Help With Teaching Fetch - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-31-2016, 02:27 PM Thread Starter
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Help With Teaching Fetch

Ronin (now 6.75 months) and I are working on teaching him to "Fetch". He does great with chasing after it, and will often times coming running back with it, but will refuse to drop it or give it to me. He will often take the ball or Frisbee and go to a corner of the yard and sit and chew on it. Or he wants me to chase him to try and get it. When I don't chase him, he goes to the corner, drops the ball or Frisbee and goes about sniffing the yard. Any tips or suggestions on how help learn this. I try treats, but he's not really catching on, and doesn't go for the treat. I tried offering him the other object that isn't being thrown, but nope. Maybe he just won't be a fetch dog? He loves to chase it though. Thanks again!

"I am your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are my life, my leader. I will be yours, faithful and true to the last beat of my heart"-I am the German Shepherd
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post #2 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-31-2016, 02:39 PM
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You could try two of whatever you are fetching. Throw one ball, he brings it back, say "out", let him see the other ball, throw the other one and repeat. The idea being that eventually "out" will be enough.
My girl is bananas for ball and fetch but not crazy about "out". I sometimes use a spray bottle of water as a negative marker for things in training (no bite, back to place, etc) and I have used it with success to teach the out. And, I use the two ball method. When she sees the second ball, she drops the first one.
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post #3 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-31-2016, 02:45 PM
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^ That's worked for me as well. Also, don't chase your pup when he has the ball. You can also practice giving it back and forth to each other in an enclosed space. If he doesn't give it back or drop it in front of you, the game ends. He'll get it if you keep working on it.
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post #4 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-31-2016, 02:49 PM Thread Starter
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He's definitely a stubborn one. We do work on it inside, but I find he gets distracted easier by his other toys if that is the case. We have been focusing so much on the basic commands that I didn't really work on the fetch one with him. I will have to try the 2 balls method and see if that works. Our trainer would like us to have him join her scent hurdle racing team when he's older, but he has to get good at the fetching part first! Haha

"I am your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are my life, my leader. I will be yours, faithful and true to the last beat of my heart"-I am the German Shepherd
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post #5 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-31-2016, 04:02 PM
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He does great with chasing after it, and will often times coming running back with it, but will refuse to drop it or give it to me.
Your situation made me laugh...only because I had basically the same situation with my pup while learning the game of fetch....I wasn't laughing then however. Many a game of "fetch" ended all too quickly because I was not about to be fetching the pup with the 'fetch" item in her mouth.

First...I promised myself I would remain patient...which doesn't come easy for me....but I did a pretty good job of keeping my cool. I decided to break the game of "fetch" into components....the throw, chase, getting it and running back toward me all were good enough...but the delivery sucked...pup just had other ideas. So, I taught the pup a "through" command without a "fetch" object in its possession...I'd just stand with my legs apart and lured the dog through my legs...positive verbal marker...handsome reward...and the pup had the "through" figured out in short order. We eventually took that skill to the playing field and when the pup would be headed my direction with the frisbee/ball...I'd give the "through" command and the pup would zip between my legs...receive her positive verbal marker as she passed between my legs and some praise...granted she'd continue her "through" so I still didn't have a successful delivery...... but the pup was coming back to me directly rather than veering away from me. She'd eventually drop the frisbee somewhere..not near me however... and I'd repeat the process...over and over...she had it down. Then...when she was doing the same procedure...on her way back to me...without issuing the "through" command...I crouched down...just before she was about to pass through...arms out wide..funneling her in...and she basically ran into me..assuming she would pass through with frisbee in mouth. As I took hold of the frisbee ....she received an exaggerated positive verbal marker and praise worthy of winning the lottery. From there ....I'd let her pass through sometimes....other times..I'd crouch with arms open as she was close enough and she'd delivery the frisbee. I also remember....most every time she delivered the frisbee to me ...when I was crouching..blocking a possible "through"...I'd have her sit and upon successful completion of the delivery and a sit...I'd release her to latch onto the frisbee and play a bit of tug with her.....I think the game of tug as the reward was what really won her over on why she needed to deliver the frisbee back to me...pup couldn't play tug on its own.

I'm sure there are more effective methods as I kind of "MacGyvered" my method.....but it worked...she's been a fetching fool ever since....we play everyday and my patience back then paid off.

