Can You Teach a Dog How To Fetch?

You’d think that running after a ball tossed, a stick is thrown, or a toy flung would be a natural skill all dogs have. So that is the big question when it comes to dogs: is fetching inherent or a skill that has to be taught?

Simply put, sometimes it is the former and other times the latter.

While some are born and bred to fetch, others need to be shown the skill. So if you are finding that it does not come naturally for your dog, here are some tips you can use in order to increase performance. Take a look and find out some ways on how to improve your dog’s fetching skills if they just can’t seem to find it paw-sible!

Six Tips to Get Your Dog to Fetch

1. Begin with a Chase

Got the case of the “sit n’ stare” pup? Well, your first objective is to teach him to chase anything other than you! Typically, there might be a few ways to do this. By offering a treat, offering affection with words or pets, or getting playtime after they have retrieved the object. The younger they are the better they are at formulating commands and listening with motivation. Encourage them to go get the object and when they grab it use any of the three above offerings as a reward and then take the object away. Repeat the process several times until you feel like they have mastered the skill and then incorporate throwing it a short distance. 

2. Give an extra incentive!

Want to give them even more of a launching pad? When you encourage them to go after the object instead of instinctively letting them go right away, hold them back by the collar and they will naturally tug against you. Once they do you can let go and they will likely run after it without hesitation!

3. Rescue

Once step 1 is accomplished and they have gone to get the object, sometimes the struggle is getting them to bring it back to you so you can do it all over again. Based on your dog’s habits, they may not want you to have the object back at all because they are so fixated on the toy. This is when it is helpful to have a second toy! So when he catches the first one, you have a second one to distract him. Or you throw the second toy in another direction - while he may not bring them both or either of them back to you they won’t be able to carry both in their mouth. Pro tip: treats help to get him back. 

4. Using Rope

For the pups that go after the toy but you never see them again, try using a long rope with a toy attached to the end of it. Once they catch the end of the toy with the rope, tug-of-war them back to you! Then as always, repeat a few times and do this for a few weeks so they get the hang of it!

5. Securing the Object

Having trouble actually getting your dog to let go of said object in their mouth? Once they reach the spot back in front of you and they do nothing when asked to drop it, put a treat next to their nose and they will want the treat over the object every time. Keep doing this until you no longer have to use treats!

6. A toy that is likable

Last but surely not least, pick a toy, an object that your dog actually likes. Not all dogs want to fetch a ball but they love a good stick. Try out different objects until you see just a little bit of drool AND excitement coming from your pup!