The great thing about playing fetch with your dog is that you get to have fun and give him exercise simultaneously. Some dogs just know instinctively how to play fetch, but others don’t understand how to retrieve it. Some dogs will go and get the toy but won’t bring it back to you, while others just gaze at you with confusion on their faces, wondering why you keep getting rid of his toy. This is why teaching your dog to play fetch can be a simple or complex task.

Selecting the Right Toy

Dogs can be very picky about the toys that they play fetch with. Some enjoy playing with a tennis ball, and others prefer a particular stuffed toy or even a stick. Do a bit of experimentation to see which type of toy that your dog favors the most. Just be sure to avoid anything small that he could swallow or anything edible.

Doggies Who Won’t Retrieve

If your dog just isn’t grasping the concept of chasing after a toy whatsoever, you need to start at the beginning, such as playing tug of war. Train your dog to go and grab a soft toy so that you can play tug of war with it. Begin by playing a brief tug of war game, then take it from him. Taunt him a little by dancing it around on the ground a bit, and then throw it a few inches away. If your dog runs to grab the toy, grab the toy right away and begin another challenging game of tug of war. If your dog just stares at the toy instead, grab the toy and dance it around again until he can’t help himself. Keep repeating this until your dog decides to chase after the toy. Before you know it, he will chase the toy each time you throw it, and you can start throwing it further away.

Another Approach

If your dog enjoys chasing after the ball but doesn’t want to bring it back to you, try baiting and switching two toys that are exactly alike. Begin by showing one of the toys to your dog. Throw the toy, and encourage the dog to go and fetch it. When he grabs it, call him over, then show him the second toy. Act as if you are about to throw it in the other direction. He may decide to let the first toy go and go and get the second toy. When he is going to grab the second toy, go and grab the first one, and repeat the process. Doing this exercise gets your dog accustomed to picking up a toy and turning toward you to run back.


You will need to decide what his reward will be for retrieving the ball. An effective way to give your doggie a reward is to give him some yummy treats that he is sure to enjoy. When you begin training, reward him each time, ut after he begins to retrieve on a regular basis, reward him less so that he understands that treats are not the only point of playing fetch. Once your dog learns to play fetch, you can focus on giving him extra praise instead of extra food. At every stage of training, be certain to give this verbal praise to encourage him to do it again and again. When he brings the toy back to you, don’t immediately grab it from him. Instead, give him praise, pet him, and give him a treat. This will help him understand what fetch is all about.


You will do well if your dog already understands ‘sit’ and ‘stay.’ To teach your dog to fetch, you will need to add the command, ‘drop it.’ This command is especially helpful if he enjoys holding onto the ball when he comes back to you. In the beginning, you may need to trade with your dog by offering him a treat in exchange for the ball, but in time, he should understand the drop command.

Teaching a Dog to Play Fetch


It is crucial to make sure that your dog is kept safe while playing fetch with you. He either needs to be very well-trained or needs to be kept in an enclosed area where he won’t run away. If you are at a dog park, be sure that there aren’t other dogs around that might fight over the toy with him. Don’t throw the toy into water unless your dog is a strong swimmer.

With a bit of diligence and perseverance, teaching your dog to play fetch is a rewarding activity for you and your dog. It’s an excellent way to bond with your dog, and spend time playing and exercising. 

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