As explained in my previous blog, Dogs fetch objects instinctively. They have a flair for carrying objects in their mouth to their lair or to their pack leader. For a domesticated dog the master is the pack leader and a trained dog feels a great pleasure to deliver the object back to him. Dogs are bundle of energy and the fetch game is a great source of stress buster for the dog. It is a kind of stress reliever for the master as well, for he/she need not run with the dog to exercise him. Another biggest advantage of teaching the dog to fetch is that it develops a kind of invisible bond between you and the dog. The moment you take him to the park with a dumbbell or a ball in your hand, he is constantly eyeing you and remains excited with the thought of the game ahead. The bond becomes so strong that soon dog begins to treat the ball as a reward.
Such a bond is important, as it helps both the owner and the dog to achieve their goals. The owner can expect better results while the dog need not scratch his brains trying to be a linguist! It is this invisible and unwritten bond which makes him your shadow for ever. Heel and Fetch are two commands that strengthen the bond further and make your dog more and more attentive as he matures. As long as he is a puppy his forays during the training session should be ignored. A puppy can not be expected to concentrate on your commands all the time and every day. There could be days when the pup may be off color or you might have had a tiff with your wife or the boss and with a frown on your forehead you can not develop the kind of bond with your dog I am trying to convey here.
The game of fetch is not merely fetching the dumbbell on your command. It could be innovated to many other alternatives as well. For example, after he fetches the dumbbell and sits smartly in front of you to deliver it in your extended palms, instead of taking it from him. You smartly pat your left thigh and make him walk around you in clockwise direction to sit in Heel position on your left. The moment he sits, take off with the command Heel. As usual move your left leg first as it draws his attention faster. To your happiness he will walk smartly with the dumbbell in his mouth. Initially walk for only few steps, and then make him stop and sit in heel position. Now ask him to fetch. This is slightly tricky for the dog. Because your purpose is to ask him to come and sit in front of you with the object still held in his mouth. He might fumble initially, but would soon understand and sit in the desired position and deliver the object to you. Again throw the dumbbell and repeat the newly taught game of carrying the dumbbell in his mouth as he walks with you.
Gradually increase the distance he walks with you with the dumbbell in his mouth. At this stage you may introduce another command of ‘Carry’. In case you have a Labrador retriever or a Golden Retriever or a Pug he will learn the command without much effort. These breeds have a knack of carrying things. However, almost all breeds of dogs learn it may be with slight difficulty. A lot depends upon the proper size of the object. It should be convenient and comfortable for the dog to carry.
Once the dog has learned to fetch and carry the dumbbell or the ball, you can replace it with a basket and make him ‘carry’ it in his mouth and walk briskly besides you. Since by now your dog has also been trained to Go-you can always ask him to go ahead with the basket carrying flowers for your loved one or even gong to the shop to bring sundry items.
Similarly this whole exercise gives you another extra few minutes of much desired sleep early in the morning. You can teach your dog to fetch the newspaper every day. The procedure for a dog trained to retrieve is simple. Initially roll a newspaper and throw it and ask you dog to fetch. Reward him amply afterwards. After a few days, open the door in the morning and show him the rolled newspaper in your compound. Make him go fetch and lo in no time the newspaper of the day will be in your hands every morning. I must add here that there is also a different kind of attachment between a dog and the newspaper.
Please note that a dog gets a sadistic pleasure in tearing a newspaper apart. The rustling sound of the paper being torn excites the dog so much that he imagines it to be a pray-probably a bird between his fangs! Often people come to me with this problem. Their newspaper is torn to shreds by their loveable pooch even before they are awake. Thus teaching a dog to fetch the newspaper not only saves your precious paper but also changes his psyche towards such objects.
With your dog taught to fetch you can look forward to several innovations. For example, how will you feel when you return from your office your dog smartly brings your slippers and puts them near your feet and awaits you to take off your stinking socks and shoes to place them at their proper position! Great isn’t it? Well it’s not difficult at all. First teach him to fetch your Slippers. He learns soon to do so. Initially you may have to go to the designated spot and point him the slippers and ask him to ‘carry’ and then ask him to ‘fetch’ and deliver at the place you normally relax after returning home from work. Always add words like fetch slippers to make him understand what is required of him. The day your dog brings you the slippers while you sit in your favorite chair you will be elated beyond comprehension.
There is no end to the game of fetch. From slippers you can switch over to our walking shoes or ‘keds’. Your dog will learn sooner than you imagine, because after putting on those shoes and after he has replaced the slippers you take him out for his walk and play. They make two plus two four very quickly and perform the task without any grudge. For him now the walk is the reward. Yet another addition to this could be that he could be trained to bring his leash as well.
Isn’t it fascinating?
Well as I said there is no end to the game of fetch and it leads to so many other games/training. Dog develops an attachment with the objects he fetches. And in the next blog you will read how to make him sniff out a hidden object?