Do you play fetch with your dog? Trainer reveals five things you need to know — and number two is so important

Man playing fetch with dog in forest
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Do you play fetch with your dog? If so, then you likely already know that this can be an exciting way to interact with your pup and strengthen your relationship.

But according to expert trainer Adam Spivey, founder of Southend Dog Training, you're playing fetch with your dog all wrong

How could Spivey possibly know that we hear you ask? Well, according to the popular trainer, there are a number of common mistakes we pet parents often make that can increase the risk that our dog will develop bad habits. 

If you're constantly trying to figure out how to stop a dog from jumping up or how to calm a reactive dog, it could be that some of the behavioral issues your dog is displaying are being reinforced when you play fetch with them. 

To help you avoid this, Spivey has put together an Instagram video where he outlines five rules for the perfect game of fetch. You can check out the video below or keep reading for a summary...

1. Avoid tennis balls: "Normal tennis balls are really bad for your dog's teeth," Spivey explains. "Prolonged use and destructive behavior towards the tennis ball can act as a corrosive and sand down their teeth. Chuckit! balls are much better. They fit in a ball launcher and they're much kinder to your dog's teeth."

2. Don't throw the ball when your dog is barking: "If your dog barks in anticipation of the ball and you throw the ball, you're conditioning your dog to bark more. The dog learns that barking gets you to throw the ball, so you're going to reinforce barking — don't do that. You must wait for them to be silent."

3. Don't throw the ball when your dog is fixating on the ball: "Target fixation leads to obsession," says Spivey. "You want them to break their fixation and look at you and then you throw the ball."

4. Mix it up: "Don't throw the ball over and over again without making your dog do something," Spivey stresses. "It conditions an athlete, an adrenaline junkie that needs more all the time. Make them do a sit, down, come, heel...anything before they get the ball again."

5. Make it a treat, not a part of your daily routine: "Don't play every single day because it can become an obsession, particularly for dogs like Collies, etc." 

Spivey says it's important to remember that balls should be used for short periods of time, in fun ways, and with rules that let your dog know that you are in charge. 

Keeping these rules in mind will ensure you and your canine companion can have an enjoyable and safe game of fetch together. 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.