How To Teach a Dog to Fetch

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This page explains how to teach a dog to fetch. Fetching is actually one of the simplest actions to teach your dog. Fetch is a great game that gives your dog mental and physical exercise at the same time.

Why Teach a Dog to Fetch?

Apart from the obvious aspect of Fetch being a great way to exercise and stimulate your dog, their are more self-centered reasons to teach your dog to bring items to you on command. It certainly has some added benefits if you want to train your dog to an advanced level. No more going out to pick up the morning paper...

How to Teach a Dog to Fetch Around the House

As with any other training, you can start encouraging the fetching behavior in every day life. Many dogs have a tendency to pick up random objects. When your dog does this, praise him. Now, this may sound counterintuitive because chances are what he has in his mouth is something you really don't want anywhere near a dog's mouth, like one of your favorite shoes. But you're really doing two things by praising the dog. You're encouraging the carrying first, which is a preliminary to teaching Fetch. After you praise him, take hold of the object and say "Drop It," then take it away for a few seconds. If it's something you're okay with the dog having, like a toy, give it back. If not, replace it with a toy. This is the beginning of training your dog out of the bad habit of playing keep-away with your best pair of shoes. I'll go into more detail on the "Drop It" command in a separate article.

Teach a Dog to Fetch - Action Steps

Teaching fetch is a game, so treat it that way and don't take it too seriously. It's best to use a ball that your dog can't completely destroy - nylon chew toys are good for this, although don't feel limited to using a ball. Use any object your dog likes to pick up.

So, step one is to get the dog interested in the ball, throw it, and say, "Fetch!"

When you try to train a dog to Fetch you'll discover that the game should really be called "Fetch and Retrieve," because if the dog doesn't bring the ball back it's game over. At first you can expect that your dog may be happy to chase the ball and catch it, but it's not too keen on the whole "bringing it back" part. It will help a lot to teach your dog the Come command before you try to teach him to fetch properly.

If your dog won't bring the ball back, don't chase him - this makes the game into a competitive rather than a cooperative game, and that's not what we want to achieve. Instead, lure him to you with a treat and exchange it for the ball. Then throw the ball again, and repeat the process.

Eventually your dog will begin to understand that bringing you the ball after it catches it will result in a reward. Once your dog is used to the Fetch command and consistently brings back the ball and drops it, you can start to phase out the rewards. Start by rewarding only inconsistently, instead of every time. Change the amount of the reward each time. Then, gradually, stop rewarding altogether.

Jack Russell Training Tips

Some dogs naturally understand how to Fetch. Most Jack Russells don't - they aren't retrievers, they're terriers. They get something in their mouth and don't want to give it up. Teaching Fetch to a Jack Russell will require a bit of patience. Usually they are more than happy to chase the ball, and they will probably run back to you with it - it's getting the ball back off them that's the hard part. As always, patience, persistence, praise and treats are the keys.

If the dog won't chase the object to begin with - and this is very uncommon for a Jack Russell - you'll have to create some excitement yourself with movement, the tone of your voice, and waving the object around to get the dog's attention. If you can't get a Jack Russell excited...well, it's not a Jack Russell.

Another option is to call the dog to you before the training session and let him chew on the object for a few seconds, then throw it. This should increase his motivation. Be sure to give plenty of praise when the dog chases and picks up the ball (or bone, or old shoe, or whatever).

For more Jack Russell troubleshooting tips, refer to me ebook, The Jack Russell Lover's Ultimate Guide To Training. It contains troubleshooting tips for all the basic obedience commands.

Advanced Steps

When you successfully teach a dog to Fetch a ball, you've really only just scratched the surface of training a dog. From here you're only limited by your imagination: Fetch the newspaper, Fetch the remote control, Fetch a drink from the fridge...the list goes on. Start to experiment with some cool dog tricks. Teaching basic commands to your dog is just the beginning of the fun you can have with dog training.

More Information

Many JRT owners set out to train their dogs without being aware of the common mistakes involved in training. This can lead to accidentally encouraging problem behaviors and bad habits that can be hard to fix. The Top Ten Jack Russell Training Mistakes is a free special report that tells you exactly what to avoid when you train.

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