How to Teach Your Dog to Play Fetch

Updated on August 19, 2019
zsobig profile image

I love writing about and training dogs, they are just so much fun to work with.

A how-to guide about teaching your dog to play fetch
A how-to guide about teaching your dog to play fetch | Source

Teach Fetch to Your Dog!

Playing fetch with your fellow companion is a gift for both the dog and for you. They get the exercise they need, while they also spend some precious time with their master. On the other hand, you can relax and play a bit with your pet. This is a true gift for all dog lovers!

In this article, you can find some tips on how to teach your dog to play fetch, I hope you will find them useful.

Does Your Dog Have a Natural Instinct for It?

Puppies are able to play fetch, too!
Puppies are able to play fetch, too! | Source

First, you should explore whether your pup has the natural inborn ability to play fetch or not. Some breeds have a natural instinct, while others do not. Retrievers and herding dogs especially have the instinct to fetch almost anything they see. Breeding through the decades brought this ability to them. Meanwhile, other breeds that have no innate ability can be taught.

First, you have to figure out whether your dog is able to fetch:

  1. Choose his favorite toy, it doesn't matter if it is a ball or a plush toy.
  2. While inside the house, where there are fewer distractions, try to get their interest by waving and tossing the toy in front of them, and then toss it away not too far from you.
  3. Then, say "Fetch!" Now examine: What does the dog do?
  • The dog shows no interest to play fetch at all, they ignore the toy completely. (If this is the case, then jump to the first step.)
  • There's some interest, but he does nothing. (If this is the case, then jump to the second step.)
  • He rushes to the toy but does nothing. (If this is the case, then jump to the third step.)
  • He rushes to the toy and grabs it, but never brings it back. (If this is the case, then jump to the fourth step.)
  • He runs to the toy, grabs it, and brings it back to you. [If this is the case, then your dog has a natural instinct to play fetch. Congratulations! Jump to the last (fifth) step.]

Tennis balls are very useful
Tennis balls are very useful | Source

Step One

Your dog doesn't seem to have a natural instinct for fetch. But you can teach him to play with you. You have to show him that he will be rewarded for paying attention to you and bringing the toy back. Here's a list of things you should do now:

  1. Get a ball (a tennis ball will be the best) and cut a slit into it (3–4 cm will do).
  2. Put a few, smelly treats into the hole. Choose his favorite treat, if it is possible.
  3. Now show the ball to him. If he sniffs it, then praise them with a treat.

Try to catch his interest. If you got it, continue to step two.

(Note: instead of cutting a tennis ball, you can also find some very handy toys that are produced especially for playing fetch on Amazon!)

Even a stick can be used for training purposes
Even a stick can be used for training purposes | Source

Step Two

  1. Now, put the ball down, and try to have your dog to pick it up.
  2. Show the ball several times and have him sniff it if needed. Also give some treats to praise him for this.

If he finally picks the ball up, then continue to step three.

Step Three

Use dog treats if it is needed
Use dog treats if it is needed | Source

Step Three

  1. Toss the toy away. If he does nothing, you must go and get the toy, and try to have your dog get there as well.
  2. If he is next to you, praise him. Then toss the ball again. Do this several times, until he picks up the toy alone.

Use peanut butter and smear the toy if it is needed to get the dog's interest. Praise them after that of course. Now continue to step four.

Praise your dog verbally and with treats as well.
Praise your dog verbally and with treats as well. | Source

Step Four

  1. If your dog now has the toy in their mouth but never brings it back, you must toss the ball and say "Fetch!"
  2. If he does nothing, then pick the ball up and do this again. Try to have him go with you to the toy. Hand it over to the dog, and after they grab it, praise them with a treat.
  3. Do this a few times until the dog goes for the ball and picks it up, then call them back to you and give a treat.
  4. Toss the ball further each time after that. If he does it, try to leave with giving them a treat every time.
  5. Praise them, but only give a treat for the second time, then for the third time, then for the fourth time they bring it back.

Your dog is now able to play fetch! Now continue to step five.

Step Five

Play fetch outdoors
Play fetch outdoors | Source

Step Five

Congrats, your dog is a genius; they know how to play fetch!

  • Move outdoors and have them play there as well. If the dog is distracted, then quickly run through the upper steps with him. Now, enjoy playing fetch outdoors as well!

I'm sure that later you can completely forget about giving treats for your dog during the play because they will soon realize that playing fetch with their master is great fun!

How to Train, by a Professional

Give Me Your Opinion!

Please feel free to comment on this article, your feedback is very much appreciated!

How to Teach Your Dog, by an Expert

Questions & Answers

    © 2010 Sophie

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      • profile image


        4 months ago

        it wont except my question

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        The info was very nice, it is wonderful when others who know what works and share.

      • profile image


        7 years ago

        According to the late Dr Leon F Whitney, DVM, teaching a dog to play fetch is probably the most creative thing you can do with him. He also states that for dogs, retrieving is the best exercise of all, and that 15 minutes of retrieving is better exercise than hours of strolling around the neighborhood on leash.

      • rebeccamealey profile image

        Rebecca Mealey 

        7 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

        What an awesome job! I love the way you listed the steps as what to do if and when. What a cute photo of that puppy. AWWWW!

      • zsobig profile imageAUTHOR


        7 years ago from United Kingdom

        Thank you a lot for sharing :).

        At the moment I 'only' have two cats (our family dog stayed in Hungary with my parents - sadly, he passed away in January, he was 13 years old), but I am unable to imagine my life/my future without animals around myself. I love my sweethearts like they were my children.

        I am happy I was able to share my knowledge in this hub :).

      • mary615 profile image

        Mary Hyatt 

        7 years ago from Florida

        I am a devoted dog owner and lover. My dog is a miniature schnauzer and loves to play fetch. I didn't teach her, she just loves her tennis ball. I have a Shih Tzu who only wants to play with her bone: NO ball.

        I voted this Hub UP and will share.

      • ed77burns profile image


        9 years ago from USA

        This is quite interesting hub on dogs.


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