toronto dog photographerDo you have dog who loves to fetch tennis balls, sticks, a Frisbee or any other toy that can be thrown a delightful distance? No? Well, that’s okay.

Most dogs adore the prospect of being allowed to run wildly after a moving object and while some quickly discover the brilliant practice of having their owner throw such an object over and over and over again, some pups miss the biscuit entirely. So how do you teach your canine chum the mystery of fetch and to actually bring – the – ball – BACK?

The not so fetching reality
What often happens while trying to teach a dog to bring a ball back is this: the owner moves after the dog in an attempt to physically bring them back to where the ball was first thrown from. However, the dog, seeing an advance upon their fun prize, instinctively moves away – “No, it’s mine. You can’t have it. Catch me if you can!” So the owner pursues their pooch, while the pooch continues to scamper away. The result? An entirely new fun game called chase! Sound familiar?

Be devious. Play dead!
Believe it or not playing dead is actually a clever way to get your dog’s attention, especially if they are a young puppy. Toss the ball a small distance away and when your bouncy pup picks it up and looks at you with those beautiful brown eyes that beg the question, “Now what?” roll over on to your back, while telling your pup to come.

Your little one will be so intrigued by your odd yet playful behaviour, they will most likely come bounding over to join in the fun. At this point you can take the ball from them and repeat the process. Be sure to make your enthusiasm palpable, so that the pup relates this action of throwing and retrieving with extraordinary fun.

A word to the wise
Of course sometimes playing dead simply doesn’t work. Usually older dogs catch on to the fact that your are rolling in the grass as a means to an end. In this case treats are never a bad idea.

Throw the ball and when your dog has picked it up and is going through the motions of not bringing it back, whip out a tasty treat from your pocket. When your dog comes over to claim their snack, tell them to drop the ball and pick it up. Only when the ball is in your hands reward them with a treat.

Repeat this process using the same commands – FETCH, COME, GIVE or DROP – and reward them each time the process is completed. Do not give the dog a treat if it comes running back to you but conveniently forgets the ball at a safe distance. Should this occur, walk with them to the ball and get them to pick it up and follow you back to where you want it. Your dog will soon learn that bringing the ball back means getting a treat and who doesn’t love that?

Keep fetch fresh
To avoid the routine from getting old, gradually begin to stagger the treat dispensing or mix up the treats you’re offering. Instead of giving them a treat every fetch, give it to them every other fetch, or every fifth fetch. To the dog this will become a wonderful guessing game and they won’t be able to get the ball back to you fast enough!

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