Teaching Your Dog to Retrieve Using His Play Drive
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
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.
- 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!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.