The Power of Play: Fetch

play Jun 25, 2024
Golden Retriever plays fetch

At KeenDog, we believe in the power of play. We want you to enjoy life with you dog and play is the perfect foundation for you to build your relationship upon. Play doesn’t always come naturally, but that’s okay! We can teach you the art of playing with your dog. Make sure to limit access to interactive toys (balls, tugs, and frisbees) unless it's for play time with you.

Fetch is a cooperative game. Some dogs are natural retrievers, but many have to learn that the game is more fun when they bring the ball back.

Proper management plays a big role in play. Dogs naturally want to possess their toys and many people run into the issue of their dog playing keep away. So when playing with your puppy, limit their space by playing in a hallway or using their ex pen. When you begin leash work, keeping a leash attached to your dog will allow you to manufacture them coming back to you.

We recommend using a retractable leash to encourage your dog to return with the ball, as well as beginning to teach them how to respond to a pressure on/pressure off system which we will be using throughout training.

Our go to balls are Hartz Dura Play Bacon Balls - soft, squeaky balls that are good for puppies, small dogs, and dogs who haven’t been taught the fun of fetch yet - and/or hard Chuckit Ultra Balls. We avoid using tennis balls as they can easily cause dental damage to your dog if used for extended periods of time (dirt gets caught in the soft fabric). You can view all of our recommended tools here.

When tossing the ball out, ensure you do not toss so far that your dog hits the end of the retractable leash and it goes flying out of your hand. You can also bounce the ball against a wall to keep your dog in close range.

Say "Get It" before you toss out the ball and, when they bring it back, don't try to take it away from your dog too soon. Rather, pet them when they bring the ball back and reach slowly under their chin (versus going head on) and lightly pop the ball out of their mouth. Try to have as little conflict in this as possible and immediately say “Get It” and toss out the ball again. When your dog does come back to you love on them! Make it a rewarding experience to bring the ball back.

Depending on your dog’s age, you may introduce some leash pressure as well to start an “out” command with the toy. If you are using the leash, say “out” and do small pops upwards with your leash until your dog drops the ball, then tell them to “Get It” right away!

Here are two in-depth videos of how we play fetch with our dogs in training: Puppy Play Development and Play With Your Dog.

If your dog struggles with fetch, try changing the movement of the ball by bouncing it or rolling it along the ground. You can also try two ball fetch with two squeaky balls. When your dog is retrieving the first ball, squeak the second ball to encourage them back to you.

When beginning play sessions we recommend cueing them with “ready to play” and when you end the session we use “all done” to let them know there is a window of opportunity to have this fun and dynamic interaction with you. If during a play session your pup checks out, we recommend ending the session as well, this is a good way to use negative punishment (remove the reward as a punishment) that when used consistently and correctly will guarantee a dog that doesn’t check out during play sessions and you left there begging your pup to interact with you over other competing motivators in the environment.

And if you're looking for more hands on coaching to help bring your play to the next level, you can enroll in any of our in person training packages today!



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