A lot of us assume dogs to have the fetch command in their DNA. That is a misconception. But what holds true is that any command or behavior taught at a younger age and practiced regularly goes a long way. Puppies are smart, avid learners who are keen to absorb everything their hooman makes an honest effort to teach them. And you’ll see that an exciting, active game of fetch is right up their alley.
- Fetch is a two way street: it is a success only when both parties (you and your pet) are equally excited. Once you both are open to it, it is a world of fun and an ideal way for you to bond with your new pup.
- Walks are essential for your pup but he also needs some interactive playtime to burn off all that excess energy. Fetch directs that energy in the right direction, literally and figuratively, as it also improves his motor skills.
- Playing fetch is a good way to practice obedience training with your pup. It enhances his ability to respond to commands and also gives him enough incentive to listen to you.
How to teach your pup to fetch
All good things take time and patience. It’s no different in the case of teaching your little bundle of joy how to fetch. How soon and well he picks it up depends on his personality. Excited, outgoing pups are curious and will explore wherever they are directed. They love a good challenge, especially one that’s all fun and games. The slightly more shy, weary puppies will take their own sweet time to learn. Contrary to their more adventurous counterparts, they like to play it safe. So they will hear you out several times before they take the plunge in order to make sure they follow all your instructions. No matter what kind of dog, starting young is always best. Puppies in general have a greater willingness to learn – partly because of all that energy and partly because they really want to please you.
Things to keep handy
First things first – give your pup the opportunity to choose a favourite toy. Keep 4-5 different kinds of toys in a circle, preferably of various smells, shapes, sizes, sounds etc. See which one gets the maximum attention to know his preference. Avoid using sticks and choose safer options like chewable, soft toys. Playing with a toy of his choice will speed up the learning process and make it more enjoyable.
It is also advisable to keep a bag of treats next to you before you begin. Nothing reinforces good behaviour more effectively than a yummy treat. Each time your pup does what is asked of him, toss him a treat to let him know what a good boy he is. This way there will be no room for confusion and he will know exactly what he is expected to do to earn a reward.
STEP 1: Before you start playing fetch with your toy, you need to teach him to drop his toy on command. So, the first step to playing fetch is indulging in some tug of war. Make your pup take the toy in his mouth. This can be a little challenging as puppies are easily distracted. To get his attention, look really excited yourself. Your bubbling energy will rub off on him and he will start playing too. Once he is holding the toy in his mouth, pull the end of the toy hanging from his mouth toward yourself. After a little tug of war, ask him to ‘drop it’. You may have to repeat the ‘drop it’ command several times before your puppy decides to let go. But as soon as he does drop the toy, reward him with a treat and verbal praise. Repeat this exercise over a period of time until he masters the ‘drop it’ act.
STEP 2: Your little one is now ready for a game of fetch. First, pick a place, ideally a small, enclosed outdoor area. It’s safer for your pup – he will follow the toy blindly so even if it goes farther away, you won’t have to raise an alarm and chase him as he will only be able to go so far.
STEP 3: Throw the toy and excitedly ask your pup to fetch. Puppies love going after things and picking them up, especially their favourite toy. So this should be pretty simple to do.
STEP 4: Now, bend down to his eye level, extend your arms outward in his direction and ask him to come to you. Move a little backward or to the side while you do this because your puppy will interpret this as retreating and will want to chase you. Chances are he will take some time to pick this up but be patient with him.
STEP 5: Once he comes back to you, ask him to ‘drop it’. Since he is well versed with the sound and gesture, he will drop the toy to the ground.
Now the teaching part is done and you both are ready to play fetch. Always remember that practice makes perfect. Play with your pup regularly and he will soon turn into a pro!
Above all, always remember that practice makes perfect. Make sure you are in a happy, calm state of mind when teaching your dog how to play fetch. Don’t worry about how much time it takes and simply enjoy the process.