Kathy Kawalec's Dogs play and wait for their turn

Teaching dogs can and should be FUN!

Most of us have dogs that don’t ‘work’ for a living, that means they have lots of free time and energy to burn. Especially when the outside conditions aren’t safe for playing long enough to burn that energy.

One of my favorite ways of burning off that energy is to play a good, long game of fetch. My dogs typically learn how to catch a disc (frisbee), but you can substitute a ball if your dog has a preference. We like to use the softer discs to avoid damage to doggie teeth.

Burning off excess energy is not the only reason for playing a good game of fetch. I strongly advocate using this play time to teach your dog some skills that will make your life so much easier…and your dog’s life so much happier. I wrote another article here about more fun games. And here about improving communication skills when there is little else to do.

Games that Teach™ incorporate these important life skills:

  • Impulse control in distracting situation.
  • Patience and taking turns.
  • Wait/Stay until released.
  • Come back to you.
  • Sit or Down.
  • Fetch/Retrieve and return object to you.
  • Bring you valuable things.
  • Eager and yet mindful attention on you.

Watch the Video to see how it’s done.

I’ve made a video for you to watch today. You’ll see me playing frisbee with two of my border collies, demonstrating how play can be a serious time for learning important skills. I hope you’ll be inspired to partner with YOUR dogs in this fun and skillful way!

Click to watch the video:

 

 

You’ll notice that my dogs are not ‘frenzied’ or freakishly/obsessively offering behaviors they think I might want. They are alert, eager, fast, fun, calm, mindful, attentive and fully understand their jobs.

Can you see how this ‘way of being’ would be useful in anything you do with your dog? Not just in every day life and play…but for herding, agility, obedience, rally, conformation…anything you do where you need an eager, attentive dog. That’s all the time, right?  🙂

How to Teach Multiple Dogs to Play

After I released this video, I had several people write me, asking: “exactly how do you do that?”.  It seems that these folks had no problem playing like this with ONE dog, but had no idea how to teach TWO or more dogs to play together this mindfully.

Here’s the quick version of how I teach two or more dogs to play like this:

Step 1. Teach each dog how to play fetch 1:1 with you. 

Step 2. You and your dog already have a partnership-based lifestyle

…or at least the beginning of one.  It’s challenging to isolate the teaching of a particular skill, because my approach is foundational, and holistic in nature.

So, my dogs already know:

  • how to be attentive to me
  • they look to me for positive leadership
  • they have learned self-control in stages…it’s a way of life
  • they trust me

Step 3. Teach each dog (separately) how to:

  • “go fetch” upon request.
  • “wait” until you cue them to go fetch…until just after you throw, until it’s halfway there, or until it lands.
  • “sit” or “down” while they wait for your cue.

You should use good body language to teach these skills, you can offer treats, you should definitely offer lots of praise. You may need to gently support your dog by the collar or harness to teach them to wait. Just your hand gently on their collar should be enough.

When your dogs are easily and eagerly listening for your cues separately, you are ready to move on to Step 4.

Step 4. Play together with 2 dogs.

OK, now the fun begins!  You have two or more dogs who understand the game, and who are eagerly attentive and responsive to your cues. Congratulations…you are well on your way!

Here’s the outline:

  • make the game very simple at first (short, quiet throws)
  • start with your ‘best’, most patient dog waiting first. So, you’ll throw the frisbee for the younger dog, while you repeat the process of gently placing your hand around your dogs collar…eagerly praising the waiting dog, making a bit of a fuss over them…while you softly throw the frisbee for the younger dog.
  • for the dogs, it’s nearly as much fun to wait with you, because you are happily praising the waiting dog.
  • give the young dog 3 or 4 turns. then switch places. you’ll only ask your younger dog to wait for maybe 2 turns, while you quietly throw for the older dog.
  • switch places again. after a few game sessions, you should be able to ‘even up’ the game with equal turns.
  • introduce the ‘control’ skills for both dogs, without you needing to support them by the collar. So, you’ll mix up the wait, sit, down etc…making it fun for all.
  • when those 2 dogs are playing the game well..you’re ready to add in a 3rd dog. Repeat the process.

Do you need the ‘how to’ for teaching your dog the basics of playing fetch?

Let me know in the comments below, and if there’s enough interest, I’ll map it out for you. And, I’d love to hear how your game teaching goes!

Happy playing!
Kathy

 

 

24 responses to “Dog Games That Teach™: Frisbee”

  1. Joan Smith says:

    Kathy, the link to watch your Dog Games That Teach Frisbee you tube video doesn’t seem to work. I would love to watch it!

