You’ll be surprised to see how much fun it is to train your dog to fetch. Almost any young dog is happy to learn this new game, although changes are they may initially be a little confused about the rules.
Many people start out wrongly with sticks in the park, perhaps putting the dog on a long leash. Although you will later be able to throw sticks for your dog in this way, it is not the best place to begin. Both the park and the stick itself are much too stimulating for the dog. She is going to find it hard to focus on you and your game there.
Instead, start in the house. The best place is a hallway where there are not too many distractions and you have room to throw. Close doors into rooms so that she really only has one place to go with the object: back to you.
Begin with the dog’s favorite toys. You should come armed with as many as you can find. You will also need treats for when she gets it right. If you don’t like to give her sweet treats, try carrots, which many dogs enjoy chewing on.
Take the first toy and wave it around the dog’s nose to get her interested in it, then throw. If she goes after it, she gets a treat. She doesn’t have to bring it back to be rewarded at this stage – chasing is enough. If she doesn’t go after it but just looks or ignores it, let it lie where it fell and throw another one. Sooner or later she will chase after one of them as you throw.
The next step to be rewarded is when she picks up the toy you just threw. (Don’t reward her for picking up a toy that you threw a few minutes before – she will not learn the game that way).
If you have already trained her to come, you can call her back to you, but at first she will probably drop the toy. Don’t reward her for coming back without the toy, unless she brings it close to where you are. Sooner or later she will bring one all the way and that is the moment for the rewards to start again. Even if she will not give you the toy, she gets a reward the first time she does this.
Finally, she will drop the toy in front of you, panting happily, and wait expectantly for you to reward her or throw it again. And again, and again, and again.
Most dogs can easily be taught this game and they love it. If you have a dog who does not seem to want to learn, you may be able to teach her by getting together with another owner whose dog is a good fetcher. Play with the other dog and let your dog see that you are rewarding him for fetching correctly. If your dog still doesn’t join in, maybe she is not interested in the treats.
When you can play fetch with your dog in the park, she gets tons of exercise without you having to do a lot of running around or worrying about where she is and what she is into. So it is worth continuing to train a dog to fetch.