How to learn fetching with a food dummy

Many dogs love to fetch something, but this skill can not be learnt without training. A food dummy, a small bag filled with treats, is a good way to start training. The treats will certainly increase your dog’s interest.

The origin of fetching lies in the training of hunting dogs. Their job was to track down game that had been hunted down and bring it back to the hunter. This original background applies to many of our family dogs. For this reason, fetch training is an excellent activity for dogs.

The difference between fetching and playing

Although ball-throwing is also a kind of leisure activity, there are some differences to the real fetching. If you play ball-throwing with your dog, there are no specific rules. This means that the dog decides when to run and whether to pick up the ball and bring it back.

In contrast, fetch training that follows certain rules, offers many advantages. You work together with your dog, which strengthen the bond between the two of you. Additionally, fetching includes educative actions such as the secure call back. Unlike throwing a ball, fetching helps dogs with everyday situations and prevents them from running after moving objects such as cyclists.

How to start the fetch training

The easiest way to start fetch training is with a food dummy filled with treats. It is advisable to use treats that the dog especially loves. Click-Bits as well as PLATINUM dry food have proven to work very well, thanks to meat content and the smell. First, you have to make the food dummy interesting. Show your dog, that you fill in the treats. Afterwards, you can hide the dummy behind your back, or drag it across the floor by using encouraging words. When the dog shows interest, reward your dog from the food bag. Firstly, this is a reward for the interest and secondly it shows the dog that it cannot get treats without your help.

Training the dog to fetch the food dummy

After your dog understood this, you can start with the real fetch training. You should begin without rules. Actions like picking-up the dummy, carrying it in the mouth and bringing it closer will be rewarded. Don’t reward unwanted behaviour but reinforce wanted behaviour by praise or treats. It is recommended to use a long leash at the beginning to control the radius.

After that, you can begin to implement rules for your dog, such as ‘only walk by’ signal. If your dog wants to start immediately, you can again use a leash at the beginning or include commands like “stay” or “Sit.” This exercise has positive side effects, because it trains the dogs impulse control and the ability to stand still until there is the signal to walk.

Rules for fetch training

There are several rules, that you should follow. It begins with the dog’s position while you throw the food dummy away from you. The dog should always remain close to you. After a few seconds, you can add the signal “fetch” and combine it with a hand signal. If the dog brings the dummy back reliably you can add the next rule, which is dropping the bag.

Overall, you should be patient. Some dogs learn faster, others need more time.

If you want to learn more about fetch training and advanced fetching, you can find more steps and advice in PLATINUM’s guide article  “Learning to fetch with a food dummy”.