Tag Archives: fetch

Teaching Your Dog to Fetch

As simple as it may seem, teaching your pooch to retrieve can be quite a challenge! Depending on the breed and personality of your dog, it might be a skill they learn quickly, or the game could take some serious practice. Some dogs might enjoy chasing after a toy or item, but don’t understand the concept of bringing it back to you, while others will chase and come back to you, but not release the item from their mouths. Start with the basics, and you’ll have your pup fetching in no time!

Before You Start
It’s a good idea to master basic commands before working on more advanced tricks. Establishing a foundation of obedience is essential to your dog becoming successful at learning more difficult commands. Also, make sure you know what motivates your dog. Does he work for treats, affection, or play? Many dogs are treat-motivated, but if affection or a favorite toy is enough of a reward for your dog, consider those alternatives. It’s possible that if your dog knows you have treats, he won’t leave your side to actually fetch anything! Lastly, make sure you are teaching your dog to fetch something he is actually interested in. Whether it be a stick, favorite ball, or Frisbee, use something that will get your pup excited.

Chasing the Object
First, you want your dog to go after the toy you chose. (For some dogs, this might be the easy part!) Toss the item, verbally encourage your pup to go after it, and reward him with praise as soon as he picks it up. Take the object away and repeat this process several times until your dog is consistently chasing after the item. If your dog isn’t interested, take a step back and first reward him for touching the toy when it is in front of him. Gradually, he will figure out that he must touch the toy to be rewarded.

Bring it Back!
The next step is to get your dog to actually bring the toy back to you (usually the harder part!). Try calling your dog once he is holding the object. If he comes back and drops the object, reward him. If not, coax your dog to come back to you with your voice, a treat or another toy. You might also need to tug firmly on the item in his mouth to encourage your pup to drop it. If he won’t drop it, show him a treat or toy as motivation. He will likely drop the first toy to go after whatever new item you’re holding. Reward your pup as soon as he drops the item you tossed. Repeat this process several times, rewarding your dog immediately each time he comes back and drops the item in front of you. The repetition and consistency will encourage your dog to make a clear connection between dropping the item and receiving a reward.

Change the Variables
As your dog gets better at fetching, start switching things up by increasing the distance you toss the item. The game then becomes more challenging, as your dog has more time to get distracted on the way to retrieving. You can also start alternating the item you toss, whether it be a ball, toy, stick, Frisbee, etc. While you change each individual variable, make sure to keep yourself in the same position and practice in the same area so it’s not too many changes at once. Small steps will give your dog a chance to master each new aspect of the trick.

Be Patient
Don’t get frustrated with your dog if he doesn’t catch on right away, especially if he is young! Be patient and clear about which behaviors get rewarded. Practice for a small period of time up to several times a day, making sure to give your pooch plenty of time to relax and have fun in the process. Patience and positive reinforcement are the best ways to get your dog fetching like a pro in no time. And remember, in the grand scheme of training priorities, fetch is pretty low. Laugh through the process and have fun!

Scoping out the Dog Park: A Checklist

Discovering and participating in new activities with your pup can be one of the most fun and gratifying parts of being a pooch parent. One such popular activity is bringing your furry child (once he’s received all of the required vaccinations and has been cleared by your veterinarian to be in close contact with other dogs) to the dog park. While some feel there’s nothing better than watching your dog play, run free and interact with his adorable peers, many dog owners dislike the idea of the dog park due to valid concerns such as cleanliness and/or potential dangers. Thus, to find out whether the dog park is right for you and your dog, and if it is, to find one that’s safe and comfortable for you and your pet, it’s important to do your research in advance. Start by answering these questions to first find out if your pup is ready for the dog park and if so, how to find that “pawfect park.”

  1. Is your dog’s personality a fit for a highly socialized environment?

If your dog is extremely anxious, shy or aggressive, you may need to undergo some socialization training prior to bringing your dog to a dog park. Be honest with yourself (and your pooch) and be patient if he’s not ready yet. The park isn’t going anywhere, so there is plenty of time to bring him once he’s better trained. You should also make sure your dog is spayed or neutered before taking him to a park – dogs who aren’t fixed can be disruptive and potentially dangerous amongst other dogs in a group setting.

  1. How much exercise does your dog regularly receive?

thumbnail-scoping-dog-parkIn order to make sure your dog is a good candidate for the dog park, make sure you’re not relying on the park as his sole form of exercise. Otherwise, dogs can become overly stimulated and excited by all the new dogs and smells. Among other dangers, this pent-up energy can lead to aggression and dog fighting. Make sure your dog is getting ample opportunity for walks outside and runs in the backyard so that he arrives at the park with a healthy, but curbed amount of energy.

  1. What’s the best way to find a good park?

Ask for recommendations! The best people to ask will be your neighbors as well as pet service providers such as your veterinarian, trainer or groomer. Trusted reviews are crucial to finding a safe park in your area visited by well-mannered pooches and courteous pet parents. Once you have a recommendation, look up the park’s hours and rules.

  1. What are the must-have amenities in a dog park?

Make sure the dog park has all of the necessary conveniences including a clean water source that’s available and/or large enough to accommodate many dogs at once, several easily accessible garbage cans as well as doggy bags for waste disposal, and benches or comfortable seating in a shaded area for pet parents to congregate and watch their pooches frolic.

  1. What safety measures are crucial to check for?

When visiting the dog park, make sure all enclosures are free of sharp points which could cause injury. The barricades should also be tall enough to prevent larger dogs from jumping over them. On the flip side, look out for any holes or gaps in fencing that smaller dogs could squeeze through. Most dog parks will have two separate sides – one for larger dogs and one for smaller dogs as an extra safety precaution. Size does matter in this case – pay attention to the weight limits or breed rules. Clearly mixing a Chihuahua and a German Shepherd is a bad idea.

  1. Is the park up to your cleanliness standards?

While all dog parks require owners to clean up after their pets, not all do unfortunately. Watch for piles of fecal matter to not only avoid stepping in them yourself, but avoid your dog getting dirty or worse, ingesting and getting sick. The best ground cover for dog parks is grass or gravel. The ground should be free of burrs or sharp debris that could get stuck in your dog’s coat or injure his paws.

  1. How do the other owners interact at the park?

When you arrive at the dog park, pay attention to the other puppy parents and see if they’re showing awareness and taking control of their pups. Oblivious or careless owners can make the dog park a dangerous place. And once there, if you’re ever worried about the other owners’ level of responsibility, don’t hesitate to leave. In an ideal dog park environment, the owners are interacting with the dogs, following and calling them when necessary. If you see a group of owners clumped around a bunch of picnic tables engrossed in conversation with no idea what their dog(s) are doing, it’s a bad sign.

Now that you’ve done your due diligence and know what to look out for in a dog park, you can let your pooch off-leash with confidence.  Be sure to capture those woofs, wags and games of fetch on video!  Oh, and be prepared for your pooch to take a long snooze after the experience. Playing and running around with other pups can be tiring!