(If you have a Border Collie or other ball-obsessed dog, you may be laughing at this title. You can skip this section but I do have something for you in the section just below here.)
Playing fetch with your dog can enhance your relationship as it involves him coming back to you over and over again. The act of giving you the ball or toy also reinforces the habit of doing that, which can be very helpful when he has something you really want him to give up. This does seem to be inevitable, sooner or later!
The steps are simple and best done after your dog already knows how to come when called:
- Start in a very small confined area.
- Toss a ball just a little ways away.
- Chances are the dog will go get it.
- If not, try again.
- If he still doesn’t show interest, try a different toy.
- Once he picks it up, chances are he will come back towards you, soon if not immediately.
- Offer him a delicious treat and likely he will exchange ball for treat.
- Praise him and try this a couple more times but stop while the game is still fresh, and stop after a successful round.
As the dog gets more into it over time, you can extend the space and number of repetitions. Got kids? They may have more patience than you with this game!
What About Ball-Obsessed Dogs?
I once lived with a Border Collie who belonged to my sister-in-law. (I lived with her too.) Good ol’ Osa would chase a ball and bring the soon-slimy thing back for as long as anyone would play the game. There were some benefits to this: she was pretty focused on us humans, watching eagerly for her next playmate. And she stayed nice and slender into old age, from all the exercise she got. Her palpable zest and enjoyment was a delight to watch.
If your dog will play fetch endlessly, I don’t know of any way to actually stop the behavior and I’m not sure why you would want to. But you could make up variations on the game, such as tossing something other than a ball. You could use clicker training with some specially yummy treats to train other behaviors, such as tricks. Or the reward for doing the other thing could be a toss of the ball!