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Training a Dog to Fetch a Ball

Shaggy grey and white dog running after a tennis ball outdoors

Most dogs love to play fetch because it adds fun to their playing time. Some dogs understand the game naturally while others need more training, especially for the retrieving part. It’s recommended to use a ball for this training because it’s easier to grip than other objects. Keep reading to learn how you can teach a dog to fetch a ball.

How to Train a Dog to Fetch a Ball?

The very first thing that you need for this training is a ball. Preventive Vet explains that you need to consider several factors (age, size, and ability of your dog) to make the right choice. Your pooch should be able to conveniently grasp the selected ball with his/her teeth. The following training can help your dog to fetch a ball.  

Teach (or Use) the Sit Command

Brown puppy sitting outdoors in tall grass

This is the first step of the training in which you make your canine friend sit on the ground. You may use the ‘Sit’ command for this purpose if your pup is familiar with it. Alternatively, you can also use a hand signal if your pet understands it. It’s necessary to make your pup sit calmly because you want to refrain him/her (from jumping for the ball) until you throw the ball.

Familiarize Your Dog with the Ball

Always choose his/her favorite ball for teaching a dog how to play fetch. This will reduce your effort because the canine will automatically go after it. If your dog doesn’t have any favorite ball, you will have to introduce the dog to a ball. Here’s how you can do this.

  • Place the ball near you (often on a floor).
  • Wait for your dog to get close to the ball.
  • Give him/her a treat when your pooch approaches the ball.
  • Feed him/her more treats when he/she touches the ball (for showing an interest).
  • Repeat the process until your dog is completely familiar with the ball.

Move the Fetch Ball Around Your Dog

Pit Bull outdoors in grass next to dropped ball

In this step, just move the ball here and there so that your pup keeps his/her focus on it.

  • In the beginning, don’t drop the ball very far because it can make your dog uninterested.
  • Instead, you should keep the ball in your hands and use different positions of the arms to dodge the pup.
  • You should also encourage your pup to touch the ball by giving him/her a treat every time he/she comes in contact with the ball.
  • Repeat the process so that your dog could master the art of chasing the fetch ball.

Insist Your Dog to Grab the Ball

tan dog laying upside down on back with pink ball in mouth

Once your dog is ready to chase the ball, it’s time to teach him/her how to grab it. This step will require some patience from the owner because your canine companion may take some to learn this trait.

  • Place the ball on the floor at almost your arm’s length.
  • If your dog chases the ball and touches it with his/her nose and mouth, give him/her a treat.
  • Continue to reward your dog, every time he/she come closer to the ball and tries to grab it.
  • When he/she successfully grab it with the mouth, praise him/her and give a treat.

Play Small Indoor Games of Fetch

Until now your dog knows that every time he/she grabs the ball, he/she will get a treat.

  • Now, the next step is to throw the ball a few feet away. This will make your dog chase the ball and grab it.
  • Now, use the “come” command to encourage your dog to bring the ball back to you. Give him/her a treat when he/she completes the task successfully.
  • Repeat this step a few times.

Throw the Ball much Farther

Woman outdoors with dog, dog jumping up at blue ball held in her hand

When your dog seems to have learned the small game of fetch, it’s time to up the ante.

  • Throw the ball a little farther and tell your pup to bring it back. Once he does that, reward him/her with a treat.
  • Make the throw farther and farther depending upon the place of your house. On each successful fetch, reward your dog with treats and a lot of praises. Repeat the process until your dog has learned every aspect of the fetch game.

Use a Fetch Command

In this part of the training, the owners will add the verbal command (“fetch”) to the training. Always remember to use the command “fetch” only after teaching the entire process to your dog.

  • Say the word “fetch” just before tossing the ball.
  • When your dog successfully fetches the ball for you, reward him/her with treats. You can also praise your dog by saying words, like “good fetch”.
  • Repeat the training regularly so that your canine friend can associate the sound of “fetch” with this training.

Take Your Dog Out for a Fetch

Woman throwing ball to a yellow Labrador retriever on a beach

This is the last and the most important part of fetch training because it tests all your previous teachings. In this part, you have to take your dog outside to play and bond with him/her.

  • Start the training within some fenced space, like a backyard, or at a quiet park. This is because if your pup is not much familiar with other people or dogs, he/she may get furious or nervous.
  • Provide some treats to make your dog comfortable so that he/she could reproduce the knowledge.
  • Now, throw the ball to a reasonable distance and tell your pooch to bring it back.
  • Reward your dog with a treat when he/she brings the ball back to you.

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