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Teaching Your Dog to Play Fetch

The Reluctant Retriever continued...

On the other hand, if it’s treats that your dog likes, you can teach him to fetch a toy for the promise of a yummy tidbit. Show him the toy and toss it a few inches away. Even if he only watches the toy at first, praise him and give him a treat. After three or four repetitions of this, encourage him to chase after the toy. As he takes a step or two toward it, praise and give him a treat. Repeat this three or four times. Next, toss the toy and see if he’ll sniff it or put his mouth on it. If he doesn’t, touch it yourself—wiggle it a bit. The instant your dog moves his mouth toward the toy, praise and reward him with a treat. Ask for a little bit more from him each time, until he’s actually picking up the toy. When he does, go wild with your praise, and give him a small handful of treats! At this point, he’ll think that the toy is pretty interesting, so try tossing it farther. Encourage him to come back to you when he’s got the toy in his mouth. Some dogs have to learn that they can actually walk and hold something at the same time, so be patient. If your dog drops the toy, say “Uh-uh, get the toy,” and point to it. He’ll figure out that the only way to earn his reward is to bring the toy to you, so he’ll either stop dropping it or he’ll go back and get it when he does drop it. Once your dog learns the fetch game, he might enjoy it enough that you won’t need to give him treats each time he brings the toy back, but in the beginning, be sure to praise and reward him for every fetch.

Another variation on this exercise is to use a toy that you can stuff with treats, such as the Genuine Dog Gear Toss ‘N Treat or the Zogoflex® Tux™ treat ball. Show your dog that you’re stuffing his favorite treats into the toy, and then toss it a few inches away. When he sniffs or mouths it, quickly pick it up and give him some of the treats inside. Then stuff a few more in the toy and repeat the sequence. Keep doing this until your dog learns that the quickest way to get the treats is to bring the toy back to you.

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