Here’s another fun write-up from your favorite Los Angeles Dog Trainer, (well at least your dog’s favorite.) Seriously, I take play with your dog very seriously, and in this post we’ll get into the game of fetch. Aside from the obvious benefit of playing fetch like the fact that it’s good exercise, fetch can be used to train some basic obedience too. Once you have a dog that loves chase the ball and bring it back, the game becomes interactive. The dog will gladly SIT, DOWN, and STAY for the reward of chasing after the ball.
Most dogs will chase after the ball, but won’t bring it back. They’ll play keep away, take it somewhere and chew on it, or they run to the ball and won’t pick it up. Then you have to try to coerce them to drop it, go pick up the ball, or just give up. Playing by those rules makes the game way less fun for you and your dog. In order to reap the full benefits of playing fetch with your dog, you need to change the rules a bit.
Hold on… we’re going to use a bit of trainer talk in this one.(I’ll explain the jargon)
Most dogs will willingly run after a ball, so most people start there. They throw the ball in hopes of the dog going out to get it and bring it back, however the problem is usually on the back end… when you need the dog to come back and drop the ball. So, instead of starting with the part that comes easy to the dog, we’re going to work backwards, or “back chain” the behavior. Back chaining means we break down the steps in a complex behavior and start with the last step first.
Start in a low distraction area. Get two of the same balls, and a few treats just in case you need them. I like to start training this low to the ground. I usually get on my knees. It’s less imposing to the dog.
I take one of the balls and hold it in front of the dog’s mouth. When they take it from me, I mark it with YES.
Once the dog has the ball, they may run away or posture with the ball to initiate me to chase them. I ignore that and present the second ball. At this point most dogs will get pretty excited and drop the ball in their mouth, so when you show the dog the second ball, cue them to DROP or GIVE. (depending on if you like to hold slobber covered tennis balls.) If the dog doesn’t drop the ball at the sight of the second tennis ball, then you need to make it a little more interesting… throw it from hand to hand or bounce it a few times. When your dog drops the first ball, make YES and roll the second ball out to them.
Note: If your dog won’t drop the ball for the chance at getting the second ball, you can use the treats. Hold the treat in front of his face. When he drops it, mark YES, reward with the food, then present the ball again after he swallows the treat.
Repeat step 3 a few times… You can throw in the FETCH command after your YES marker. After a few reps, end your fetching session for the day. Leave your dog wanting more.
On day two, you will start with your two balls again, but you’ll be standing this time. Again, toss your first ball a couple feet in front and say FETCH. When your dog picks up the ball, back up a couple of steps and wait for them to come close to you. When they get close, cue them to DROP/GIVE. When they do, mark with a YES, cue FETCH and toss the second ball out a couple of feet and repeat.
As your dog gets better and better with bringing you the ball and dropping it, you can increase the distance you throw the ball or the distance you back up and have them bring the ball to you.
At this point your dog should be retrieving pretty seamlessly and with excitement, so it’s time to fade the second ball. Now when you cue your dog to DROP/GIVE, instead of tossing the second ball, you just pick up the ball they dropped and toss that instead. This step usually takes 2 or 3 reps before the dogs get it.
There you have it… you’re playing fetch. Another big part of the game where people usually mess up is that they play fetch too long. You have to stop the game leaving your dog wanting more. Stop before they get bored and before they get tired. If you are interested in having a playful and fun relationship with your dog, give their favorite Los Angeles dog trainer, contact us.