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post #6 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-31-2016, 04:23 PM
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Start on leash 6' throw ball (give command (fetch) ) 4' and allow dog to get it. Reel the dog in slowly along with a excited voice command and remove the ball from the mouth while giving the desired command (if necessary give another command such as sit or lay-down and follow with the removal and desired command for that action). Once you have the ball in your possession reward HUGE reward! Do it again and again, when you feel comfortable graduate to longer leash, off leash short distance (confined space) and then graduate to further distance, when you feel comfortable. Teach the dog the game you want to play, all games have rules! Want to play the game, play by the rules.

Best of luck to you and yours!

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post #7 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-31-2016, 05:25 PM
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I would back chain it - teach the behavior from the end rather than the beginning. Separate giving you the ball from chasing the ball and bringing it back.

When I used treats to teach my dogs to give up the ball or other toy, I used something really tasty and smelly, and put it right up to their nose. Mark it when he drops the ball (Yes!), give the treat, then give the ball back. When he will readily drop the ball for the treat, give it to him again and then quickly take a couple of steps backward, so he has to bring the ball to you to get the reward. Don't rush the progression. You want him enthusiastically shoving the ball at you. I start working on this inside the house first and work up to doing it outdoors in a more distracting environment.

Once he'll do that, roll the ball a few feet, and then run quickly backwards a short distance. Adding motion automatically makes you more interesting than standing there waiting for him to come to you. Gradually increase the distance you roll the ball. Eventually, throwing the ball will become the reward and you'll no longer need to use food to reward him to give it up.

All of our shepherds have been natural retrievers, so I didn't have to put a lot of effort into training fetch. Basically just giving up the ball on cue so I could throw it again. When we take them to the park with the Chuck-it, they will stop, sit, and look at us to "ask" us to throw the ball for them. They know the criteria is sit and watch until released or the ball does't get thrown, so we don't even need to tell them to do it.

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post #8 of 38 (permalink) Old 05-31-2016, 05:48 PM
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My older GSD was not a natural retriever, but we worked out a "fetch" method that she loves without needing any compulsion/force fetching.


Figure out your dog's most valuable, prized toy. The thing that s/he loves above all else. For mine, it's currently a squishy ball on a rope (used to be a floppy Frisbee). Don't throw the Most Valuable Toy, keep it in one hand. Throw a different, lower value, item with the other hand.


When your dog chases and picks up the lower value toy, praise. Swing/toss the Most Valuable Toy around in your hand, and then when your dog brings the lower value toy back to you, praise some more. When your dog brings the lower value toy to your feet, praise a bunch and quickly offer the Most Valuable Toy for some tugging and happy noises.


It might take some repetition, and some patience, but I'd recommend putting away the Most Valuable Toy and only bringing it out when you are practicing this exercise. It taught my non-retrieving dog to looooooove fetch, and she'll retrieve anything now. Sticks, balls, shoes, whatever you tell her to.


This method also helped teach both of my dogs an enthusiastic water retrieve. They aren't allowed to shake/shred/tug their floating bumpers. When they do a really nice water retrieve and drop the bumper at my feet, they're rewarded with an appropriate tug toy.
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post #9 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 09:57 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone! We tried the 2 ball thing, and he did well with it. he got distracted by my neighbor coming over to visit so that game was over faster than I wanted. I do want to try a few of the other suggestions, however, if that doesn't work. I think we'll get there. I have found that since brining Ronin home, I have an endless sea of patience with him. Very rarely do I lose it lately, thankfully. However, we are going to be doing some major training with Ronin on some other things, so it would be nice to have something fun to train him on as well in the next coming months.

"I am your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are my life, my leader. I will be yours, faithful and true to the last beat of my heart"-I am the German Shepherd
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post #10 of 38 (permalink) Old 06-01-2016, 10:09 AM
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Thanks everyone! We tried the 2 ball thing, and he did well with it. he got distracted by my neighbor coming over to visit so that game was over faster than I wanted. I do want to try a few of the other suggestions, however, if that doesn't work. I think we'll get there. I have found that since brining Ronin home, I have an endless sea of patience with him. Very rarely do I lose it lately, thankfully. However, we are going to be doing some major training with Ronin on some other things, so it would be nice to have something fun to train him on as well in the next coming months.
Patience is good. This may seem subtle, but whichever way you use, back chaining or two ball, don't 'take' the ball from him. That's a big conflict with a lot of dogs. He has to give it to you. It can be releasing it or just dropping it, but its not you taking it from him. Its him giving it.
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