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How to Teach a Dog to Fetch + Why Dogs Like Fetch & Benefits | Pupford

December 27th, 2023

Filed under Training

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Everyone knows that dogs love to play fetch, but it’s unlikely you’ve taken the time to consider why. There’s a reason why fetch is the “classic” game we all love to play with our pups. Not only is it fun for both them and us, it has a number of benefits for your dog, too!

But you can’t just toss a toy and expect your dog to understand they’re playing fetch. Believe it or not, you have to take the time to teach your dog to fetch properly -- at least for them to get the full benefit out of it.

Today we’re going to dive into all things fetch, including:

  • Why do dogs like fetch?
  • Benefits of fetch
  • How to teach your dog to fetch
  • Alternatives to fetch that your dog may love

So let’s break down the well-deserved favorite game of fetch! 🎾


Dog laying down after playing fetch | Pupford

We like fetch because it makes our dogs happy, but why do dogs like to play fetch? There are a couple of reasons.

For some dogs, fetch is in their DNA. Some breeds like Labrador Retrievers are bred to, well, retrieve!

When dogs were first domesticated, their main role was to accompany their humans on hunting trips to gather food once it was hunted. While most dogs don’t have that role anymore, the skill was still inherited through generations.

Because dogs have a natural disposition to enjoy chasing and retrieving, fetch makes them happy. They tend to catch on to the game quickly since it’s in their nature -- don’t we all love activities that naturally click for us?!

Another reason dogs love fetch is because of who they get to play it with. Any training or play session is viewed by your dog as quality time. And since games of fetch are usually pretty long compared to other games, you and your dog will get a lot of quality time together!

For more info on why dogs like fetch, read about prey drive in dogs!

🐶 Don't miss out, sign up for the 100% free online video training course 30 Day Perfect Pup taught by Zak George. Sign up here!


Fetch is a great activity for your dog to enjoy since there are so many benefits. Here are some reasons fetch is great for dogs:

  • It’s a great way for your dog to get exercise. Dogs who get enough exercise are healthier, happier, and less likely to engage in destructive behaviors.
  • It teaches your dog to go for toys rather than household items or other animals when they want to chase or chew.
  • It helps your dog learn behaviors like “drop it,” “wait,” “come,” and “fetch,” while working on general obedience.
  • It is a great opportunity to bond with your dog.
  • It gets your dog comfortable being outdoors and in different social settings with different levels of distractions around.

What more could you and your dog want from a game?!

Now, let's look at how to teach your puppy or older dog to fetch. 👇


dogs playing fetch together | Pupford

While your dog may have a natural inclination to retrieve items, they don’t naturally know all the rules of fetch that you want them to follow. You’ll have to teach them some ground rules to keep them safe and focused during your games of fetch.

Here's a video from Zak George about how to teach fetch. ⤵️

Here are steps to teach your dog to fetch:

  • With your dog on a long lead leash, practice throwing an object and having your dog return it to you. The leash helps make sure your dog doesn’t run off with the toy or get distracted and pursue something else. Practicing with a long lead is beneficial for your pup in a number of ways -- you can read more about long leash training here.
  • Remember in the beginning stages you may have to lure your dog back to you to help them bring the object back. If you're struggling to get your dog to bring it back, you're probably throwing it too far away.
  • Start with a toy that’s easy for your dog to carry in their mouth, like a tug toy or tennis ball. That way, your dog can just focus on fetching rather than worrying about keeping the toy in their mouth. Here are some toys we love, some of which are great for fetch!
  • Once your dog has grasped the fetch concept on the leash, it’s time to practice without it! Start in an environment with no distractions and practice fetching from a short distance away, like five feet or so. Until you’re confident your dog won’t run off, you can leave the leash attached but let it drag on the ground behind your dog. That way, you can grab it if your dog decides to go off track. After consistent attempts with no issues, leave the leash off entirely.
  • Once your dog has that down, move on to different areas of your house or yard and slowly increase the distance. Eventually, you should be able to go for long distances in environments with a lot of distractions, like the park.

If your dog is having trouble keeping focus during fetch, pay attention to what toy you are using for your game. You’ll want to make sure you’re using something of value that’s worth fetching. Consider taking a couple of your dog’s absolute favorite toys and setting them aside just for fetch to keep them interested!

Need more help teaching your dog to fetch? Check out our video on Fetch in Pupford Academy.

And if fetch still doesn’t stick at that point, there are plenty of other ways to exercise and bond with your dog…

🐶 Don't miss out, sign up for the 100% free online video training course 30 Day Perfect Pup taught by Zak George. Sign up here!


a dog playing with a flirt pole as a fetch alternative | Pupford

Maybe your dog doesn’t have a natural inclination for fetch (we’re looking at you, pugs!), or maybe a joint issue prevents them from running around so much. Or maybe even you just live in a place where you don’t always have access to a big enough open space for fetch every day.

That doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to give your dog exercise, an engaging activity, or quality time together. There are quite a few alternatives to fetch that your dog can love just as much. Here are a few examples:

  • Flirt poles. These are perfect for apartments, smaller yards, or when the weather is bad. They get your dog moving around, engaged with their toy, and entertaining you as much as they’re entertaining themselves. Bonus: flirt poles also help with skills like impulse control and coordination. Here’s everything you need to know about flirt poles.
  • Frisbee toss. Some dogs love to jump and show off their athleticism with a game of frisbee. Similarly to fetch, you’ll want to start off small and increase the difficulty of your throws. Also, be sure to check your frisbee for cracks or chips before each game so your pup doesn’t get scratched!
  • Dog chews. While this is more of an engagement activity, it’s still a very enjoyable way to keep your pup occupied, especially if there’s bad weather preventing you from taking your dog outside for something active. You can get dog chews in a variety of sizes and flavors to best suit your dog -- shop our favorites here!
  • Snuffle mats and lick mats. Don’t forget mental exercise! Playing treat hide or seek in your snuffle mat or hiding a homemade frozen treat in your lick mat is less active, but it’s a lot of fun and mental work for your dog.

Can’t decide which activity to do with your dog? Rotate through them all! Doing a variety of games and activities with your dog is a great way to keep them engaged and get a good dose of both physical and mental exercise in.


dog learning how to play fetch | Pupford

Fetch is a great form of mental and physical exercise for your dog. The key to teaching this behavior is to start in a controlled environment and be sure not to throw the object too far in the beginning.

The younger age you start practicing this with your pup, the better!

Need more training and behavior help? Be sure to sign up for the 100% free online video course 30 Day Perfect Pup, taught by Zak George. Get started here!

Does your dog enjoy fetch? How did you get your dog to love fetch?! Tell us in the comments below!

🐶 Don't miss out, sign up for the 100% free online video training course 30 Day Perfect Pup taught by Zak George. Sign up here!


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