Golden Retriever puppies will start chasing a small ball as young as 4 weeks old.
Because they are still quite clumsy at this age, they will try to pick it up, but can’t totally grip it, so it rolls away, and they go after it!
This is the beginning of a life long love of theirs!
©Photo Courtesy of Bonnie Matthews
Teach your dog to fetch and you will spend many happy hours playing and bonding with your Golden.
That is, of course, if you can teach him to drop the object when and if he brings it back!
Golden puppies love to hear praise, and love to spend time with you, so to teach your dog to fetch is the simple part.
To teach them fetch, while you are petting them, get their attention by slowly rolling a tennis ball, back and forth on the floor, between your hands.
A dog will naturally go to the ball and join in on this fun game you seem to be playing. Do this a few times and allow your dog to beat you to it, as if it is a contest.
Then roll it a few feet away from you. He will go after it to fetch it, but do not praise him as he goes. When he gets it in his mouth, then praise him. He will come to you with it still in his mouth, just to see why you are so excited.
If you try to praise him while he is still on his way to the ball, he may instead turn around and come back to you to see what you are so happy about, forgetting all about it.
©Photo Courtesy of Venusnep Photography
While he has it in his mouth, put your hand on it, as you are telling him “good dog”. Then you will probably have to pry the ball loose from his grip.
As soon as you get it pried away from him, immediately roll it again, making sure you are not rolling it very far away.
You want him to understand that even though he had to give the toy up, you allowed him to go right back to playing with it again. This is the beginning of how to teach your dog to fetch.
After a few times of this, use the command, “Fetch“, or “Get the ball”, which is what I say. It really doesn’t matter what words you choose, just so you are consistent in using them.
Always end the game with your dog having the ball, not you. When you are done playing, roll it one last time, tell him to fetch, and leave him to play with it on his own. He will start bringing you the ball in the future to try and get you to play.
When he has learned that bringing the item to you is fun, you need to start teaching him the command, “Drop It”.
©Photo Courtesy of Jenny Knotek-Delfini "Maxwell"
As for how to teach him to drop it, put one hand on his head and the other hand on the ball, which will be in his mouth.
Say the command, “Drop it”, and pry it loose. As soon as it is pried loose, tell him, “Good boy”, and roll it so he can play again.
Do this over and over, making sure you are telling him to “Drop it” at the same time that you are taking it out of his mouth.
He will soon learn that in order to keep playing, he has to release the ball.
After doing this several times, you will notice that he doesn’t grip it as tightly, and soon he will just release it on his own.
Never chase him for the ball, or any toy. Make him bring it to you if he wants to play. When he sees that you will not chase him, he will start bringing his toys to you.
The “Drop it” command needs to be taught as a play game. Although there will be many times that you may need to use this command for taking other objects out of his mouth.
©Photo Courtesy of Antonio Franco
If he has been taught to drop his toys for play, he will drop other objects easier when commanded to.
If you need him to drop dangerous or unacceptable objects that he has picked up, always give him a toy or a treat in place of him dropping the object you do not want him having.
After you teach your dog to fetch, by practicing with slow moving tennis balls, you can then move on to long and hard throws, using sticks, frisbees, and all kinds of toys.
To teach your dog to fetch, is well worth the time spent, and your Golden Retriever will love you for it!