Teaching Your Dog to Retrieve Using His Play Drive

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On this the second day of your challenge, I want you to play a game of fetch with your dog.  If your dog already knows how to fetch and enjoys retrieving, then I simply want you to play an enthusiastic game with him for a few minutes, or until he is showing signs of fatigue.

If your dog does not know how to retrieve, then I challenge you to teach him how and motivate him to play this very useful game with you!  Even if your dog has never really been interested in retrieving give these tricks a try!

Most dogs have some sort of play/prey drive, meaning when something moves quickly they have a genetic urge to chase it.  When dogs are in the wild, these are the genes/instincts that keep them alive.

Although our pet dogs don’t have to hunt to survive, they still have inherent instincts that get over stimulated when they see something move rapidly and we can manipulate these instincts to teach them a variety of games and tasks that they love.

What You Need:

  • Two toys that are the same or similar.  I prefer toys on a string.
  • Your dog

Getting Started:

I like toys on a string, because I can dangle them and whip them about in a frenzy making them look like prey, around my dog.  So even if the toys you are using don’t have a string, I would recommend tying one around or through each toy.

Not Only a Good Control Game, Also Good Exercise!

  • Put one toy on the ground and let it remain motionless while you grab the other toy and fling in around or across the carpet quickly and illogically.
  • You must get animated and energized, your dog should feed off of your energy!
  • Your dog should get excited and snatch the toy.
  • As soon as your dog’s mouth grasps the toy, let go!  Immediately!
  • Take the other toy and again make it boogie around you.
  • Your dog should discard the first toy in order to steal the one you have now.
  • As soon as your dog spits out toy one say “drop it” “out” or “give” not prior to, but as he is gagging it out!
  • As soon as he grabs the toy you have, immediately let go and reach for the inanimate toy bringing it to life again.
  • Give your release command as he drops one toy for another, and continue playing back and forth.
  • Now as he is enthusiastically trying to grab the toy you are playing with you can fling it a few feet away.
  • As he goes to get it give him your retrieve command “fetch” “take it” whatever you want to use.
  • When he turns around to chase the toy, begin making the other toy move again.
  • He should grab the toy and race back toward you, spitting it out at your feet as he tries to snatch the toy you have.
  • Don’t forget to give him the release command, and praise him as he brings you the toy and releases it at your feet.
  • If things are going well, you can toss the toy a little further each time as he successfully brings the toy to continue the game.

At first the commands mean nothing, but as you play this game day after day, he will begin to realize what each command means and you can shape a regular retrieve.

You are not only teaching him to retrieve an object, you are also teaching him to release the object in a positive manner, which is even a more important skill!

Finally, for one of the next days in The 12 days of Christmas with Your Dog, take your dog’s favorite toy away and put it up somewhere where he can’t reach it, and somewhere you will remember where you put it!

Good luck and as always;  HAVE FUN with your dog!

There are 22 Comments

  1. teymz says:

    wow….that’s alotta fun wiv yhur dog.

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  2. Mike V. says:

    WE have a Black Lab/German Shepard with crasy high drive and my wife started to train the dog at 9 weeks He is now going on 7 months old he can fetch,sit,sit and wait for the food to be put in his dish,sit pretty(that’s funny to see)70 lbs, shake paw , give high five,crawl,and he is pretty darn good on the leash. ONE problem when he wants to play he keeps mouthing and nipping your hand and this hurts any ideas as how to stop this
    MIKE

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    Minette Reply:

    Stop playing with him when his teeth come in contact with your skin, no questions just stop and go inside. He will learn that his teeth = no interaction from you and the stopping of all play and this should teach him to keep them to himself!

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    Jamie Reply:

    When my dog was young I would yelp loudly whenever her teeth touched me and now if she accidentally grabs my hand she knows not to bite down

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  3. Mila says:

    Hello well i have a GSD mix, she has a very low drive but we manage to increase it a bit. My problem is that i tryied this game with her and as soon as i drop toy one and move the second toy she just stay there chewing on toy one and not paying any attention to me running like a crazy throwing and getting fun with toy two. Ive try tease witjh second toy, running around her, give her my back and throw the toy and then go for it myself. She just stay there chewing and not even watching me. Any advice?

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    Minette Reply:

    wait her out or go in and stop playing until she wants to interact with you.

