For the purposes of this info, today, I’m going to walk you through steps on training your dog to fetch ASSUMING your dog already has drive and interest in chasing a ball.
Start out with your dog on a long line. I like a 20 foot leash for this. Hold onto the line with your off hand and hold the ball with your throwing hand. Wave the ball back and forth to get your dog interested in the ball. Toss it around, kick it around, etc. all the while not allowing your dog to get it as your off hand is preventing it with the long line.
Toss and Praise
Toss the ball close to you.
As the dog goes for the ball praise him.
The second he gets it immediately reel him in back to you like a fish. When he gets back get him to release the ball and then IMMEDIATELY toss it again for him to chase.
Many dogs learn not to fetch because they don’t think it is that fun. They get the ball and then they have to give it up. In doing so, they realize that fetch isn’t all that fun. In the beginning stages of training fetch I want the dog to realize that when he gives the ball up it actually makes the game better because you are likely to toss the ball right away.
After you’ve played for a bit collect the ball, get him interested and excited, and then put the ball away. You want to end your fetch session on a high note with your dog wanting more. In doing this it will build his drive for wanting to fetch the next time.
Two Ball Game
Another way to teach the dog to drop the ball when he brings it back is to play the ‘two ball game’. As you send him to get the first ball the next ball materializes from your pocket and you immediately show it to him and get him excited about it. As he comes back you entice him to drop the first ball so that he can get the next ball. As he drops it you toss the second ball away. As he goes to chase that ball you pick up the dropped ball and repeat this step.
In a nutshell you want a lot of energy, movement, and fun. You want to keep it fun and lively, never allowing the dog the drop the energy. You want to end it fun so that the lasting association that stays with the dog is that of always wanting more and always being ready the next time the ball comes out.
Image credit: gr8dnes