So, how do I go about teaching a puppy to fetch?

Teaching a puppy to fetch should present few problems. Most dogs like to chase something that is thrown without any prompting- bringing it back to you though is often not on their agenda. However, a dog views this as a fun activity, and to keep the fun going she'll often return to you. The trick is getting her to release the object.

Your dog's breeding, and the work that she was intended to do, will determine how quick she masters the "fetch" command. Prey drive behaviour also has a role to play. You shouldn't try to teach your puppy this lesson until she has thoroughly learnt the 5 basic lessons of puppy training discussed here at teaching a puppy to sit - the 1st basic lesson.

Before teaching your dog to fetch you'll need to make sure that your pet will hold on to an object before moving on to fetching it:

  1. Use a suitable toy belonging to your puppy for this exercise. A nylon bone, or a play dumbbell is good. Place a collar and lead on your puppy and command her to "sit".
  2. Show her the toy, which she should recognise as hers, which should induce her to want it. Tilt her head up slightly, gently open her mouth, and place the toy between her teeth. Issue the command "hold" as she grips the toy between her teeth. Praise her. Don't give her a treat
  3. See if you can get her to release it of her own free will. If not show her a treat- she should automatically drop the toy- as she does issue the command "drop". This time give her the treat and praise.
  4. Next, show her the toy, slowly move it down towards the floor, as your hand reaches the floor, pause for a second or two, then release the toy from your grip.
  5. The anticipation that has built up in your dog should cause her to immediately make a grab for the toy; issue the command "hold" as she grips it. Praise her, and repeat the "drop" lesson
  6. Repeat these lessons several times until you're sure that your dog responds to each command in the required way. Praise, reward and keep the lessons fun.

Corgi puppy

Teaching your puppy to retrieve.

Now that you're sure your puppy is holding and dropping her toy to order the next lesson should be a breeze. Mainly because most dogs see this as fun; as soon as it ceases to be fun they lose interest very quickly. So don't overdo it, if your dog is getting distracted, call it a day.

Only start this lesson if you have taught your puppy to come.

  1. If you've got a retractable lead so much the better with this exercise. If not you could tie a length of string to the lead initially.
  2. Get your dog to sit, attract his attention to the toy in your free hand. His anticipation should be high, so hold on to his collar, throw the toy a short manageable distance, issue the command "fetch" and release your dog.
  3. Once he has grasped the toy, and by now he should do it automatically without the need of a "hold" command, issue the "sit" command, and then the "drop" command.
  4. Gradually lengthen the distance. Get him to return to you by using the "come" command. Running alongside him after you've thrown the toy makes it competitive for him, and thus more enjoyable. Once you're confident that the on-lead strategy is working. Try it off lead; but be prepared for setbacks.

This is easy in print. But you're the dog trainer in real life, and dependent on your dog's personality all of these lessons may be easy peasy, or extremely challenging. Providing you stay in charge of the situation, your patient, and kind- things will fall in to place. That's puppy training in a nutshell!

Teaching a puppy to fetch is just one segment of our puppy-training guide.....

An angel of a dog

So why not find out All About teaching your dog not to bark.
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