How to train ‘fetch’

Purpose: Playing fetch can be a wonderful way to exercise your dog and engage with your dog.  It can prevent problem behaviors that are related to lack of exercise such as jumping, digging, and chewing.

Criteria:  Toss a toy, your dog runs to the toy and brings it back to you and puts it in your hand.


Verbal:  Options ‘fetch’, ‘go get it’, ‘retrieve’, ‘get your toy’

Visual:  Tossing the toy

Behavior Pyramid:

  1. Find a toy your dog enjoys.
  2. Roll or toss the toy in front of your dog 1 foot.
  3. As your dog eagerly goes to get the toy say your verbal que such as ‘fetch’.  Only say the word if you know your dog is running to ‘fetch’ the toy.
  4. Enthusiastically encourage your dog to bring the toy back to you.  If your dog is running slowly back to you or looks like they might get distracted.  Happily call their name and run away from your dog.  This may spark their attention and run to you faster.
  5. Hold your hand at a level your dog can reach.  Have a treat or another toy to toss for your dog when he brings the toy back to you.
  6. Reward your dog for bringing the toy back and putting it in your hand.
  7. Slowly increase the distance you toss the toy.
  8. View the many troubleshooting suggestions below.


  1. Help!  My dog does not like toys.


Some dogs you may need to teach them to play.  Use a rope toy or tie a rope around a toy that you can drag away from your dog simulating the chase game.  If your dog shows interest in the toy reinforce them by letting them get the toy or by giving them a treat on the toy.

Use a tennis ball, cut a 1 inch slit in the ball and put treats inside, role the ball a foot away from your dog.  If your dog shows interest in the ball reward your dog WITH THE TREATS OUT OF THE BALL.  Make sure they see the treats coming from the ball.  Repeat several times.

If your dog does not get into laundry!  Use an old sock or something similar, place treats in the sock.  Pull the treat smelling sock away from your dog.  When your dog show’s interest in the sock reward your dog WITH THE TREATS OUT OF THE SOCK.  Make sure they see treats coming from the sock.

  1. Help!  My dog will not run after the toy.


Do not toss the toy far.

Reinforce your dog for only glancing at the toy.

Use the toy for them to chase first instead of fetch, we need to get your dog excited about the toy.  This can be done utilizing their prey drive!

  1. Help!  My dog runs after the toy but he doesn’t bring it back.


Do not toss the toy as far.  You might have to drop it right in front of your dog when they pick up the toy in front of you trade them the toy for a tasty treat. Repeat this several times so they understand that giving the toy to you earns them another toss or a treat.

Put the toy on a rope.  When you toss the toy hold one end of the rope.  As your dog grabs the toy gently pull the rope towards you while verbally encouraging your dog to come to you.

Keep your dog on a long leash.  Toss the toy within the distance of the long leash.  When your dog gets the toy encourage them back to you by gently pulling their leash.

Make it more challenging:

  1. Ask your dog to stay while you toss the toy.  Their release command to get the toy is their verbal que such as ‘fetch’.