Fetching: Why do some dogs like to fetch sticks – and others don't?

Dusseldorf. I throw the ball, the dog brings it back. Fetch is one of those simple games between dog and owner that can be played regardless of time and place and with minimal effort. Basically, most dogs enjoy it, but some are more enthusiastic than others. Dog trainer Anton Fichtlmeier, who also wrote an award-winning book on the subject, “Search and Retrieve,” knows why this is the case.

Many dogs enjoy being able to spend time with their people. By playing together, they strengthen their relationship with each other. For Fichtlmeier, retrieving is, on the one hand, a form of communication, while on the other hand, throwing a stick or ball triggers an instinctive movement stimulus that few dogs resist.

These dogs enjoy retrieving
Due to their disposition, some dog breeds have a particular willingness to retrieve. “This definitely includes the retrievers, which were bred to carry them to the hunter when hunting birds. Translated from English, retrieve ultimately means to bring back, recover or find again. Many hunting dog breeds also have this disposition, including pointing dogs such as Weimaraners, Griffons and Setters. Even dog breeds that were bred solely for tracking work, such as a Bavarian Mountain Hound BGS, can be trained to retrieve, even from water,” says the expert.

Most dogs quickly show a willingness to run after any stick when it is thrown. But this can wear off with repetitions. According to Fichtlmeier, Nordic dogs, herding dogs and livestock guard dogs usually see less sense in running after an object that you throw four or five times. Even if the object is put down or hidden, many four-legged friends' desire to search and retrieve it decreases because the triggering movement stimulus is missing.

Practice retrieving
Basically, every dog, regardless of age, can learn to retrieve. Simply put, the dog brings things to the human and learns through Fichtlmeier's exchange concept that it is advantageous for him to leave the prey to his human. This only requires a few steps, says the dog trainer: “If the dog has something in its mouth, you move away from it. This means you're not competing, which means the dog doesn't get the feeling that you're trying to take the prey away from him. If the binding fits, the dog will run after it with the prey in its mouth. If you quickly offer him a piece of food or another reward in exchange, he will happily give up the object. Then he usually learns quickly that he can swap move for move.”

Be considerate of the dog's age
Ultimately, sprinting quickly to an object is also sport. “When chasing sticks, a dog is often very tense. “He repeatedly starts running abruptly, stops, then starts running again – that’s bad for the joints in the long run,” warns the expert. “It's gentler if you lay out the objects and let him search. This prevents the very abrupt movements.” Especially in extremely warm or cold weather, you should also be considerate of your animal, especially if it is already a senior.

What to do if a dog suddenly doesn't want to fetch anymore?
As a rule, a dog that enjoys fetching objects will not lose that joy from one day to the next. Therefore, in these cases you should always check a few factors:

  • Health causes such as injuries to the teeth or paws, cardiovascular problems or other pain can prevent a dog from being active. This should be monitored and checked closely.
  • If you have already trained a lot and demand a lot from him, a dog can be overworked and simply needs a break.
  • Dogs can also have a day when they don't feel like retrieving. Especially when something else seems much more exciting and the four-legged friend keeps getting distracted, the ball game tends to fade into the background for the time being.

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