Although Labrador Retrievers were bred for retrieving – a form of fetch – this does not mean they are all born doing it. You may be embarrassed that you seem to have the only Lab that doesn’t fetch, but the truth is, many of them do not do this naturally. Some will chase the ball but not bring it back. Others will bring it to you but instead of having a nice soft mouth (which is trained, by the way), they have that toy in a vice-like grip and won’t give it to you for all the treats in the world. That’s okay! The following are three tips that will help you teach your Labrador Retriever to play fetch.
#1 – Start With The End
In dog training, we call this “back chaining.” Back chaining a behavior means you start with the last piece of the behavior. So in this case you would start by teaching your Labrador Retriever to pick up a toy and place it in your hand. This is done easiest through shaping with a clicker.
#2 – Use A Special Toy
At first, it can help to use a special toy your Labrador Retriever loves and only use it for this training session. This helps for two reasons. One, dogs don’t generalize their learning so using the same object each time will help your dog recall the lesson from last time so you can move on quicker. And two, if it’s something he really likes he will be more likely to want to pick it up and stay focused on it for the training.
#3 – Build Up Distance
Once your Labrador Retriever is picking up that toy and placing it in your hand, you can start to toss it for him to “fetch.” But don’t chuck it as far as you can the first time. Instead, build up distance by first just tossing it a foot away from you. If your Labrador Retriever immediately picks it up and puts it in your hand, you know he has the concept and you can increase the distance of the toss. If he fails three times in a row, however, you may need to shorten the distance or go back and reinforce the picking up and placing in your hand some more.
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