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How To Teach A Dog To Fetch

How To Teach A Dog To Fetch

You and your dog head outside. You’re excited. This is going to be great. You show your dog a bright, bouncy new rubber ball, and then chunk it across the yard. Your dog looks at the ball, looks at you, and then ambles off in the opposite direction to investigate some awesome smell.

Wait – isn’t a dog supposed to chase a ball!?

Or you dog runs after the ball but refuses to bring it back to you.  Your dog would prefer the game of chase to the game of fetch (this was what Allie did).

It seems logical that a dog should intuitively just chase a ball and bring it back, however, not all pups share this intuition. That’s why I’ve created this guide with step-by-step instructions on everything you need to know about how to teach a dog to fetch.

Once you transform your dog into a fetching superhero, use my list of fetch toys for dogs at the end of this article to take your playtime to the next level!

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Teach A Dog to Fetch

1. First things first, choose a toy that you know your dog will love. When I was first teaching Allie to fetch, I went with a super bouncy ball because she loves things that bounce. It’s also a good idea to make this a special toy used only for fetch. If your dog gets to play with the toy anytime she wants, she may lose her enthusiasm for it over time.

2. Another thing to consider – where should you go to teach your dog to fetch? The less distractions, the better, so choose a controlled environment that your dog is familiar with – like your backyard, or even a long hallway in your home. A relatively quiet, familiar place will help your pup stay focused.

3. Now, on to the training part. If your dog is like the one I described earlier who just sits and stares after a ball in confusion, the first step is to teach chasing after a toy. If you’ve picked a toy that appeals to your dog, then hopefully this will be relatively easy.

But not always. If you’re having trouble getting your dog to chase after a toy, try a game of tug-of-war to build excitement and get things rolling. Once your dog is having a ball (pun intended), toss the toy a short distance and run after it yourself with lots of enthusiasm and encouragement. When you reach the toy, start another game of tug-of-war. Use plenty of rewards – treats and praise are key tools in any type of dog training.

4. This is where things get tricky. The whole idea of fetch is for your dog to retrieve the toy AND bring it back to you. If you haven’t taught your dog to “come”, then this process can be a bit more challenging. Again, use lots of encouragement (dogs love an excited, happy voice) to get your dog to return, along with the “come” command. If you hit a roadblock at this step, try using a long leash to gently guide your dog back to you once she has grabbed her toy.

One thing to note – it’s important not to play chase! If your dog doesn’t return with the toy, don’t chase your dog or they will think that’s the point of the game. Use the leash instead – and use your patience. Patient, consistent training works every time.

5. So now your dog is regularly returning to you with the toy. Great! But how do you get your dog to drop the toy instead of engaging in a constant tug-of-war battle? You’ll want to teach your dog a release command. With Allie, I use “drop it”. When your pooch proudly returns to you with her toy, say “drop it”, while offering a treat as a tasty reward. In order to eat her treat, she’ll have to drop the toy – voila! And don’t forget to give lots of praise as soon as your dog drops the toy.

You can also use a second toy as a reward instead of a treat. Go through the same process of giving the release command and then offer up the second toy. Depending on what motivates your dog, he or she may or may not drop the toy in favor of the second toy. However, this always works for Allie, whatever toy I have is more enticing than the toy in her mouth.  If your dog turns up their nose at the second toy, stick with treats until the “drop it” command is mastered.

And there you have it – now you know exactly how to teach your dog to fetch. Follow these steps, add a little time and a lot of patience, and you’ll have your dog fetching like a pro!

 

My Top Fetch Toys for Dogs

Once your dog has fetching down, you can teach her to retrieve anything! We’ve all seen those great YouTube videos showing a dog bringing its owner a cold beer straight from the fridge – but if having your dog retrieve a cold one isn’t your thing, check out these great fetch toys for dogs.

The Chuckit! Ultra Ball

Does your dog love high-flying fun with a ball? Then the Chuckit! Ultra Ball should be your number one fetch toy.

This ball is bouncy – really bouncy! It’s perfect for dogs that love to leap and catch a ball midair. Combine this ball with the Chuckit! Ball Launcher (see the next toy in my list), and your dog will be soaring to new heights!

Made from extra-thick rubber, this high-bouncing ball is also made tough for long-term use, and it’s easy to clean.

Plus, it’s lightweight and floats so it’s perfect for dogs that love the water. And the bright, contrasting colors make it easy to spot anywhere.

What I love:

  • Durable
  • Bouncy
  • Different size options
  • Floaty for water games

Possible downsides: 

  • Some consumers were disappointed in the durability of the Chuckit! Ball, but as I noted before, this is NOT intended to be a chew toy!

And the verdict is…

A ball is the best basic fetch toy for dogs. If you have a dog that loves to leap, this ball can’t be beat!

The Chuckit! Dog Ball Launcher

Enhance your game of fetch with this awesome dog ball launcher that lets you throw farther and faster.

Load a tennis ball (or the Chuckit! Ultra Ball) into the Chuckit! launcher and send it flying for your dog to retrieve. It’s a great way to challenge your dog for a real workout!

The Chuckit! Dog Ball Launcher comes in several sizes and is easy to throw in the car and take with you to the park, lake, or anywhere.

Another cool feature of this launcher is hands-free pick up, which helps keep your hands clean and slobber free.  Allie always brings back a slimy mess of a ball during rambunctious games of fetch, so this is definitely one of my favorite features!

What I love:

  • Increases throwing distance
  • Keeps hands clean
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Includes a Chuckit! ball

Possible downsides: 

  • Depending on what size you buy, you may need some practice to launch the ball accurately (the shorter launchers can be a challenge).

And the verdict is…

Combine this Chuckit! Launcher with the Chuckit! Ultra Ball for plenty of long-distance fetching fun.

