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Teaching Your Dog to Play Fetch

The Bait-and-Switch Game

If your dog loves to chase and pick up the fetch toy but isn’t keen on bringing it back to you, try the bait-and-switch game with two identical toys. Show your dog one of the toys. Get him excited, throw it, and encourage him to fetch it. When he picks it up, call him, then show him the other toy, and act as though you’re going to throw it in the opposite direction. He’ll probably drop the first toy and come running to chase after the second one. While he’s chasing that one, go pick up the first toy and repeat the sequence. This exercise will get your dog used to picking up a toy and turning to run back to you. Here’s the next step: Call him when he’s picked up the first toy, but don’t show him the second one right away. Hopefully, he’ll turn and run back to you while still holding the first toy in his mouth. When he gets close to you, say “Drop it.” Then show him the second toy. He’ll drop the first toy in order to chase after the second one. Now you won’t have to walk so far to pick up the toy he drops. This game will be easy for your dog to learn and can really tire him out. Eventually, your dog will probably figure out that he should spit out the ball he has when you say “Drop it.” At that point, you can try just picking up the ball he’s dropped and throwing that. This final step will eliminate the need for a second ball.

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