 and 5)

2. Go through steps 3, 4 and 5 multiple times, and reward them

1. Finally, make your dog wait for You to throw the ball, this will put you in control of the game

Its really that simple.  Playing fetch, and chasing things, is a very basic instinct for dogs.  And hopefully, you will find it as relaxing and enjoyable as I do!  It is a great bonding experience for you and your dog, and one of the most classic games invented to keep your dog busy!