The Chuckit! Paraflight Dog Toy

One last great fetch toy from Chuckit! and this Paraflight Dog Toy is designed for high flying fun.

 The Chuckit! Paraflight dog is made of durable nylon material for long lasting play.  The nylon material is also very easy to clean.

And like the other Chuckit! toys, this toy is brightly colored  so it is easy to spot, and it floats so it’s the perfect toy for playing at the pool.

Allie loves retrieving this toy – the design makes it really easy to catch and carry, and it’s easy on her teeth as well.

 

 

What I love:

  • Durable
  • Easy to clean
  • Flies high in the sky
  • Floaty for water games

Possible downsides: 

  • It takes practice to learn how to throw it straight. Some people have complained about this toy curving when they try and toss it straight.
  • Not a chew toy – use only under supervision.

And the verdict is…

This is a great versatile fetch toy.  It flies high enough for Allie and also doubles as a pool toy.

The KONG Ball

The KONG brand is known for its toughness, and this toy lives up to the KONG name.

This KONG ball is made from ultra-durable rubber and designed to be extra tough for playing fetch. It also boasts a really big bounce!

There are a couple of different sizes available, so you can use this ball with your puppy or adult dog. And the rubber makes it easy to clean after a slobbery play session.

What I love:

  • Durable
  • Bouncy
  • Different size options

Possible downsides: 

  • It’s a solid, heavy toy, so be careful when throwing it in the air for your dog to catch (especially a puppy).

And the verdict is…

The KONG ball is virtually indestructible and will give your dog years of play. This is the gold standard in durability – get one!  This is a good ball to roll in the house for your dog to retrieve.

The KONG Flyer

Allie and I really love KONG toys – can you tell? They’re more durable and well-made then a lot of other products on the market so it’s hard to go wrong.

The KONG flyer is made from a durable rubber that is also soft and super easy on your dog’s teeth, so you don’t have to worry about your dog catching it midair.

It’s available in two different sizes, making it a great option for younger dogs as well.

And frisbees are just a great all-around fetch toy! You can challenge your dog to learn new tricks, while also getting in some great exercise for your pooch.

 

What I love:

  • Durable
  • Easy on teeth
  • Different size options
  • Great for learning tricks & exercising

Possible downsides: 

  • While KONG is known for its durability, this flyer is not designed to be a chew toy! It’s a thinner, softer rubber, and a power chewing dog can destroy it if left unsupervised.

And the verdict is…

Frisbees are so fun! Allie loves playing fetch with this high flyer, I really like this toy because it is softer and easier on Allie’s gums.

The Legendog Flying Discs

As I said before, frisbees really amp up a game of fetch, and these flying discs are super aerodynamic, so they fly further and higher than most.

The Legendog Flying disc is made of non-toxic, flexible rubber and is safe for your dog’s teeth. The soft rubber makes it easy to bite and snatch out of the air.

One cool feature of this frisbee is that you can flip it upside down and fill it with water – perfect for thirsty dogs after a long day of running and playing fetch.

Plus, your order comes with two discs!

What I love:

  • Easy on teeth
  • Different size options
  • Great for learning tricks & exercising
  • Multifunctional

Possible downsides: 

  • Not as durable as some other frisbee options.

And the verdict is…

If the KONG flyer just isn’t for you, this is another great frisbee option.

The Nero Ball Ultra

What’s better for playing fetch than just a regular ball? A Nero ball on a rope!

The Nero Ball Ultra does away with the need for a launcher – just grab the rope, whirl it around, and send the ball flying! The extra leverage works just like a launcher and lets you throw further and faster.

Made from thick rubber, this ball is tough enough for long-term use and training. The nylon rope is well-made, too.

This ball is one of Allie’s favorite toys. It has a great bounce, and the ridges make the bouncing unpredictable, so it keeps her entertained. It’s also fun for tug of war games.

What I love:

  • Durable
  • Bouncy
  • Increases throwing distance
  • Versatile ways to play

Possible downsides: 

  • This particular Nero ball isn’t waterproof, but they do make a waterproof version (and a smaller puppy version as well).

And the verdict is…

I really love this all in one fetch toy. It’s a great training tool and also makes for a lively game of fetch.

The West Paw Zogoflex Bumi

What’s a Bumi, you ask? Well, it’s a super fun, bouncy, S-shaped toy that your dog will love!

There are so many great things about the West Paw Zogoflex Bumi. The shape makes it perfect for fetching, and the rubber is soft and easy on your dog’s teeth and gums. It also has a great bounce when you throw it.

Allie also loves to play tug-of-war with her Bumi – it stretches to almost twice its length! And so far, it’s very tough, even during heavy-duty tugging.

Plus, it’s recyclable and dishwasher-safe.

What I love:

  • Stretchy
  • Bouncy
  • Versatile ways to play
  • Floaty for water games
  • Easy on teeth

Possible downsides: 

  • The Bumi is definitely not a chew toy! It’s designed for supervised playtime only.

And the verdict is…

The Bumi is a unique toy that is great for playing fetch. I love the shape and the versatility – it’s a great toy to shake things up during playtime!

 

Photo by Wyatt Ryan on Unsplash

 

One last thing before I wrap up. As I mentioned a few times in my recommendations, these toys are NOT meant to be chew toys (if you’re looking for indestructible dog toys, check out this article). All my top toy picks were chosen only because they’re great for playing fetch, not because they can withstand heavy chewing. So don’t allow your dog to gnaw away on these toys or play with them unsupervised – it’s a waste of money, and it’s unsafe.

If you have any suggestions for great fetch toys that you use with your four-legged pal, let me know below. I’d also love to hear the techniques you used to turn your dog into a fetching fanatic!

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