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  • Writer's pictureFiona Alder

Puppy training - Playing Fetch

Updated: Mar 5

Playing fetch is not just fun & great exercise for your puppy, it can also help with training by improving recall (teaching your puppy that it's rewarding to come back to you) and it's a great way to practise the drop command.

Puppy playing fetch
Puppy running with a ball

Some puppies are natural retrievers but others need a little more help to understand the game - so they don't think the game is to run away with the ball!

Here’s some useful tips to help you when teaching your puppy to retrieve a toy.

start with a drop

Start by teaching your puppy to drop the toy in front of you. We call this back chaining in the dog training world (teaching the end part of the exercise first). Once your puppy has learned a drop, you can then start to add in distance (start very short & gradually increase). This will make it much easier for your puppy to learn what to do. If you start by throwing the ball really far he is far more likely to get distracted by something else instead.

use an excited tone of voice

When you start to throw the toy further away, to encourage your puppy to bring the toy or ball back, use an excited tone of voice. Make a big fuss so your dog will want to come back to you (don’t forget the drop cue to get the toy back).

Don't play chase games!

Don’t play keep away games when your puppy has something you want back - this will only teach your puppy how fun it is to run away from you with the toy (or sock!) rather than bring it back to you. If your dog already does this, here’s a game you can play so he learns that you won’t keep the toy from him.

Have two toys exactly the same (so one isn't more valuable to your dog than the other), throw one of the toys out for him to play with, take out the other toy and play with it yourself - if you make your toy exciting enough he won’t be interested in the toy he has anymore and will want the toy you have! When he drops his toy and comes back to you, have a little play with your toy, throw it away for him to get, then calmly retrieve the other one he dropped - repeat lots of times so he learns that you share toys rather than steal toys from him!

Try different types of toys

If your puppy isn’t interested in a ball try a different toy. Some puppy’s will be more interested if you throw a soft toy or a chew toy. Braided fleece toys are great for playing fetch!

Find out more about my 1-2-1 Puppy Training services here

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