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    Kate C. Reply:

    I’ve worked with many dogs with a similar problem. She may have some very mild resource guarding. I would look into teaching her that you are not “stealing her stuff” first. Try offering her a toy to chew on and then walk by tossing her high value treats as she chews. Over the course of several sessions, when she starts to look up at you as you walk by in anticipation of the treats, stop near her before you toss her treats. Gradually get closer and stop for longer until she will drop her toy any time you approach (at which point you can add a new “drop it” cue). Then try the bait/switch game again. Just make sure any time you need to end the game (whether you need to remove her chew toy or you need to end the bait/switch game), be sure to give her treats or something you can leave her with in exchange so that you aren’t ruining the lesson of “I’m not stealing your stuff” that you just taught her.

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  4. Ryan says:

    I have a 6 month old German Shepherd, who does not seem to be interested in ANY toys….suggestions?

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  5. Ananth says:

    I have a 11 month old labrador retriever. the problem is he goes and fteches the toy from me, but just doesn’t let go! please help

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    Minette Reply:

    The article explains how to get them to play and release and you can search articles for teaching your dog to out

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    Ananth Reply:

    Thanks

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  6. bea gustafson says:

    H,
    I play fetch at home with my dog, she even knows the toys name. I’ll say where’s toy toy? and she runs to get it. We play tug and release…all no problem EXCEPT, when we are out side. I’ve tried throwing many different types of toys, sticks etc. she’ll go for them but won’t return them to me HELP!!!
    Bea

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    Minette Reply:

    Use a long line for a while or go immediately inside and ignore him… dogs want interaction so if we take that away they learn to play the way we want them to!

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  7. Joyce says:

    Thank you for your instructions. I tried them but my two bichon brothers (just turned two yrs old) ran to one dog bed and they both jumped into it together and just watched me without any reaction. When they were puppies they play with their toys always. Now, all they do is stare at the front door that has a window. We covered the window so they could not see out. One of the boys use to play fetch all the time. We didn’t even have to teach him. We threw the ball, he ran after it and returned it to us and dropped it. (No one taught him a thing). Now,he is afraid of the ball! We can not motivate them to play with any toys. PLEASE HELP!!!!!

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  8. sean says:

    Murph loves to fetch but can’t put the ball down for me. Tried the ball on a string thing, completely uninterested however enthusiastic I am. Today the two ball game worked, not really sure why but sometimes I think he is training me. I was holding the second ball, waiting for him to drop his ball, which is so hard for him to do (Border Collie = ball driven). If he does drop it he panics and picks it right back up. While I was being bored and almost a little annoyed, I started throwing the ball up and down in my non-throwing hand. By the second time, he had put his ball down! Not a coincidence, when he came back, I did it again, and again, second ball dropped ready to fetch! So I don’t know if this helps with Murph only but maybe it will help someone else too.

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  9. Joan Fox says:

    We have a shelter dog that we’ve been fostering for 6 months. This black lab is 2 years old and she is very sweet but very, very timid. She has come a long way with us, but we’re working hard on walking with a leash and playing. She has no idea how to play with any ball or soft toy. Her only driver right now is food, especially hot dogs. Were careful not to give her too many of those. I would love to be able to release the puppy inside of her.

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    Minette Reply:

    read this http://www.thedogtrainingsecret.com/blog/teach-dog-play/

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  10. stacey terry says:

    Hi, Firstly thank you for the content, very informative. I have a mini schnauzer who is at puppy foundation, so the art of ‘play’ is crucial. I am struggling with retrieve though, I’ve actioned your idea of two similar toys, he ‘drops’ perfectly, will ‘fetch’ fine, but then runs away with the toy, rather than return to me actively animating the similar model…… any assistance appreciated.

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    Minette Reply:

    Use a long line if necessary

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  11. Pauline says:

    I have a rescue 6 year old greyhound. I have had her for 3 years and have tried to get her to recall but although she knows other commands she seems to ignor me when I want her to come to me. People say this is because they are trained to take no notice of people calling there name while they are racing. She is not particularly food oriented so I tried a whistle, she ignored it. PLEASE HELP.

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    Minette Reply:

    search our articles using the search box for teaching your dog to come.

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  12. Nannette says:

    My Golden retriever gets exited and will fetch to the hand inside but as soon as we step outside he will only run 1/2 way towards it, then walks away not interested

    [Reply]

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