This blog is going to tell you the easiest way to prevent your puppy from ever playing fetch with you.
Why you would want to do that… I don’t know. But I’ve had this conversation so many times that I thought I better put it out there. Either so you can remove the fetch if that is your goal, or so that you can avoid this mistake if you do not want that result.
If you want to teach your puppy never to play fetch with you, then include your puppy in games of fetch with your adult dogs. It’s that simple.
It works like this:
Take your young puppy out with your adult dogs who already play fetch. Throw the ball or toy. Your adult dogs will do what they have always done; enthusiastically run out to fetch! And your smart puppy will do the smart thing; chase the adult dogs and have a fantastic time with live prey!
If you think about it; at this stage of the game, it’s a win-win. The adult dog gets the ball, which is what they wanted. The puppy has a fantastic time chasing the adults and doesn’t risk the wrath of the adult dog by trying to actually touch a prized object. And the human gets everybody exercised.
The problem shows up long term. Your puppy is learning to focus on running dogs rather than objects that you want your puppy to value. That’s not much good if your sport might involve working around other running dogs.
Your puppy is learning to ignore objects altogether. In some breeds, I do not doubt that the adult dog will politely take its turn, holding back so the puppy can win. But I can tell you that my adult dogs have no sense of humor about sharing their toys with youngsters. Plus, even if they would share, the puppy simply does not have the raw speed to keep up.
Your puppy is learning how amazingly fun other dogs are; even running away! No focus on body language or reading the interests of the other dog, no focus on mutually engaging activity, and certainly no focus on you or where you might fit into the bigger picture. Mostly you’re the chauffeur.
And while this article will not go into the potential long-term issues, I’ll just throw something else out there. Someday your adult dog might not appreciate having the puppy, now grown up, chasing after him. Or bashing into him. Or circling him. Or barking at him…
You get the idea.
My dogs live together as a group. I have neither the time nor the energy nor the inclination to crate and rotate dogs. It works fine; they do not “bond” to the other dogs and ignore me.
But they play and train as individuals. It may be fetching a ball, playing tug, engaging in personal play with me, or learning specific skills. That is our one-on-one time, and it’s the highlight of their day – or I am doing something wrong.
When all of your dogs are grown-up, you may find that you can take them out as a group and play ball. That’s your choice. But when they are puppies, think 100 times first. Ask yourself:
What are you teaching and what are the possible long-term ramifications of this choice? If you’re comfortable with answer, then carry on. If you’re feeling a little queasy, take this opportunity to rethink your strategy.