Most puppies will naturally retrieve but don’t let this fool you into thinking that they always will. You must take advantage of their age, combined with their natural response to retrieve, in order to ensure that as the pup gets older he will continue to smartly play this marvelous game with you. This is certainly not to say that you can not teach an older dog to retrieve, but it is not as easy as teaching a puppy.
You throw something (a ball, a squeaky toy), the dog goes and gets it and brings it back to you and readily drops it so that you can throw it again. This is essentially what we are after when we talk about dogs retrieving or playing fetch with us.
Most puppies will naturally retrieve but don’t let this fool you into thinking that they always will.
There are some common problems that often crop up over the course of puppyhood regarding retrieve that can easily be avoided or, if they are encountered, do not have to cause your dog’s retrieve to completely deteriorate. Why does that awesome retrieve so often go south? Let’s examine some things.
- We neglect to refine the behavior, make it reliable around distractions, or make the natural behavior something that we can control.
- Often we will chase our puppies, something that at this point in their lives, we want to avoid at all costs. While we are chasing them around, although it is great fun for everyone, in their little doggie heads they are in control of the game. We need to stay in control of the game, so let’s avoid chasing our puppies right now.
- Often the puppy will initiate the game, they trot over with something in their mouth, toss it at us, being the well-trained human, we obey and play some fetch with Fido. Fido initiated this game of fetch and Fido will quit when he wants. How do we avoid this? The toys that we play retrieve with should stay out of Fido’s reach. The goal is for us to initiate the game and end the game when we want, ideally before Fido quits.
- Avoid grabbing the toy that puppy brings to you, instead, gently take a hold of the puppy’s collar, give them a good scratch on the side of the neck tell him what a good puppy he is for bringing you the toy, make a real big deal out of it. You can put your hand on the toy or you can wait for the pup to drop it on his own. Let the pup bask in the proud moment for a few seconds. Quick grabs on your part may promote a game of ‘keep away’, where the pup comes to where the toy is just within your reach and then scoots off in another direction. If this does happen, you should run off in the opposite direction of your puppy. He will probably follow.
- If you maintain good form regarding the retrieve rules, your pup’s retrieve should also maintain good form throughout his life. There may be some minor rebellion (crunchiness) during the Juvenile and Adolescent Period, (please see Your Puppy’s Development), but nothing that won’t right itself if you ride it out during that period.
- If you are having trouble with the retrieve, refine your follow me and your drop it and then combine them. Continue reading for instructions.
TIP: It is important that you play this game for short periods of time. Stop when the pup is really enjoying himself. This will help to really build up an excitement surrounding the game.
Be very sure that your puppy is interested in playing follow me and it is not the other way around. Have your pup chase you inside and outdoors. If he is not too interested, use a squeaky toy or find something that gets his attention, maybe his favorite toy or a tasty treat. While he is chasing you, use a phrase such as “Come On!” or “Let’s Go!”
TIP Even if he drops the toy and continues to chase you, don’t worry. Praise him for coming and run back and show him the toy. See if he will pick it up and chase you.
- Dogs love to chase.
- By playing the game of retrieve, we lower the odds of our dog chasing cars, bikes, cats, etc.
- It is a wonderful way to completely exhaust your adult dog in a very short period of time. Your dog gets exercise and so do you.
- Children can safely play this game with adult supervision.
- You can teach your dog to fetch all kinds of things for you… the paper, your slippers, etc.
- It is another indication of the level of control that you have over your dog.