One popular way to teach a dog to ‘fetch’ is a positive training method called back-chaining. This method takes an advanced command and breaks it down into a series of individual steps. The steps are taught progressively but in reverse. Here’s how to teach a young dog to ‘fetch’ using back-chaining.
Start with a bumper, and let your dog get familiar with it. The bumper is new to him, so let him sniff it and bump it. Dogs test unfamiliar things with their mouths, and his curiosity will make him start mouthing it. When he picks it up, let him hold it for a second or two and then say ‘drop’ and give him a treat. You’ve taught him to pick up and to deliver the bumper to you which is the final step of the ‘fetch’ command.
Let your dog pick up and hold the bumper for a longer period of time. Then, ask him to give it to you using the ‘drop’ command and give him a treat. Now you’ve taught him to pick up, hold and drop a bumper.
Walking and Holding
Next you’ll add walking with the bumper into the mix. When your dog picks up and holds the bumper, walk around the yard with him. Walk for a short, few steps, ask him to ‘drop’ the bumper into your hand, and give him a treat. Start with short distances such as five feet and increase the distance over time. Now he’s picking up a bumper, holding it, walking with it, and dropping it in your hand.
A toss pulls it all together
Have your dog sit or stay at your side. Let him see you throw the bumper. Throw it only for a short distance of less than 10 feet. Give him a ‘fetch’ command and release him to do his job. He’ll run to the bumper, look at it, and ultimately pick it up. When he does, give him a ‘come’ command and he’ll walk or trot back. Pause and let him hold the bumper, and then tell him to ‘drop’. After he does, reward him with a treat. Repeat the sequence and add distance with each session.
For puppy training treats, look for low calorie options that include DHA, a nutrient that supports healthy brain function. For adult dogs, use treats that include glucosamine and chondroitin which support healthy, agile joints. You’ll not only reward your dog’s behavior but also promote their health.
Back-chaining is an easy way to positively teach your dog a command. Keep sessions short and focused, repeat them for 5-10 minutes a day on a regular basis, and always reward dogs for good behavior. You’ll both be on your way to success very quickly.