Many dogs, especially Labradors, were bred with the intention of helping their human owners retrieve specific items. That implies that many dogs still possess the learned tendency to pursue objects, pick them up in their mouths, and bring them back to you.
Since literally thousands of years ago, this trait has been a fundamental component of what it means to be a dog. Canis familiaris, or a family dog to you and me, was originally domesticated by humans at least 15,000 years ago, when they were taught to assist in food gathering and hunting for the human family.
The dogs chosen to breed and pass on their abilities to their offspring were those that excelled in these retrieving jobs. The descendants of those puppies would then carry on their inherited abilities.
Even while it’s doubtful that your family would take your Lab out on a food hunt like we used to, your dog will still have picked up some of the retrieving skills from their forebears. Naturally, chasing and retrieving are also essential elements of a fruitful game of fetch!
Fetch Makes Dogs Feel Good
Many dogs are likely to become hooked on fetch fast when they are initially exposed to it because they are already good at it due to their innate tendency for chasing and retrieving.
This means that when you play fetch with your dog and you see how much fun they are having, it is because they are able to demonstrate their inherent abilities. When we play fetch, we are merely allowing our dogs to engage in what they do best.
All of these behaviors are self-reinforcing, meaning they make the dog feel good, according to Debbie Jacobs, author of A Guide to Living with and Training a Fearful Dog, who wrote about fetch back in 2012. They don’t require a reward for their actions. Even if you are not paid to play football, you will if you enjoy it. Just doing it feels amazing. Dogs are the same, too.
In contrast to behavioral training, for example, where most dogs begin with no prior knowledge or ability to comply with your directions, fetch enables them to exercise such talents and receive praise while doing so.
Additionally, it’s a terrific type of exercise for your lab, and much like with humans, as they work out, Serotonin is released into the bloodstream by their brains. As a result of their positive feelings, they will naturally want to continue playing.
Quality Time for You and Your Dog
Of course, the fact that fetch gives you and your Lab some quality time together is what really makes everything stand out. For many dogs, getting to spend more time playing with their owner while they run after sticks and Frisbees is a dream come true.
Unlike tug-of-war contests or even training, fetch involves less effort from the human, allowing you to playfully interact with your Lab until they tire. As you instruct your dog to fetch stuff for you in the interactive game Fetch, you solidify your position as the “alpha” and strengthen the link between human and canine.
The majority of people play fetch when they’re at the park, so you can pair this enjoyable, physically demanding game with a lengthy stroll or, if your Lab is feeling very agile, with a few additional training exercises.
Is fetch beneficial to dogs?
The true fetching machines are retrievers and working dogs. It should be rather clear why retrievers would want to, well, retrieve. Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Labradors, and Golden Retrievers all crave it. Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, which are herding breeds, like to “round-up and retrieve” balls or other toys. German shorthair pointers, Rat terriers, English spaniels, and Poodles are examples of hunting dogs that love the pursuing and retrieving aspects of a game of fetch. Sighthounds excel at fetch because they will chase anything that moves! Dogs like Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, and small Schnauzers that need a little more mental and physical activity often enjoy the thrill of a rousing game of fetch. And I promise that some dogs will fetch solely for our comfort. These individuals will “politely go after the ball, pick it up, or perhaps bring it halfway back to you, but they are then easily distracted because they don’t truly care.
The way a dog will bring the ball (or frisbee, or toy) back to you is interesting. Shake, shred, and “kill it before they bring it back to you,” your little terrier would say. A retriever merely wants to get the ball back so they may enjoy the benefits and let you handle the dirty job. They aren’t interested in killing the “game” (the ball). Certain breeds will want to consume it! And if they don’t find the ball, your German Shorthair pointer won’t even return to you! They mean business.
Fetch offers so many advantages. It’s a wonderful way to strengthen your relationship with your dog. Exercise is beneficial. Additionally, it can improve your dog’s behavior by releasing stored-up energy that might otherwise be used destructively. Finally, it establishes you as the “alpha” in your dog’s eyes by having them follow your instructions to chase and recover a target for you.
Do dogs tire of playing fetch?
Even while playing catch can seem to be a favorite activity for all dogs, it’s common for some dogs to just not be interested. It can sometimes just come down to personal preference.
