Trainer reveals the secret to tightening up your dog's fetch game (spoiler alert: you need to master another game first)

Boston Terrier playing tug of war
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Play has many benefits for dogs, keeping them physically active, stimulating them mentally, and helping them fulfill their natural instincts, too. 

And there are so many games you can play with your dog. Two of the most popular games, however, are fetch and tug-of-war. They’re both great fun for pup and parent alike, and provide great physical and mental stimulation for dogs. 

If you’re trying to teach your dog how to play fetch, you can actually do so through a game of tug, and all you need is one of the best dog toys! Certified dog trainer Melissa Goodman of Mission Pawsitive has explained how this works in a recent Instagram post, so let’s take a look.

“Not all dogs are natural retrievers or enjoy bringing the toy back,” explains Goodman, who’s working with Lola, a client’s dog. “Tug is a game where the dog wants to share the toy with you, so building the retriever into a more interactive game is often a much more fun and effective way to teach it. So if your dog doesn’t love fetch but they love tugging, this method might be for you!”

In the video, Goodman takes Lola’s favorite tug toy and teases her with it to make her want it and get her into the game. She then lets go and moves away, which makes Lola bring the toy over to her to resume playing. 

Goodman continues, “Bringing me the toy is how to make me tug with her again. Here, I’m basically pushing her away from me, which makes her want to bring me the rope more, and I always do at least a little tug before letting go again.”

She explains that this is the start of a retrieve — here, it’s easy to see how a dog can start learning fetch through playing tug. Should you play tug of war with your puppy, or your adult dog? It’s a question many dog parents ask, but we believe the answer is ‘yes’! And, Goodman appears to agree. 

She keeps getting Lola to bring her the toy, while gradually adding a little more distance. She then rewards Lola with a quick game of tug, before repeating the process. 

If you try this with your pup, you’ll notice the game going from a simple game of tug to one that’s a combination of both tug and fetch. Eventually, you may be able to phase out the tug element, and simply play fetch with your pup.

Whether you think that you’re playing fetch with your dog all wrong, or your dog’s almost there but needs that extra bit of encouragement to really master the activity, following Goodman’s advice and incorporating tug in there could be a real game-changer for you. Why not give it a go?

Earth Rated Tug Toy
$23.99 at Chewy

Earth Rated Tug Toy
$23.99 at Chewy
Featuring two handles to encourage interactive play between you and your pup, this rubber tug toy has a smooth, curved shape that's easy to grab and is soft and durable. 

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.