Games to teach at home?

Obedience (non-protection) discussion. We have broken the two apart.
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 94
Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2016 9:04 am
Tell us about yourself: I love Shepherds- German, Dutch and Belgian. I recently lost my 16.5 y/o GSD mix and was hoping to find a GSD or DS mix. I totally lucked out in finding Grendel, a DS/GSD mix at 9.5 weeks old. She was filthy and flea-ridden, but still the cutest, craziest thing ever. She's going to live up to her name! First dog I've had that I've actually seen the parents and definitely know what she is!

Games to teach at home?

Post by brindledog »

Not sure where to post this.

Would like some suggestions on games we can play at home to teach Grendel skills and how to improve fetch/find.
Right now I'm working on teaching her name of various toys just to see how much she can differentiate between them and retrieve the specific item.
Also working on retrieval in general. She will fetch at home, but not so much when out.
Ultimately I'd like to teach her to pick up whatever I need (and help clean my house!).
But in the meantime, want her to learn retrieve/fetch and how to find items.

Suggestions on how to do this and other stuff at home?


Lisa G.
Green Dog
Posts: 234
Joined: Sun Mar 22, 2015 3:23 am
Tell us about yourself: Over the past 25 years I shared my life with a Rott, two Akitas, and a Shepherd/Husky mix. I now have my first Dutch Shepherd. Lexi was born in early September 2014. She is great in so many different ways but I could use advice from some been there done that DS owners.

Re: Games to teach at home?

Post by k9lexi »

We just started a new game with Lexi my 1 1/2 yr old dutchie. It is called RUN FROM THE PUPPY!! ;) sorry, I could not resist.
Working Dog
Posts: 1295
Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2014 2:11 pm
Tell us about yourself: I am: a father of 2 boys, a carpenter, hunter, runner. We have extensive experience with sled dogs, shepherd mixes, a wolf hybrid, and our current dog a 95# long haired Shiloh Shepherd. We added Endeavor in April 2016. She was not working out in HRD. I train for game recovery and general utility.
Location: central MD

Re: Games to teach at home?

Post by TimL_168 »

I'm struggling a bit with Endeavor on retrieving. It's a back burner item for me right now, but it's definitely in the list. I absolutely love that I can direct my older girl to anything (non metallic) and have her bring it to me. She's been very useful on job sites when we were younger.
What I've been doing with Endeavor is getting her worked up with a tug or a soft frisbee. I throw it, she runs for it. Every change of motion she makes, I mark with a command (go get it, take it, bring it). I started her on a long line and threw her favorite tug just a couple feet. All she really had to do to "bring it" was to turn around towards me. Play as a reward. I've got her fetching a frisbee off leash to about fifty yards now. I'm not a professional but in my experience, it's most effective to keep the games to less than ten retrieves. You don't want to give the dog a chance to fail.
Tim L.
Aurora(Shiloh) Endeavor
User avatar
Training Dog
Posts: 940
Joined: Sat Nov 16, 2013 6:40 am
Tell us about yourself: Dutch Shepherd Owner.

Re: Games to teach at home?

Post by Owned-By-Hendrix »

There's a few ways to teach fetch, depending on the dog's drive.

For food oriented dogs:

Reverse engineering - take an object (say a ball) and once the dog takes it from you, mark it and reward. Take the ball and repeat. Dog will say, "hey, this object gets me treats! I now want to hold this ball!" Once the dog is taking and holding the object, you can start by telling them the retrieve command, throwing it a foot away from you or taking half a step away. Once the dog grabs the object, you can do a few different things. 1) if the dog is on the leash, reel him in making a big party and once he gets to you, immediately mark and reward. 2) Get the dog's attention and flash the treat. That should have him running back to you. He may or may not drop the ball; at this stage, dropping it is fine. 3) Run backwards making a big party. Once the dog reaches you, mark and reward. Build distance. Once the dog is running out to the object and runs back to you, you can start making sure they only get the treat if they have the ball.