According to Heather White of Heather White Dog Training, “not all dogs appreciate the same type of exercise, just like not all people like a given type of activity or sport.”
Some dogs might not have been introduced to fetch in a way that they find enjoyable.
Genetics may be at play.
Does fetch get boring for dogs?
Even while playing catch would appear to be a universally adored dog activity, it’s common for some dogs to merely not be interested in playing. Sometimes, it’s only a matter of taste.
According to Heather White of Heather White Dog Training, “much like not all people appreciate a certain type of activity or sport, not all dogs like the same type of activity.”
Some dogs might not have been introduced to an enjoyable game like fetch in the past.
A health issue could be getting in the way.
According to White, some dogs who have previously enjoyed fetching objects may start to lose interest as a result of an underlying physical condition, such as arthritis, which might affect how much fun a dog can have fetching.
Even if it once was fun, your dog can lose interest.
“Dogs repeat what they like and what makes them feel good and joyful, just like people do,” claims White.
Some dogs may grow bored playing fetch if they don’t receive enough praise or find the game to be enjoyable.
They may not like the thing you’re trying to get them to fetch.
According to White, certain dogs may “have distinct preferences as to the types of stuff they enjoy picking up and bringing back to their owner, including the texture, shape, and even weight of an item.”
If so, try combining it with different objects, such as balls, stuffed animals, and dumbbells.
The dog will pick up the toy, but not bring it back.
The most frequent issue, according to certified dog trainer Penny Leigh, is that the dog will run and pick up the toy but not return it to the person. “Playing the game of the two toys is the ideal solution, according to Leigh. “When the dog picks up one toy, you quickly point out that you also have another one, and they immediately want to go grab it. Alternatively, you can give them treats as a reward for giving you the toy. This prevents the dog from feeling like they are always parting with their prize and receiving anything in exchange.
They don’t understand how fetch works.
When it’s time to play fetch, some dogs could just be unclear about what is expected of them. White provides the following advice on how to teach your dog to fetch:
- Take that Encourage your dog to approach a toy first, then reward them for taking that first step with their favorite incentive (verbal praise, treats, or physical contact). Build up to having the dog eventually touch the toy with their mouth or nose and eventually take it in their mouth.
- Drop it: Here, you want your dog to learn how to give up the item or toy they’ve grabbed while still getting rewarded.
- When retrieving, ask your dog to pick up something that is within a foot of you and then reward them by having them drop it in front of you or hand it to you. Once your dog has mastered this, you may try putting them further away from the dropped object.
What makes dogs chase balls so much?
It is well known that dogs were first domesticated for use in hunting. In the past, people exploited dogs’ innate drive to track, chase, and retrieve objects. The game fetch is the contemporary outcome of years of this domestication and conditioning. For modern dog owners, chasing balls is a joyful and well-liked exercise, but what health effects does fetch have on your dog?
Effects on the Brain
Some dogs will bring the ball back to you repeatedly. Over and over again. Why are some dogs so devoted to the game of fetch and never get bored? The hormones secreted hold the solution. The brain continuously releases adrenalin while chasing the ball over and over. Heart damage, sleeplessness, and a jittery, anxious sensation are all effects of an excess of adrenalin. Cortisol is also released, which leads to agitated and frenetic behavior. Additionally, since ball chasing is frequently a reward-based behavior, a high drive dog will keep performing it (even when it hurts physically). Dogs enjoy chasing and retrieving the ball, so they will want to do it repeatedly.
Effects on the Joints
Repeated ball chasing damages cartilage and muscles over time by causing micro-trauma. Dogs must rebalance their weight to apply greater pressure on their front legs when they take up and hold a ball in their mouths. The front legs’ joints are put under higher strain as a result.
Effects on the Muscles
After being tossed, the ball’s location is unexpected. Dogs swiftly react by breaking, twisting, and landing in ways that put tension and pressure on muscles that aren’t designed to handle it. Even worse, moving at a rapid speed increases the force put on the muscles and raises the risk of injury. Breaking is the most hazardous aspect of ball chasing. Shoulder injuries are frequently the result of the movements required to stop running.
