Although a game of fetch seems to be commonplace in a puppy’s world, many need to be taught to play the game correctly. Only few puppies actually know how to catch the item and bring it back to you; the rest often play a one-way street, retrieving the object and running in an entirely different direction. Some of this has to do with the breed of the dog, as some breeds are naturally better at playing fetch than others. For example, hunting breeds generally have no interest in playing a game of fetch, while other breeds are more playful and inclined to bring the ball back.
Fortunately, plenty of practice and positive reinforcement will set up a positive framework for teaching your puppy how to play fetch. Remember that puppies tire easily, so you only need to play the game for a few minutes or until your pup becomes tired or distracted. When you first start teaching your puppy the game of fetch, start in close quarters. Many dog owners are tempted to head outdoors, but small areas are best. Gently toss a ball and let your pet go to it. When he picks up the ball, praise him for it and tell him to come to you.
When your pet does start coming to you, getting her to drop the ball is another challenge. Many puppies want to keep holding onto the ball as you try to pull it away. To encourage her to drop the ball, offer her a small treat. The treat will act as positive reinforcement and persuade your puppy to let go of what’s in her mouth. As she becomes more seasoned at the steps, you can stop offering the treat. The thrill of playing a game of fetch will be enough excitement anyway.
Remember that playing a game of fetch should be fun and doesn’t need to be treated as diligently as house training or teaching simple commands. Some pets end up loving the activity, while others never really take to it. If you can get your puppy to enjoy the game, know that it’s more than just something to do. The game of fetch keeps your pet physically active and promotes mind stimulation since your pup will have to focus on the object, catch it and bring it back to you.
While smaller areas are always best for puppies, as your pet grows older, you can move to larger areas to play the game. Just know that many times, dogs are more apt to running away with the ball when they’re in a larger surrounding. As you learn your pup’s preferences, the two of you will soon be able to engage in a simple game of fetch just about anywhere.