My Labrador Retriever took to retrieving like a… well… Labrador Retriever. He knew what he had to do right away and we didn’t even have to teach him to bring it back. Cue our other dogs and it was like watching a fish out of water. Training to retrieve was a challenge, and while they begrudgingly bring back anything we throw now, it is clear that they aren’t too inclined to do it.
What I realized between all of my dogs is that for some dogs retrieving is natural. For others, retrieving is a foreign idea. Some of those dogs will happily chase after something you’ve thrown but will take off with it. Some will stare at you when you throw something as if you’ve lost your mind, others will find it only to take a sniff and walk away.
Teaching a dog to retrieve can be a bit frustrating at times, but if you make it fun for the dog, you will have a retriever on your hands in no time.
Make Retrieving Fun
The first step to training your dog to retrieve is to make it fun. While retrieving is work for the dog, it should be seen as a game for him as well.
The best way to make retrieving fun for the dog is to start it as a game of chase. I start this game when the dog is young. However, if you have adopted an older dog who simply sits and watches you “fetch” the toy, this step is an important one.
The main focus of this is to get the dog to want to chase the fetching toy, which we will call a dummy. Use a toy. This is very important but always have the dog chase you and not the other way around. You want the dog to have an interest in following the dummy so use a toy your dog really likes.
Sitting on the floor or, for larger dogs, stand in one area to encourage play with your dog. Start by waving the dummy in his face to encourage him to bite the dummy. When he does, praise him in a very excited and happy voice.
This will give your dog a verbal cue that he is doing something fun and something good.