Ginger works on Fetch!

How hard should it be to teach a dog to fetch? Right now, Ginger thinks dog toys are for chewing, tugging or chasing. We’ve never bothered to teach her to bring them back. Of course, Ginger is perfectly capable of fetching, the issue is communicating to her that this is what I want her to do!

Ginger believes chase is a much more fun game to play than fetch! She is also not willing to pick up or interact with her toys while we are clicker training, because clicker training is more fun than chewing on toys. But, what if I use clicker training to teach her to fetch? Maybe she will think that this is double the fun. That’s the current plan and we have been making some good progress so far.

I started with simple stuff, rewarding her for touching her toys with her nose and then for putting her mouth around the toy. Later I moved to holding the toy and getting her to take it from my hand. Both of these were hard to get any duration on, she just wanted to shake her head and toss or drop the toy. However, she figured out that the goal was to interact with the toy.

We’ve moved on to a different approach. This is working better, especially now that she will pick up with the toy and hold it for at least several seconds. The toy starts on the floor. She picks it up and holds it. I lean down and put my hand under her chin. If she lets me do this, click and treat. (At which point she drops the toy to get the treat.) Eventually, I want her to hand me the toy. However, right now if I try to touch it, she thinks I want to play tug.

At the beginning, she would either move away, because she thought I was trying to steal her toy, or drop the toy, because she thought I was going to give her a treat. However, after a few sessions, if I reached my hand down, she was leaning her head forward to place the toy and her chin in my palm. We were getting somewhere!

We are gradually increasing the distance she has to travel to place the toy in my hand. Eventually, she’ll be able to bring me the toy from across the room. Right now, we are at 5-6 feet. So, we have the major components of the behavior–going to the toy, picking it up and bringing it to me.

The last big step is getting her to drop it in my hand or let me take it from her mouth. I would like to actually shape or capture this–I don’t want to forcefully take it from her. Any suggestions from other dog lovers would be appreciated, as we’ll probably start working on this soon.

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