When H was little, he would spit out the ball in preparation to get the treat when he would reach me. So I would cover it, point and the ball, and tell him the command again. He would run out and grab the ball wherever it rolled, and I would make a big party and he got double the rewards. The trick to this was he would of course keep spitting out the ball to get the reward before he reached me. So if he did that three times, I would move closer to the ball, point, and the second he picked it up would mark and reward. The key to this is to adapt so they aren't overly frustrated they aren't succeeding. They will learn very fast they only get the reward if they return with the object.

The idea of this is that the object gets them the treat. To get the treat they have to chase down the object and return it to you.

Concept Based Game - start with the dog on a leash. Tell them the retrieve command and throw or roll the ball away from you a few feet. Once the dog grabs it, make a party and reel them in on a leash. Reward once they get to you. If they drop it before they get to you, simply grab the ball and shorten the length you throw it. If they go for the ball and take it as you're going to grab it, make a party and reverse a few steps so they come to you. Grab the ball and rinse and repeat. If they get the concept that running out to the object and running back to you gets the treat, run over to the ball, and once they grab it then reverse and party as they get closer to you.

The idea of this game is the routine of fetch. You limit their freedom to better direct them and make the concept clear.

For toy/play oriented dogs:

Two Ball Game - you start with two balls. Hide one in a pocket. Tell them their retrieve command and throw one ball. Wait until the dog runs out to it. Then produce the other and start making a big show of having a grand old time with it. The dog should come running back to you. Second they reach you, throw the ball in the opposite direction and as they take off for the second ball, you make a mad dash back to the first. Rinse and repeat.

The idea of this game is that you are the most fun and a source of balls. In getting them to bring back the ball for a new one, this becomes a rule of the game. To get the new ball they must bring you the other one.

Play Time - Start with a tug or ball on a rope. Play with the dog but don't get them overly excited. Out them, throw the tug a bit away. Tell them their retrieve command. Now, in playing they will want to possess the tug. Unless you've already taught them that the game is with you, they may not want to bring it back. That's fine. You can encourage them to come back to you by running backwards, having them on a leash and reeling them in and making a big party as they get closer, or by recalling them and restarting the play time. Rinse and repeat.

The idea behind this is that you are the source of the fun, and to get it they must return the "dead" fun object to you to get it to become "alive" and fun.

As far as item differentiation, wait until they have the retrieve game down. The reason why is most people try will lay out a few objects and ask the dog where the sock is, or take one object, throw it to the ground, and when the dog grabs it, say "sock." Well, this gets real mixed up when you start introducing the fetch game because the dog is essentially learning that by picking up objects and bringing them to you, he is getting a treat. But before, if he looked at an object, he got a treat.... so why can't he just look at the object and get the treat? And what about "sock" - isn't that the command for pick up mom? They ask.

If they know to how to fetch, then you can start item differentiation with a ball. "Fetch ball" is added on, after they are 100% with fetch. Then a stick. "Fetch stick." Now both. "Fetch Ball" and block the stick, point, illustrate "ball, ball, ball" before throwing. They will pick it up. Part of this is drilling and constant work. They will forget. The other part is making sure what you're asking of them is simple. A sneaker is a sneaker is a sneaker to a dog, but to us we have the garden shoes and the running shoes and the regular shoes and the blue shoes... they don't really care.

Also remember, the act of chasing down a ball is prey drive. If your dog has low prey drive, you will need to make the act of fetch more about retrieving the object rather than chasing down the object and bringing it back. It sounds like the same thing but to the dog it isn't. Tracking an moving object activates prey drive which makes the dog want to chase. The act of bringing it back is conditioned for a reward. Object retrieval can be more hunt drive - finding the object if it's thrown somewhere out of sight - but it's mainly obedience of go get the item, put it in your mouth, and come back for a reward.
Kay, H, and The SO
(Pepper's Look-A-Like)
(Tyson's Soul Twin)
Post Reply