What Is Fetch (retrive)?
Fetching, retrieving – whatever you want to call it, having your dog bring something to you is not only helpful, but it’s also a cool way to exercise your dog and impress your friends! So what exactly does it mean when your dog fetches something? It’s pretty straightforward: you throw something and your dog brings it back for you. When trained to it’s highest level, you can name the object you want him to retrieve and just tell your dog to go find it and bring it to you.
Why Is Retrieving Important?
Fetching is important because it allows you to use your dog as a personal butler. Just checking to make sure you’re still paying attention. While it would be helpful for your dog to be your butler and bring your slippers and the newspaper every morning, it’s also important because you can use this to get your dog to exercise more. If you can throw something and get your dog to bring it back to you, you can efficiently exercise your dog without chasing him all over the backyard just to get the ball to throw it again.
How To Teach Retrieve?
Fetching involves four behaviors: (1) go get it, (2) pick it up, (3) carry it back to you, and (4) drop it at your feet (or in your hand). It’s easier to teach the dog the last two behaviors first, then add on the first two behaviors. Many people have a dog who can do one or two of these parts, but the trick falls apart either because the dog won’t bring the toy back or the dog brings it back but won’t give the toy up. So we’re going to break each piece down and first teach your dog to take something, then give it back. Here’s how:
Teaching Taking + Giving:
Have a clicker, some delicious pea-sized treats, and something your dog likes but doesn’t love. You want to make it easy for your dog to give the item back, so start with something that’s mediocre in your dog’s mind. Some ideas: empty toilet paper core, plastic bottle, rope toy. You know your dog best, find something that’s interesting, but not captivating for your dog.
Step 1: Offer the item to the dog while you continue to hold it.
When your dog takes the item in his mouth, with your other hand put the pea-sized treat on your dog’s nose. Give him the treat when he drops the item out of his mouth. Continue to repeat this 10 -15 times.
Step 2: Start letting go of the toy when your dog is willingly giving up the object when you put the treat to his nose.
In other words, give the dog the toy, and let go of it. Then put the treat on his nose and give him the treat when he drops the toy. Now your dog knows how to give up the toy (which is often the sticky wicket in the fetching process), so we can move onto the easier stuff like teaching your dog to go pick something up and bring it back. The more your dog likes to chase and retrieve things, the easier this will be to teach.
Teaching Going To and Bringing the Object Back
Step 3: When your dog gives you the toy back (see Steps 1 & 2 above), give him the treat, then toss the toy just a foot away.
Praise your dog when he picks the toy up and pleasantly encourage him to turn back toward you. As he turns toward you, put that treat right at his nose. Give him the treat when he drops the toy into your other hand. Continue to throw the toy a little farther away, building up to a reasonable distance.
Step 4: As you build up the distance, you may need to increase your excitement level to keep the dog engaged.
Sometimes it’s helpful if you toss the toy then run a few paces in the opposite direction as soon as the dog picks the object up. Many dogs will run directly to you much faster than if you were standing still.
After you’ve completed all four steps, your dog should willingly engage in a game of fetch with you. Now, you can use fetch to exercise your dog. If you don’t feel like taking your dog on a walk through the neighborhood because of the winter weather, you can stand in your backyard and throw a stick, ball, or your dog’s favorite toy and get him some exercise!