by Fiona Sinclair - Senior Coach // January 2018
Playing with your dog is really important for a strong bond between you and your dog and fetch is a popular game. But sometimes it just doesn’t seem to go as planned. Most dogs love to chase but they are not always so keen to bring the toy back to us. Or perhaps your dog brings the toy back but not quite close enough for you to get hold of the toy? There can be lots of reasons why our dogs don’t retrieve, but often it’s quite simply the dog doesn’t want to give up his precious toy, no matter how much he loves the chase. If a dog has learned that when he brings the toy back it is taken away from him, he might feel anxious about giving the toy up. And even if we immediately throw the toy again, to the dog, the outcome of giving up the toy was something he didn’t like – the toy was taken.
So what can you do?
Take two toys! After you throw the first toy, pull out the second toy and start to wave it around to get the dog’s attention. Once your dog is interested in this toy, throw it and let the dog chase. If he drops the first toy then this is your chance to pick it up and start again. If he holds onto the first toy and picks up both toys at once, get a bigger toy. It helps if the two toys are the same because if they are different, he might prefer one toy and he may not bother to chase the second toy.
Don’t be in a hurry to grab the first toy and don’t be tempted to try to persuade the dog to give up his toy, this will only convince him that you are going to take away his precious thing. And if your dog really loves his toy, a game of tug can be a great reward. Again, don’t be in a hurry to take the toy away – let go of the toy, pushing the dog away from you to let him ‘win’ and he will be more likely to bring it back to you.
This approach is also often really effective with dogs that are only interested in the chase – they don’t even start to come back with the toy because once they have caught it, the game is over and they lose interest.
Remember to always use safe dog toys; make sure the toy is too big to get stuck in your dog’s throat and never throw sticks; these can badly injure your dog.