All Things Dog

Help! My Golden Won’t Retrieve

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The friendly, playful Golden Retriever has a variety of skills. As its name suggests, retrieving is one of them. But what if your Golden doesn't seem interested in playing fetch?

Don't worry. Even though Goldens are born with an instinct to retrieve, it sometimes takes time and a little training to jumpstart what nature gave your dog. Also, if your Golden is a puppy and still cutting his adult teeth, picking objects up with his mouth could be a bit painful, so it's best to use soft toys for retrieval, or wait until your dog is at least six months old before expecting him to be interested in retrieving.

Unleashing your Golden's retrieval skills

Whether you're working with a puppy or adult dog, the first step is simply to toss toys and look for him to show interest in running after them. Play in an enclosed area, such as a hallway where the dog can't avoid you after fetching the toy. When your pooch returns the toy, praise him and give the toy right back to him.

If the dog shows no interest in the thrown toy, try playing the game on a six-foot leash. Have the toy in one hand and the leash in the other. Dangle the toy in front of your dog's mouth in a teasing manner while slowly turning away from him. When he seems really eager for it, toss the toy out for him to chase and let go of the leash. Done right, this will prompt almost any dog to run after a toy.

Keep it fun

Don't overdo the fetching sessions. Give your dog a few throws and stop while he still wants more. Then try again later in the day. If he does one successful fetch, pile on the praise—and maybe a treat. If he shows little interest in it, give it a rest and try again in a week or so. Never make the dog feel this is a contest with a winner and a loser. Retrieving should be cooperative, not competitive. It makes you a team.

Don't ever punish your dog when you take something out of his mouth. Always make it a positive experience for him to return an object to you.

Above all, stick with the training and don't get discouraged. Your dog hasn't forgotten what he was bred for—it's in his DNA. Just be patient with him. You and your Golden have a lifetime of retrieving days ahead.

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