How to teach your dog to play fetch

While some dogs pick up fetch pretty quickly, others may be confused as to why you'd throw a perfectly good toy or may chase the object but just not bring it back. So, how do you help your furry friend learn how to fetch like a pro? Try these tips below: 

Pick something they're interested in

 Perhaps the most important rule of all. Your dog isn’t going to chase after something unless they actually want it, so experiment with different objects (balls, frisbees, etc) until you find something they like. You can also try using a toy that you can put treats in to make it more enticing.

Start with chasing 

Once your dog is interested in the toy it’s time to start chasing! Start with throwing the toy a few feet and as your dog catches on, make sure to show your enthusiasm. If your dog isn’t a natural runner, try running after the toy and they may not be able to resist running alongside you towards it. When they go for the toy immediately reward them and repeat the process, praising the effort and keeping them encouraged with positive affirmations. 

Bringing it back

After your dog has successfully chased the object, it’s time to teach them to bring it back to you. Depending on the way they respond, you can try different methods. 

The two of the toy method 

This method requires two of the same toy, perfect for tennis balls for example. 

STEP 1 Bring two of the same toys to playtime with your dog. Only let your dog see one at a time. 

STEP 2 Get your dog excited to play by showing him one of his two identical toys and then toss it out and ask him to fetch.

STEP 3 Wait patiently as your dog runs towards the toy, to grab it and return it to you. If they don’t immediately return the toy to you, show your enthusiasm and excitement by calling their name and encouraging words. If they are still not returning, grab their attention by lowering down to their level and show them the second toy. Offer it almost as a trade, this should get their attention causing them to think about either dropping the first toy or bringing the first toy to you to explore the second toy. 

STEP 4 Once they've come to you to inspect the second toy, use your other hand to take the first toy from your dog. As your dog goes to take the second toy, don’t give it to them, instead toss it and repeat the steps above. 


The hide and return method 

STEP 1 Using two of the same toy, preferably balls, get your dog interested in one and toss it out, asking him to chase it or go get it. 

STEP 2 Keep the second ball hidden and out of sight of your dog and only use it if they don’t return with the first ball. 

STEP 3 Ask your dog to return the ball to you. Sit on the ground so you’re at their level and using an encouraging and exciting voice and words.  

STEP 4 If you’re calling your dog by their name they may return because you’ve said their name but may not give the ball back. Once your dog has returned with it, hold out your hand and ask them to drop the ball.

STEP 5 Show the hidden ball to your dog and play with it to entice them. They’ll be interested with the new one and so will drop the one they’re currently holding.

STEP 7 Once they’ve dropped the first ball ask them to sit and pause the game. Once sat, toss one ball and hide the other. Ask them to fetch and if they don’t bring it back repeat the steps above.

Rewards are great. 

Treats and affection are a great way of rewarding behaviour you want to encourage. Reward your dog for chasing after a toy and bringing it back to you. Take time to hug and pet your dog so they know how much you love playing fetch, too. And remember to keep some Tasty Treats in your pocket for a nice surprise.

What If My Dog Isn’t Interested?

If your dog doesn’t understand fetch or seems disinterested in retrieving toys, begin with a few basics:

  • Introduce the toy with a tug-of-war game
  • Put treats inside of a toy to make it more enticing
  • Tease your dog with a toy to gain his attention
Leave them wanting more
Even fetch can get boring after a while. End the game before they lose interest to avoid them getting bored with the game - this way they’ll be excited to play again next time.