A game of fetch is great exercise and a way of bonding for you and your dog.
For some dogs, playing fetch comes almost as naturally as walking. After all, breeds like the Labrador and the Cocker Spaniel have retrieving bred into their DNA.
But for many other dogs, the idea of chasing after an object you throw and then bringing it back to you is a very foreign concept.
Try to start a game of fetch with one of these dogs and they're likely to chase the object and keep it for themselves, get distracted mid-chase, or simply stare at you like you’ve gone slightly bonkers.
The good news is that if your Staffordshire Bull Terrier doesn’t know how to play fetch, it’s fairly easy to teach him or her the basics.
This short guide will explain how to teach a Staffy to fetch step-by-step, including some handy tips to help make every training session a success.
Training your Staffy to fecth - Step-by-Step
The best approach for teaching your Staffy how to play fetch will depend on their level of interest in chasing the ball or toy you throw. Some will instinctively hare off after the item as soon as you throw it — if that’s the case with your dog, you can move on to the next step straight away.
If not, you’ll need to start by rewarding your dog for showing an interest in the toy. The reward could be:
Choose whatever works best for your dog, and use it to help him/her realise that putting the toy in their mouth will lead to good things.
For example, you could reward your Staffy with a game of tug of war when they pick up their favourite chew toy, or give them a treat just for sniffing the toy and showing an interest in it.Before too long, your dog should be willing to chase the toy when you throw it a short distance.
Now comes the key: teaching your Staffy to actually bring the toy back to you. Here’s where your reserves of patience can come in handy, as your dog may decide they’d rather:
- Stand with the toy and wait for you to go to them
- Leave the toy where it is and run back to you empty-mouthed
- Run off with the toy in the hope that you’ll chase after them
- Wander off to investigate some other distraction
Happily, there are a few simple steps you can take to overcome these problems:
Entice your dog to bring the toy back to you by calling them back in an excited voice. If your pup thinks you’ll be very happy to see them when they return, they will be much more likely to come back to you.
Treats once again come in handy when you want to call your dog back to you. Your dog is a lot less likely to wander off if there’s a reward on offer.
Don’t just fling the toy far into the distance and expect your dog to retrieve it straight away. Start by throwing it just a short way away, where it’ll still be easy for your dog to focus on you after picking up the toy.
Play in the hallway
If your dog wants to run away and be chased after fetching the toy, try playing in a hallway or some other narrow area. This gives your Staffy little choice but to come back to you.
Until your dog is reliably fetching the toy and returning it to you, it’s important to limit distractions as much as possible. This will ensure that his attention is entirely on you, and make them a lot less likely to wander off mid-game.
Relinquishing the ball or toy is another part of fetch many dogs struggle with. In fact, it is probably the biggest hurdle.
When your Staffy brings the item back to you, place your flat palm under her mouth and say “drop it”. If he or she doesn’t drop the item — and many dogs won’t at first — you can grab hold of the toy and repeat the “drop it” command.
You don’t want to try and yank the toy out of your dog’s grasp or get into a game of tug of war. This part of the process isn’t a game, so stay calm and patient until your Staffy understands what you want them to do. Make sure to give your dog a treat as a reward for dropping the item.
And that’s it! With a little bit of practice, repetition and patience (a lot of patience in some cases!), your dog should be playing fetch like an old pro. They'll be giving your one heck of a workout once they realise just how much fun it is.
Training a Dog to Fetch Specific Items
For a real challenge, you might want to train your Staffy to fetch other items around the house. As an example, you might want your pup to fetch your slippers of an evening or bring you the TV remote when it’s just out of reach.
Before you can do this, you’ll need to focus on teaching your dog the name of the item you want to fetch. This may take a fair bit of repetition. Meanwhile you’ll also need to have a good supply of training treats on hand, something healthy like carrot pieces is a good choice.
There are a couple of methods you can use in conjunction with each other:
1. Take the item, hold it out in front of your dog and repeat the item's name. You then praise and treat your dog for paying attention, listening and looking at the item. If its a toy you're trying to teach the name of, you can let them play with the item.
2. Start by placing the object (for example the TV remote) on the floor in front of your dog with two other everyday objects. Place a treat on the remote and say “find remote” (or something similar) when your dog sniffs out and eats the treat.
Repeat this several times, and then take the treats out of the equation and encourage your dog to “find remote”. Eventually, and with plenty of practice, your Staffy will learn to retrieve the TV remote on command.
Key Staffy Training Tips
Whether you’re training your Staffordshire Bull Terrier to play fetch or perform an advanced trick, these simple tips will help set you and your dog up for success:
Be patient. While some dogs will pick up new skills straight away, training usually takes time. Don’t expect instant results — be patient and consistent in your training methods and you’ll eventually make progress.
Keep training sessions short. If training sessions are long and repetitive, your Staffy will quickly lose interest. Limit each session to 5-10 minutes, and aim for 2-3 sessions a day. This will prevent boredom setting in and keep your dog wanting more.
Make it positive. Getting angry or frustrated with your dog during a session will only mean it takes longer for your Staffy to learn. Positive reinforcement is critical to success, so use plenty of treats and praise to reward your dog for his hard work.
Most importantly of all, keep your training sessions fun. Your Staffy loves being with you and is always eager to please. Any activity that lets you form a closer bond with your dog is a wonderful thing.
More Staffy Training Articles
We have plenty more training guides and tips at Smiling Staffy. Here are a few you might be interested in: