It may seem as simple as just throwing a ball or something but it’s best to start out simple and slowly build upon your dog’s successes.This is the ideal way to shape new behavior.
Start out by playing a simple and fun game. Go to a small room in your house
that is free from any distractions, then sit down on the floor with your dog.
Get a small squeaky toy in one of your hands and some tasty treats in the
other. Ideally, the toy will be one that your puppy has shown interest in. Now
toss the toy a small distance (still within your reach) from yourself and let
your dog pounce on it. You can encourage your him, if need be.
When your puppy grabs the toy reach out and take it from his/her mouth while you are
saying “good puppy.” As soon as you have hold of the toy, replace it by feeding a treat to your dog.
If your puppy won’t let go of the toy, just use the treat as a bribe. Hold the
treat just in front of his nose and wait for him to drop the toy. Praise him
and give him the treat as soon as the toy drops from his mouth. Practice this
simple game in five minute blocks for at least a couple of times a day. This is
the most important first step towards developing a solid and reliable fetch or
retrieve in your dog.
Now continue the game you played in Step 1, but this time we will add a release
word or cue to the exercise. As you are taking the toy from your puppy’s
mouth (or when he drops it in your lap) say “thank you” or
“thanks” and immediately give the treat and praise, just as you
did in Step 1. Repeat this process many times. In this exercise, you are
building an association in your dog’s mind between your “thanks” cue
and the act of him giving the toy to you.
After plenty of practice and continual reinforcement
withthe treat, you will not have to grab the toy from your dog’s mouth,
he will give it to you upon hearing your cue word. Now that you have got
the basic fetch behavior we are trying to shape, let’s build on it a little
Now you will need to slowly (very slowly) increase the distance of the retrieve.
Start out by throwing the toy a couple of metres from you. Hopefully, your dog
will continue to pounce on the toy and bring it back to you for his treat.
Continue just as you have been, say your release cue “thanks” and
give him the treat for every successful retrieve.
If at any time your dog does not bring the toy back to you, do not chase
him or make a fuss. Simply sit and wait patiently until he brings it back
to you, then give him a treat as you normally do. Your aim is to make it clear
to your dog that in order for the fun and games to continue, he must bring the
toy back to you. If your dog doesn’t bring the toy back to you, then finish up
and try again later on. Next time you do it, go back to the shorter and easier
retrieve game as in Step 1.
Continue practicing this game of fetch over and over with your puppy. Repetition and
positive reinforcement are the keys to building and strengthening a solid
retrieve. At this point, you can mix up the distance you throw the toy and take
your training sessions into different rooms within the house. When you
introduce a new object such as a ball (which is what you will be using for a
game of fetch at the dog park) to the game you need to, start out again at a
short distance and increase the distance slowly. Remember only to treat and
praise your puppy when the retrieve object gets delivered directly to you.
That’s pretty much the how retrieve behavior is built in four steps. If you like, you
can now add a cue at the start of the exercise. Simply say “fetch”
or “get it”, just before you throw the ball. After a while when
you say your “fetch” cue your dog will look straight up at you
in anticipation of a chase.
can gradually fade the treats now. By this time, the game itself will be reward
enough for your dog. Instead of a tasty treat being your dog’s motivation, the
next throw of the ball will be enough of an incentive for him to bring the ball
straight back to you!