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5 Dog Breeds Who Are Surprisingly Good at Fetch

They may not be retrievers, but Miniature Schnauzers, Standard Poodles, and others love a good game of fetch.

Lynn M. Hayner  |  May 27th 2016


For good reason, retrievers generally dominate “fervent to fetch” lists. And, indeed, most Labrador and Golden Retrievers, for example, thrive on chasing (and generally retrieving) toys. But let’s tag five additional surprisingly fetching breeds — and let’s hear about them in the dogs’ own voices.

1. English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel, courtesy Melody Carranza

English Springer Spaniel courtesy Melody Carranza.

Specifically, I was bred to flush and spring birds. But I was also developed for all-around hunting work, which includes retrieving. The spring in my name is no coincidence: I’ll spring into action after any prey, including the squeaky toy variety. As a breed, we separate into two physical varieties: field and show. But we all love to chase, and most of us can’t stand coming back without our prey. If you throw a ball deep into a thicket, be prepared for a long wait. I likely won’t come back until I find it.

2. Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzer, courtesy American Miniature Schnauzer Club

Miniature Schnauzer courtesy American Miniature Schnauzer Club.

I was developed in Germany for farm work and to go to ground for critters. You may recognize me most for my whiskers, charm, and noteworthy Schnauze. But while I wasn’t developed specifically to retrieve, my energetic prey/play drive and my fondness for interaction usually means I’m game for chase. Now, I admit that teaching me to chase may be easier than to retrieve, but don’t give up; I’m more biddable than many terrier types and certainly have the heart for human playtime.

3. Border Collie

Border Collie courtesy Amanda Labadie

Border Collie courtesy Amanda Labadie.

I was bred in the British Isles for herding. I’ve got a hypnotic stare that can control sheep — and perhaps humans who fall under my spell, too. In our first fetch session, you may notice I’m not necessarily drawn to retrieving balls you randomly throw. My first impulse may be to say, You threw it. You get it. I’ve got more important things to do. But my intense work drive usually means I’ll accept job offers of any kind, even those involving silly plastic toys. And let me add that if you can’t teach me to retrieve, your training skills need work. I’m at the top of trainable breeds. So go ahead and amp up the retrieve. May I please fetch your children, spouse, cats, or (oh, I love this one!) sheep?

4. Standard Poodle

Standard Poodle, Sam Houston, courtesy Bill Wright

Standard Poodle Sam Houston courtesy writer and photographer Bill Wright.

It’s time, once and for all, to set aside all the stereotypes about me being a froufrou dog. I’m an athlete, developed as a water retriever in Germany. My coat was designed not for glamour, but to facilitate movement and protect my vital organs in cold waters. I’m enthusiastic about any requests for play, chasing games included. I can easily learn to fetch a ball, my owner’s shoes, a newspaper, a smartphone, or a Frisbee. In fact, given my intelligence and agility, I’ll probably learn to balance the Frisbee on my nose.

5. Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, courtesy Corinne Beckner

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, courtesy Corinne Beckner.

I know we’re not naming many retrievers here, but I maneuvered my way onto this list in the same way I ploy ducks closer to the range of my hunters. After all, I’m renowned for my cleverness. I’m also high energy, responsive, and friendly. I was bred not only to entice waterfowl closer for hunters, but to retrieve. Throw me a toy (ideally a toy duck) and I’ll chase it. Teaching me to retrieve is painless. I’m a natural at sports, with the energy to recover the ball again and again. And again.

Let’s hear from you, readers. Do you have a surprising fetcher? Share details and photos in the comments!