Teaching Your Dog To Retrieve
Teaching your dog to retrieve consists of two steps. In the first step, you teach the dog to grab a toy and then give it back to you. In the second step, you teach the dog to go get the toy once it is thrown a few feet from you. After these two steps are performed well, you can slowly increase the distance you throw the object until the dog will fetch it wherever it falls.
To teach the dog to grab the toy and then give it back to you, you play tug of war with a toy. Now, this toy should be a special toy the dog is only allowed to play with when you do this exercise. The best toys are those knotted rope toys you find at pet stores. Choose one that is the right size for your dog and bring it home.
Put your dog on a leash. This is so you can control him if he gets over excited and so he can’t run off with the toy. Hold the rope in both hands, one on each end of the rope. Offer the toy to the dog by shaking it in front of his nose and teasing him into moving toward it. As soon as he moves toward the rope, praise him enthusiastically.
When the dog grabs the rope, tell him, “Fido, Get it,” or any other word such as fetch that you want to use. Shake the rope a little to get him excited and praise him for grabbing it. After playing with it for a few moments, tell the dog, “Fido, Give,”
If the dog releases the toy, praise him heavily. If he doesn’t, pull a treat out of your pocket and offer it to him. He must release the toy to get the treat. Praise him.
Practice this in sets of five until the dog will grab the toy on command and let go of it on command. Do not let the dog have the toy unless you are training him so it remains special.
Now you are ready for the second part of the retrieve training. Make sure the dog is on a leash so you maintain control of him. Start the tug of war game and praise the dog for getting the rope on command. Tell him to give and take the toy out of his mouth. Praise him again. Do this five times and then take a short break.
After the break, play a quick game of tug of war with your dog and then have him give you the toy. Praise him.
At this point, throw the toy down two feet in front of you. Tell the dog to get the toy. As the dog moves toward the toy, praise him. When he picks it up, praise him again.
When the dog turns toward you, tell the dog “Fido, Bring it Here,” or “Fido, Here,” and praise him. Encourage him to come toward you with the toy in the mouth.
Once the dog reaches you, play a quick tug of war game and ask the dog to give you the toy. Do this five times and take a break.
Once the dog will reliably pick up the toy when it is thrown two feet away, gradually throw the toy further and further from you and send the dog to pick it up. Never play this game for more than five repetitions, as you don’t want the dog to get bored or tired.
Once the dog is reliable with this command you can use it to exercise him, play with him, and let him have fun.