Nitro at the lake

Nitro takes his fetch game to the water

Playing fetch with your dog is one activity on a short list that assists your dog in releasing pent up energy. If you have the ability to sit on a bench and exhaust your dog within 15-20 min with the toss of a ball you’ve got it made in the shade. When you are sick, injured or just too tired to run or walk with your dog the game of fetch can be there for you to help you exercise your best friend. Some dogs don’t know how to play this game instinctively or properly leaving owners frustrated and a dog unexercised. In order to participate in the game of fetch two things need to be in place. The first is drive and the second is training.

Without drive you are in dead in the water. Consider these tips to increase your dog’s drive. Present a ball to your dog within a hallway of your home at a time of day when he is at his most energetic. The purpose of practicing in the hallway is to eliminate distractions. Throw it, roll it, and bounce it, whatever you can do to get your dog’s attention focused on the ball. If he becomes excited enough to chase it and pick it up with his mouth praise him wildly. Repeat this activity twice more and then stop. Put the ball away leaving him wanting more. This will help build an obsession. If you are successful in getting your dog to pick up the ball three times throw the ball one additional time with each session. You can practice 1 to 3 times per day. On a side note, it can be worth the effort to find a way to make the ball more enticing through smell. For example, you can place the ball inside a bag of your dog’s favorite treats overnight.

Now that you’ve put drive in place it’s time to implement some training so that your game can run smoothly. When playing fetch you need your dog to do two things once he has the ball in his mouth. The first is return it to you, the second is let it go. You can use a 20 ft training lead attached to your dog’s collar to reel him in once he has the ball in his mouth. I advise you to attach this lead to his regular collar instead of a training collar such as a prong collar or choke chain. Unlike moments of obedience in which you need the dog to have a submissive mind, you need your dog to stay amplified in this moment. If he feels corrected he may not feel like playing anymore. A light hand does the trick. Once he gets the ball in his mouth verbally encourage him with the command “come” to bring it to you as your reel him in like a bass. Once he’s close enough for you to get your hand on the ball trade him for a treat or another ball as you speak the command “release”. After several sessions he should have an understanding of the word.

After you’ve built drive and instilled a couple of commands you will have taught your dog a game than can provide a lot of enjoyment for both of you. Take care to not over do it so that injuries can be avoided. Once you’ve taught your dog this skill on land step up your game and teach him to fetch in the water. Retrieving in water is an excellent energy burner and oh so easy on those joints.