Dogs love to play and they love to please their owner / caretaker. Hence a game like Fetch involving both these characteristics – playing and pleasing their owner should be a piece of cake to teach your dog, right?
Simple answer : No! You could not be farther from the truth.
As mentioned in one of our previous posts “Some dogs have innate ability to fetch and return it to the owner while some puppies have a mind of their own and demand an effort to train.”
They just sit there and give you a “look” – you know the one with wrinkles in their forehead and twinkling twitching eyes – and their eyes saying “ why is she throwing a nice toy that far away while I am sitting right next to her?……”
So how do you teach a stubborn dog to play “fetch”?
Fetch game really consists of 4 tasks for the dog:
- Chase the thrown object
- Pick up the thrown object
- Bring it back to the owner
- Lay it at owner’s feet
If your dog is one that gives you the “look” – it will be best to get him/her to master one task at a time.
Here are 10 Tips to get you and your dog started on the right track.
- Before you even start the game decide how you are going to reward him when he completes the task – Offer him praise & a pat on the head with “atta boy”, a hug and a kiss, a treat. Reward can be any one or multiple / combinations of these items.
- Know your dog – understand what motivates him – use that item as his reward for doing his task – so he can associate the reward with the task completion event.
- Remember “bribing” does NOT work with dogs – it only encourages bad behavior. When the dog is not doing his task – do not reward him. He thinks he needs to repeat that behavior to get the next treat.
- Remember the “PCP” rule for training – Be Patient, Be Consistent, Be Persistent.
Dogs have short memory for our spoken words. It is a new language to them – you will need to repeat the commands several times – verbal and hand signals.
Your commands & signals should be consistent every time so he can associate the desired behavior with the command & or your signal.
5. Get 2 toys that you plan to have your dog fetch. Play with him/her for a few minutes – let him chew , pull and enjoy the toys – let him develop a liking / taste for those toys – play for a few minutes – keep this session very short – just long enough for him to like the toy and has a desire to wanting to play with it more. You keep it too long and he could lose interest for the time being.
6. Now take that toy and throw it a few feet from you. If he does not chase it naturally, rub the treat on the toy –> let it pick up the smell of the treat, → take it close enough to the dog to smell the treat on the toy but far enough for him to not be able to grab it → throw it a short distance away for him to run and grab it. This will usually be enough incentive for him to run and grab it.
7. Now – the task is to have him bring it back to you. Take the second toy and throw it near your feet – using the same trick as before. When he drops the first toy to grab the second toy – give him a treat, pat on the head – whatever he enjoys.
8. Gradually increase the distance you throw the toy away from him.
9. Repeat these exercises a few times each day.
10. Once he has mastered it – wean away the treats slowly while still giving him the “Good boy!” and showering praise, pats on the head etc.
Follow this everyday and before you know it , you will find that your dog and you have developed a strong bond and he has learned to respect you as he dominant dog!