Thursday, August 12, 2010

Teaching Your Dog to Fetch

By Ruthie Bently

You can teach your dog to fetch a newspaper, Frisbee, beer, a ball, even an egg. You can teach your dog to fetch (or retrieve) anything that is small enough for them to get a secure grip on, pick up and bring back to you. Teaching your dog to fetch is a good way to give them the mental stimulation they need so they don’t get bored and misbehave.

It is easiest to teach your dog to fetch when they are a puppy, but an adult dog can be taught to fetch too. With any training program, patience, praise, repetition and treats like CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ work well. Schedule your training time when the temperature is comfortable for both you and your dog, and not during the heat of the day. Only work your dog for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. If your dog already knows the commands for sit, come, stay and drop it ahead of time, this will facilitate teaching them to fetch an object for you.

Attach your dog to a six foot leash to allow them room to move. Using one of their favorite toys, begin by showing them the toy and pass it from hand to hand. Put them on a sit/stay and toss the toy a few feet away from you. Detach the leash and tell them to get the toy using the command “fetch.” If they don’t immediately go and get the ball, walk them over to it and repeat your command. If they don’t pick it up, then you pick it up and offer it to them. If your dog takes the ball, praise them and offer them a treat. Take the toy back to your starting point, put your dog on a sit/stay and begin again.

If your dog goes and get the toy and only comes part way back to you before stopping, encourage them to bring it all the way to you. If they drop the toy and return to you, you can ask them “where’s your toy?” Use praise and encouragement to get them to go back for it but don’t offer a treat until they bring the toy back to you. Don’t chase after them; that will only excite them in a game of chase and won’t further your cause. Your dog will learn quickly that fetching a toy brings praise and a treat from you, and will want to bring the toy back. Once your dog brings the toy back from a few feet away, you can begin tossing it further and further away from you. When they are fetching on their own and know the command, you can stop giving treats and reward them with praise alone, as your dog will want to play fetch just for the fun of it.

If your dog doesn’t already know the command for release, you can teach it to them as well. When your dog brings the toy back to you, steady their head with one hand. Place your other hand in front of their mouth and say “release.” If your dog doesn’t want to let go, repeat the “release” command and gently remove the toy from their mouth. Offer praise and a treat. Keep repeating the exercise until your dog lets go of the toy on their own. It is best to teach one command a day so as not to confuse your dog or wear them out.

Another command I have taught Skye is “easy.” This is a simple one to teach and I did it using CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ treats and abundant praise. While Skye was on a sit/stay, I put a treat between my thumb and forefinger and offered it to her after telling her “easy.” If she grabbed for the treat, I scolded her with a firm “no,” put her back on the sit/stay and tried again. When she reached for the treat gently, I praised her profusely and gave her the treat. Skye still forgets her treat manners sometimes. I just correct her bad behavior with a “no” and we try again. She never makes the mistake twice and I still have all my fingers.

Teaching your dog to fetch is good exercise for both of you, and if your dog becomes proficient at it, you might consider teaching them to be a disc dog, joining a disc dog team and competing. Every dog needs an activity, and teaching your dog to fetch can be the beginning of a wonderful job for them. This can keep them calm and well-behaved at home and become a fun hobby for you.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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