Teach your dog to Retrieve
Lots of dogs love retrieving.
If you’ve ever spent any time with a Golden Retriever he may have brought you balls or sticks to throw for him. Many dogs will bring you things to toss for them — and look very disappointed when you don’t spend time entertaining them by throwing things for them to fetch. However, you should know that for many dogs retrieving is not a natural behavior.
They have to be taught to retrieve.
My Spanish Hunting dog is one of those dogs…..kind of looks at you like you have lost the plot!
Retrieving is a form of prey drive in dogs but it’s a very special form that has been bred in some dogs to become instinct. For other dogs retrieving is a learned behavior.
Prey drive is the instinct in dogs that they share with wolves and other predators that makes them hunt and stalk an animal that they intend to hunt and kill. It’s one of the most important instincts that a dog has since it is essential to his survival in the wild. Animals with a strong prey drive have a better chance of catching food so they can eat.
Prey drive has been very important in the human-canine relationship because humans have been able to adapt the prey drive in dogs to develop other desired behaviors.
Guarding flocks, hunting birds and small game, herding, protection work are all forms of prey drive that have been diverted to other purposes to help humans.
The same is true with retrieving. During a simple game of fetch your dog is using his prey drive to “hunt” the ball, just as his ancient ancestors would have hunted an animal for dinner. But because of millennia of selective breeding by humans, your dog doesn’t kill and eat the ball (the “prey”). Instead, he brings it back to you, either instinctively or through training.
Of course, some dogs will race out, grab the ball and chew on it. Other dogs will snatch it up and run away with it. However, it only takes a little bit of training to have these dogs overcoming these prey drive urges and returning the ball to you for a fun game of fetch.
You can teach your dog to retrieve in one of several ways.
Often the easiest way is to simply walk him through the motions to teach him what you want him to do. For instance, with your dog on a long leash next to you, you can throw the ball for him. Walk or trot with him to the place where the ball landed. You can encourage him to pick up the ball or, simply put the ball in his mouth.
Give him lots of praise and some treats when he keeps the ball in his mouth for a couple of seconds. That’s all you need. This is especially easy to do if you are using a clicker so you can mark the behavior that’s wanted. Your dog will quickly learn to associate keeping the ball in his mouth with the treats and praise.
If you repeat this a few times — throwing the ball for your dog and getting him to pick it up — you are halfway home. Try throwing the ball for your dog and letting him go get it himself, without walking him to it. Keep the long leash on him. If he goes to the ball and picks it up you should click the clicker and praise him. Offer him treats for being such a good boy. Chances are that your dog will come to you for the treats. If he brings the ball with him, you’re doing great. If not, you have a little more work to do.
Throw the ball for your dog and send him to pick it up. Make sure that he’s still wearing his long leash. When he gets to the ball and has it in his mouth call him back to you using the “Come” command and start reeling him in with the long leash. When he gets back to you, with the ball still in his mouth, praise him and give him lots of treats. He should quickly start putting the whole lesson together — to go out, pick up the ball and to bring it back to you.
Once he has it figured out and knows that you will be happy with him for doing this he will probably become addicted to fetching.