One of the very best things about having a dog is spending time being active with them. Not only is this part of pet ownership fun and a great way to use up some energy with your dog, but it will also bring the two of you much closer.

Regular walks and fresh air are important for your dog’s health. However, getting them up off the couch also means having a bit of a romp in the park, taking them for a run or bicycle ride or playing fetch with a ball or frisbee. Considering all the ways you can introduce more movement into your dog’s day, training them to fetching a ball or toy has to be near the top of the list.

Some canine’s favor chasing sticks while others want to bring their best ball to the game. Whatever they prefer, chances are they’re always up for this activity.

If you’ve ever wondered how to teach a dog to fetch so that they pick up this trick quickly, read on for some great advice.

The Benefits of Paying Fetch with Your Dog

how to teach a dog to fetch

Playing fetch with your dog is a wonderful way to pass the time. Your pooch will eat up the praise you shower on them when they begin to master how to play fetch.

Plus, you’ll both benefit from the feel-good hormones your bodies release as the bond between you strengthens. Here are some other terrific advantages.

It’s a Dog’s Instinct

For a dog to fetch a ball or chase after and come back with a stick, they don’t have to be part retriever. Certainly, some dogs are bred for the task and have a reputation for searching for an object and carrying it back. Having said that, a dog’s natural instinct is to chase and fetch.

Just think about how they love to run after something when a movement catches their eye. They may run away from you to engage with other dogs at the park who are playing fetch with people – getting in the way when the other humans throw the ball, and joining the chase. Dogs love games like these and often find the temptation to participate irresistible.

Great Exercise

dogs playing fetch

Hands down, dogs need to expend a certain amount of energy every day. If they aren’t given this opportunity, they can become restless and you might start to see a little acting out behavior around the house. When it comes to getting their exercise, there’s no better thing for them than teaching dogs to fetch.

Moving their muscles builds strength and lubricating joints keeps them limber, while the chase improves lung function and increases your dog’s endurance. By introducing a game of fetch into your dog’s routine, you’ll be helping your pooch to get the exercise they need and promote their overall health and fitness.

Just mind that you don’t overdo it. Puppies and young dogs may not realize when to stop. Your dog may get quite caught up in the game, so build some breaks into the activity and watch for signs that they’ve had enough for the day.

Quality Time for You and Your Pup

Playing fetch with Lola or Lassie is also about having some quality one-on-one time with your pet. Your day can be hectic with lots of work and personal obligations to attend to. Taking some down time with your dog to teach them a new skill is invaluable.

The opportunity for the two of you to just shut out the rest of the world and focus on having fun together. Your relationship with your dog will grow stronger by leaps and bounds as you teach your dog to fetch. You’ll make some marvelous memories.

Supplies Needed to Play Fetch

teaching a dog fetch

Before you begin teaching your dog to play fetch, make the effort to gather the supplies you’ll need. You want to set the stage and get your dog’s attention so you’ll need to be ready when they are instead of interrupting the flow and their concentration by jumping up to look for something that you’ve forgotten. Following are the items to have on hand.


When planning how to teach your dog to fetch, it’s necessary that you find an appropriate toy or ball. Dogs are just like children when it comes to toys.

They can spend endless hours mouthing a special squeaky ball or carrying around a treasured soft plushy. Most dogs don’t mind putting things in their mouths, but many definitely have their preferences in this department.

Take stock of what’s on hand in their toy box and see if you can find a good ball or dog toy that will work well for a game of fetch. Alternatively, you can browse for a new ball at the pet food store to get them into the game. A word of advice is to keep away from using sticks.


Maybe your dog doesn’t need a lot of motivation to play fetch. Even so, treats always some in handy when you want to get your dog’s attention and teach them a new trick. When they know you have a few tasty dog treats in your pocket, they’ll remember about that all important reward and pick up the game of fetch a whole lot faster.

For this part, have dog treats that you know they like. Do they absolutely love liver treats? Would they enjoy a peanut butter dog biscuit? There are small treats available, about the size of dry dog food, made specially to use for training dogs. So, one of these might be a fine choice.


Here’s an item that might not have come to mind. A clicker is a small plastic box with a metal strip inside that makes a clicking sound when you press a button. It’s part of what’s in the dog training toolbox for professionals, and used as a positive reinforcement tool.

Basically, it’s used just before a treat is offered. This is a reminder for the dog that they’ve done something good and are going to be rewarded. Using a clicker is faster than giving verbal praise, and can be quite effective when combined with treats.

Choosing the Right Toy

fetch for dogs

Your pooch probably favors certain types of toys, or a ball, for play time. Think about what you see them doing when they know you’re getting ready to take them to the park.

Do they nose among their toys to find their frisbee? Do they grab their best ball in their mouth?

