Fetch is a great form of both mental and physical exercise. When structured properly, it’s also a terrific way to practice impulse control and consistent obedience. Structured inappropriately, it can turn into a fun game (for your dog, that is) of keep away! Follow these steps to develop a fantastic fetcher!
1. Two balls (or two of the same objects).
2. A long line or flexi-leash (this is one of the only times I think about using a flexi; never for walking my dog because they are so dangerous!).
3. Plan to practice in 5 to 15 minutes sessions to begin.
1. Attach your dog to a long line or flexi-leash. This will prohibit your dog from grabbing the ball and dashing off away from you. It will also keep him closer and more attentive to you, making for more efficient training sessions.
2. Take out and show your dog one ball. If necessary, wave the ball around a bit to excite him (but skip the waving if your dog is a ball nut).
3. Cue your dog to “sit.”
4. As soon as your dog sits, say, “yes!” and toss the ball 4 to 5 feet from you. By keeping the distance short, you are able to practice a high number of repititions in a shorter timeframe and thus teach this behavior more efficiently.
5. When your dog collects the ball, calmly praise him, turn your body sideways, slap your thighs and move away a little bit. Encourage your dog to follow/come back to you. (Turning sideways and moving away actually encourages dogs to come, so this is important!)
6. As your dog is coming back to you, get your second ball out, but keep it from your dog’s view. If your dog does not drop the first ball upon returning, present the second ball. Your dog will release ball one for ball two!
7. As soon as your dog releases the ball from his mouth, say “yes” and toss the ball in your hand 4 to 5 feet from you.
8. As your dog is running after that ball, pick up the first ball.
9. Repeat steps 5 through 8 again and again!
Getting Rid Of The Second Ball
1. After a few sessions, instead of presenting the second ball to elicit your dog to drop the first ball, just wait your dog out. When your dog comes back to you with ball in mouth, just stand there and look at or away from your dog. Don’t talk, just wait! It might take a few seconds or longer. WAIT!
2. When he/she drops the ball, immediately throw the second ball. You are now teaching your dog that by dropping the ball he earns the presentation and toss of the second ball. His actions (dropping the ball) have good consequences (another opportunity to chase the ball!).
3. After a few sessions, and once your dog is reliably coming back and automatically dropping the ball upon return, you can stop using the second ball.
Advancing Your Fetch Skills
1. Begin to increase the distance that you are throwing the ball.
2. Remove the leash only once you know that your dog will safely return to you.
3. Begin adding obedience commands in between each repetition: cuing your dog to sit or down in between each toss. Your dog is now “earning” and being rewarded with each and every toss.
Good luck! Have fun!