How to Prevent the Negative Effects of Ball Chasing
When it comes down to it, fetch is enjoyable. Try warming up first if you still want to play but want to reduce your risk of being hurt. Your dog’s body will be ready for more exercise with a quick warm-up. Throw the ball only a short distance and below your waist level. This will prevent them from repeatedly jumping. Playing fetch on slick or wet terrain should be avoided. Only throw light objects, like a tennis ball or a frisbee, when playing fetch to spare their front legs from unnecessary stress. According to studies, dogs tend to put more weight on their front legs while carrying objects that are heavier.
Do all dogs enjoy the game of fetch?
While some dogs adore the game of fetch and some breeds, such as retrievers, are highly accustomed to it, other dogs could find the concept strange. Some dogs don’t show much interest in toys or don’t have a natural tendency to retrieve toys. Similar to this, some rescue dogs might not have played with toys when they were puppies and simply don’t know what to do with one. The majority of people like to play the game of fetch with their dog, but it can be aggravating if you toss a toy and your dog merely watches you or goes to collect the item but doesn’t bring it back. Even though not all dogs are inherently good at fetch, it is a skill that can be learned!
Why is fetch crucial?
It’s crucial to keep in mind that fetch is a game. Ask yourself if it will be worthwhile to spend time and effort trying to engage your dog in retrieve activities. There is nothing wrong with your dog enjoying other types of exercise, tug-of-war matches, and mental stimulation more. Playing with a flirt pole is a fantastic alternative if a dog doesn’t seem interested in fetch.
Fetch is a fantastic exercise and energy-burning activity for your dog. It’s a practical technique to get kids ready for bed so they get the rest they require. Additionally, it will keep them mentally active and improve your relationship.
Exactly why shouldn’t dogs play fetch?
When playing fetch, owners frequently continue moving forward. I’ve seen that a lot of dog owners feel a tremendous NEED to throw a ball for their dog repeatedly, have them fetch it, and repeat until the dog is nearly exhausted. The truth is that our dog has less control over their movement the more worn out they are. Our dogs’ responses to a game of fetch may differ greatly from one another. While some dogs can self-regulate well, others could keep retrieving until they are completely worn out. Keep in mind that not all dogs are ideal for fetch, so it’s crucial to get to know yours! It takes a LOT of mental and physical effort to play fetch.
- Our dogs employ explosive movement to take off once we throw the ball. To move forward, the dog uses its hind end and core muscles. This is a strenuous physical test that calls for core strength, good hind end (hips/knees) range of motion, and hind end strengthening. The dog is more inclined to pull from their front end, which is undesirable, if these assets are missing.
- Our dogs will have to compose themselves and slow down as they approach the tossed object in order to retrieve the ball “brake mechanism. Strong shoulder muscles are necessary to brace the slowing down when the core muscles contract. Our dogs’ muscles will need to contract eccentrically as they slow down, which is a more difficult task for the body because the muscles will lengthen as they work. We frequently witness our dogs “wipeout” if they are not physically fit enough to accomplish this and lack the requisite muscle power for adequate deceleration.
- The game of fetch can definitely become more physically difficult if the object you’re tossing has any bounce to it. Our canines will monitor the ball’s path with tenacious focus as it bounces unpredictably! Our canines typically have “When retrieving a ball, everyone’s attention is focused on the trajectory of the ball rather than on how to move safely. Our dogs’ risk of harm rises when they are overly stimulated because they are less aware of their bodies or other possible hazards (such roads, crashes, etc.). Excessive bends, contortions, slide-outs, summersaults, and movements that are outside of how the dog’s body should move might be caused by a lack of self-preservation and body attention. The ability to properly control the dog’s body in certain situations requires increased body awareness and strength, which can limit a variety of ailments.
- The weight of the item our dog is carrying can change substantially! Our dogs transfer their weight forward when a toy is heavier. In a study on working Labrador Retrievers, researchers discovered that the weight distribution of the dogs increased to 66% when they were carrying a toy weighing about 1 lb. Dogs are naturally front-loaded (60/40 split), but the danger of damage increases the more weight they bear up front. The scientists also discovered that when the object was bigger, such a big branch weighing about 8 lbs. 75% of the weight was distributed! Owners should be mindful of the toys and items they use when playing fetch. Demand is enhanced by larger and heavier things. It is suggested to use lightweight toys, such as balls. (Bockstahler,2016)