There are so many throw toys to choose from, that you should be able to find something your dog likes. Remember to pick a toy or ball that you don’t mind losing in the grass while your pup is learning the game of fetch, unless you have your email address on it for safe return.

If your dog likes balls, tennis balls are a good inexpensive choice. Frisbees and other throw toys come in many colors, so choose something bright that you’re more likely to see from a distance.

Step by Step: Teach Your Dog to Play Fetch

playing fetch

Part of how to teach a dog to fetch is about having patience and persistence. There are a number of easy steps that, over time, will work well. Be prepared for Brutus or Belle to progress at their own speed.

One of the keys is to set up regular practice sessions with them so they can gradually build on what they’re learning about this new skill. Also, you may want to begin their training indoors or in the back yard, where there are fewer distractions, before moving to the park.

Introduce the Fetch Toy

Show your dog the ball or toy that you’re going use. Let them have a good sniff with their nose, and then put it close to you on the floor or ground. When you dog moves in to have another look, use the clicker right away and offer them praise and a treat.

If they express more interest and keep sniffing or pawing at the toy or ball, continue to click while giving praise and treats. Your doggo will quickly get the message that they’re doing something that pleases you.

Move the Toy Around

Take things up a level next by moving the ball or toy around so that they have to try a little harder to reach it. Just put it fairly close to you still, or hold it out towards them, and encourage your dog when they touch it again with their nose.

Every time they respond, click, praise and give them a treat. Keep this up until your dog gets it.

Place the Toy on the Ground

The next step is to encourage your dog to mouth the ball or toy and actually pick it up in their mouth. To do this, lay the toy down about two feet away from you. Here, you want to reward your dog for each action that approximates what you want to see.

For instance, as soon as they begin to bite or mouth the ball or toy, reward them with a click, praise and a treat. When they eventually pick the toy up, show your excitement and pleasure with lots of clicks, and by heaping on the praise and offering more treats.

Toss the Toy

Once they’ve understood that picking up the toy or ball in their mouth is a good thing, your dog is ready to move on to the next step. Throw the toy a short distance away, just out of your reach and encourage them to get it.

When your dog runs after it and brings it back, click, praise, and treat. Continue to do this until their response time is reduced.

Then, add a command that they bring the ball back and hand it over. Although they only have to travel a short distance, you’re adding a second command that they drop the ball.

This may take some time to learn, so be patient. Make sure to click, praise and treat continuously while they’re learning.

Throw the Toy Further and Increase the Distance

This is where the real work begins – teaching dogs to come back with the toy from farther away. Using the same approach, proceed to throw the toy about ten or more feet away. If you’re teaching your dog to fetch in the house you could try throwing the toy in the opposite direction or into the next room.

Carry on tossing the toy a little farther away each time. Make sure to immediately use the clicker and give praise and treats each time your dog runs after it and comes back to you with what you’ve thrown.

If your dog is getting a little tired of this game, they may not be as quick to drop the ball or let go of the toy after they bring it back. Dogs like a game of tug of war too! Make sure that your dog drops the toy right beside you before you reward them.

Introduce the Word “Fetch”

The next step is to introduce the word “fetch” into their training. Do this by saying “fetch” just before you throw the ball.

When they chase after the ball or toy and your dog drops it back at your feet, offer treats and praise. At this point, you can cease using the clicker since the new behavior is starting to take hold.

Every time, tell them with as much enthusiasm as you can that you appreciate them retrieving the toy, saying something like “that was a good fetch.” Using the word “fetch” is another way to reinforce what they’ve done, and when you ask them if they’re ready to play fetch with their ball, they’ll start to know what you’re talking about.


Practice makes perfect – right? Teaching dogs any new trick requires that you keep at it. As well as training your dog to come back with a ball at the local park, repeat the process by tossing a few toys for your dog indoors every day and tell them to “fetch.”

Let them show off to other people, like your family and friends, how they can chase after and bring the toy back. Commanding your dog to come back after you throw the ball will earn them more praise. In addition, your dog’s new ability to fetch may wow a few of their doggie friends and their people at the dog park!

Our Final Thoughts

Truly, one of the greatest gifts you can give dogs is the gift of your time. And, teaching dog sports and games like how to play fetch, is a wonderful way to show them how much you care. With just a few simple steps, you’ll be able to teach your pet quickly and they’ll be thrilled to join you in playing fetch with a ball or toy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I teach my dog to fetch and return?

We have seven simple steps to teach dogs to chase after a ball or toy and bring it back after you throw the ball, no rights reserved. The way to get them learning quickly is to use patience, persistence, praise, and rewards.

Why won’t my dog play fetch?

It could be that you need to break the learning into smaller steps and practice a little with them every day.

Can any dog learn to fetch?

Yes. However, how to teach a dog to fetch may be easier for some breeds.