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How to Teach Your Dog to Fetch in 4 Easy Steps

Written by: Dogster Team

Last Updated on April 4, 2024 by Dogster Team

Danish Swedish Farmdog playing fetch playing

How to Teach Your Dog to Fetch in 4 Easy Steps

Fetching a ball or rope toy may seem like second nature to dogs, but it’s not always. Some breeds take to fetch naturally, like retrievers, but others may need a little guidance to get the fun out of the game.

Whether you want to teach your dog to fetch to broaden their skill set, enjoy a new activity, or show off a little, here are four simple steps to get your dog retrieving in no time.

Before You Start: Supplies and Preparation

Fetch is often done with a ball, but you can teach your dog to fetch with a variety of toys. Some may prefer a racquetball or tennis ball, while others may like a squeaky toy. If your dog doesn’t seem to enjoy toys, try teaching them with a Velcro bag filled with treats.

High-value treats are an important part of training your dog to fetch. Choose treats that are a little more exciting than low-calorie training treats, such as pungent liver bites, based on what gets your dog motivated.dogster paw divider

The 4 Steps to Train Your Dog to Fetch

1. Work in an Enclosed Space

Small spaces work best for training, at least at first. Use a small, fenced yard, hallway, or bedroom to train your dog to fetch. Without a lot of space, your dog will be more focused on what you’re teaching them and won’t have new places to explore with their toy.

Beautiful golden retriever dog running playing fetch
Image Credit: Birgit Reitz-Hofmann, Shutterstock

2. Teach Your Dog to Chase the Toy

This part is simple! Throw the ball or toy a short distance and encourage your dog to chase it. With a dog’s natural prey drive, most will simply chase a thrown object. If your dog doesn’t seem to understand what the toy is or what they can do, try to get them excited by bouncing or playing with the toy.

3. Encourage Your Dog to Return the Toy

After your dog is constantly chasing the toy when you throw it, you can advance training.

The fetch command has three parts:
  • Throwing the ball a short distance
  • Calling your dog back to you with a command like “come” or “bring”
  • Rewarding your dog with praise and attention for returning with the ball

It is important to repeat the process until your dog learns the cue and associates returning the ball with a reward.

Close up portrait of dog playing fetch with colorful toy rope
Image Credit: alexei_tm, Shutterstock

4. Teaching Your Dog to Drop the Toy

Once you have “fetch” down, you can teach your dog to drop the toy in front of you. It’s best to start with a treat at first to “trade” with your dog.

Place a high-value treat in front of your dog’s nose, which should encourage them to drop the toy to get the treat. As soon as they drop the toy, praise them and give them the treat.

Give them the toy back and repeat the trades until they drop on command without showing the treat. If your dog drops the toy willingly, offer praise and then reward them with a treat. The key is to increase the time between dropping the toy and getting the trade, so it’s no longer a trade but a command that they follow to earn their reward. Eventually, your dog will learn to drop the toy—or whatever else they’re holding—without needing to see the treat.

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Fetch is a simple and straightforward game, but some dogs need a little guidance and encouragement to learn this skill. With enough practice, you can have a smooth fetch of any toy and some great bonding time with your dog.

Featured Image Credit: Rolf_52, Shutterstock

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