Trainer reveals surprising reason why your dog refuses to bring the ball back when you play fetch (and what to do about it)

Dog chasing after ball
(Image credit: Getty Images)

We all love playing fetch with our pups, and we often expect them to hand over their ball, or whatever they’re fetching, as soon as they get it.

However, dogs sometimes like to hold on to their catch for a while before giving it back for another go. It can be tempting to find this frustrating – we’ve all been there! But, it’s a good idea to let your dog enjoy their catch, be it a ball or one of the best dog toys, rather than try to take it off them straight away.

Expert trainer Carolyn Martell, the founder of Good Dog Training, has explained why in a recent Instagram post. It’s something you might not have considered, but it makes so much sense!

Martell makes the point that, while as dog parents we might get frustrated with our dogs not handing us their catch right away, “I bet dogs find it frustrating to have their toys constantly grabbed for and yanked away.”

She explains that sometimes a dog will want to savor their catch for a while before they hand it over, particularly as they get progressively tired from the game. And, after all, your dog will let you know when they want you to throw the ball again. Martell says, “Until then, I’ll let him enjoy his ball. He worked hard for it.”

Dogs enjoy playing fetch – if they like holding on to their catch just as much as they like chasing after it, why not let them do so?  

If your dog really doesn’t like to return their ball, to the point where it’s interfering with your ability to play fetch with them, you can try introducing two balls instead. When your dog is tugging on one ball, get the second one out. But don’t throw the second ball until they drop the first one – you want them to recognize that the value lies with you as the person throwing the ball, rather than the ball itself. 

This isn’t the only mistake that people can make when it comes to playing fetch, either. To find out how to play the perfect game of fetch, you might find this article useful: You're playing fetch with your dog all wrong – make one simple change for a healthier, happier dog.

Chuckit! Paraflight Dog Toy 
$18.99 at Chewy

Chuckit! Paraflight Dog Toy
$18.99 at Chewy
Featuring a soft rubber edge that's gentle on your dog's teeth and gums, this durable frisbee uses bright colors to aid visibility and because it floats on water, it can be used in the sea or pool for a splashing good time! 

Adam England
Freelance Writer

Adam is a freelance journalist covering lifestyle, health, culture, and pets, and he has five years' experience in journalism. He's also spent the last few years studying towards undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in journalism. While a cat person at heart, he's often visiting his parents' Golden Retriever, and when he's not writing about everything pets he's probably drinking coffee, visiting a cat cafe, or listening to live music.