How to Train Your Dog to Fetch

The instinct to retrieve is all in your dog's genes. Some types of dogs take to it naturally, some don’t. As the name says, any type of retriever loves chasing things and bringing them back (of course, getting them to give you what they caught make take some training!). But if you have a terrier, for example, whose instinct is to burrow, trying to teach “Fetch” will probably just frustrate you both.

To teach a full retrieve — go out, bring it back, and give it up — you go through each of the steps individually before bringing them together.

Anything a dog puts in her mouth is special, at least to her. So the first step in teaching her to retrieve is to get your dog psyched to show you her “treasure.” All your pooch has to do to learn this step is come back with her prize. The focus here is on the Bring, not the Give.

  1. Line up several toys and treats.

    If your dog is too treat focused and won’t leave your side if there’s a treat on the scene, leave food rewards out of the picture. In this case your overwhelming enthusiasm will be your dog’s reward.

  2. Gently toss a toy a few feet away from you and point to it.

  3. As your dog brings the toy back to you, shower her with praise but don’t take the toy away.

    If your dog ignores you when she gets the toy, try running away from her after she’s picked it up. If she still won’t bring it back, pretend to eat some of her treat.

  4. As your dog catches on and trots happily back to you, say “Bring.”

  5. When your dog arrives, toy in mouth, praise and pet her heartily (give her a treat if you like), leaving the object in her mouth.

  6. Toss a different toy and go through the procedure again.

If your dog is playing Keep Away instead of Bring, go into a small room, like a bathroom. Toss the toy. The second your dog picks it up, start praising/treating. Continue this game until your dog’s perspective shifts.

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