  2. Mary Jo says:

    We rescued a Border Collie from a local shelter. She was a stray so no ideal what her past contained. We have a large yard. Her ideal of fetch is catching the ball and bringing it to a special place in the yard then laying down. She seems to herd all her toys to this spot. When she sees the chuck-it she’ll run to her spot then crouch until you toss the ball. Should we try to retrain her or just enjoy the one throw.

    • Kathy Kawalec says:

      Hi MaryJo, you can def make the fetch game more inclusive! I’m going to do a Q+A video to answer these great questions posted in the comments. I’ll post the link when I have it done. 🙂

  3. Sharen says:

    Hi Kathy.
    How do you teach your dog to return the ball/frisbee. My boy is obsessed with chasing something but will then take his prize, lay down and chew it away from me.
    Thanks Sharen

    • Kathy Kawalec says:

      Hi Sharen, sounds like your dog thinks the game is ‘keeper of the prize’ not fetch! We can def make that better!

      I’m going to do a Q+A video to answer these great questions posted in the comments. I’ll post the link when I have it done. 🙂

  4. Carol Stuckey says:

    Hi Kathy, I can’t get my BC to retrieve to hand; she will come to within a few feet & lay down with the toy waiting for me to go to her & pick it up. I have tried everything I can think of !

    • Kathy Kawalec says:

      Hi Carol, that’s a common thing, and we can def make that better!

      I’m going to do a Q+A video to answer these great questions posted in the comments. I’ll post the link when I have it done. 🙂

  5. Joanne Timms says:

    How do I get my dog to bring the Frisbee or ball back to me. My collie wants me to chase him.

    • Kathy Kawalec says:

      Hi Joanne,

      Start by turning the chase game around and have him chase you…some dogs love the chase game, and they really don’t care which way it goes. Always best for your dog to be the chaser. Take a few steps to start chasing him, then squee and turn and run the other way!

      I’m going to do a Q+A video to answer these great questions posted in the comments. I’ll post the link when I have it done. 🙂

  6. Maryanne says:

    Hello Kathy
    Would love to learn the “how” to teach basic freebie, my border does not return close tome or won’t let got and wants to play tug instead.
    Thanks Maryanne

    • Kathy Kawalec says:

      Hay Maryanne, I’m going to do a Q+A video to answer these great questions posted in the comments. I’ll post the link when I have it done. 🙂

  7. Debra Patterson says:

    Hi, Kathy! I’m new to Kathy’s World of dog training. You were suggested to me by a Behaviorist we are currently working with to give me more insight and control with my 22 month old German Shepherd. My girl LOVES to play fetch and comes right back to me, but only until about the 3rd throw. I can’t get her to release the ball to me. Like I said, after the 3rd throw, those jaws of steel won’t let go and then it becomes a game of chase me around the yard which I refuse to play. She has a very sensitive tummy so I try not to bombard her with a lot of “treats”, however the “atta-girls” wear off quickly. Any advice on getting her to bring me the ball and drop it for me so we can play together? I previously had Black Labs who instinctively brought the ball back and dropped it at my feet. She’s my first GSD and a rare bird, indeed! Thanks so much!

    • Kathy Kawalec says:

      Hi Debra, the key will be to end the game before she gets bored…so she is still wanting more!

      I’m going to do a Q+A video to answer these great questions posted in the comments. I’ll post the link when I have it done. 🙂

  8. Cyndi says:

    Hi Kathy! YES! Please tell me how to teach my dog to play FETCH! Thanks!
    Cyndi

    • Kathy Kawalec says:

      Hi Cyndi, I will do that! I’m going to do a Q+A video to answer these great questions posted in the comments. I’ll post the link when I have it done. 🙂

  9. JanetH says:

    I have tried to play fetch with 2 dogs, each with their own identical toy, but one always wants the toy the other has, so one toy gets left and ignored while they compete for the other.

    • Kathy Kawalec says:

      Hi Janeth, you might try only playing with one toy, and then taking turns. Start there and have that solid before trying with two toys.

      I’m going to do a Q+A video to answer these great questions posted in the comments. I’ll post the link when I have it done. 🙂

  10. Conny Orr says:

    I would love more instructions on this training. I am considering getting a second dog and would love to know how to work with two dogs in this manner.

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    • Kathy Kawalec says:

      will do!! I’m going to do a Q+A video to answer these great questions posted in the comments. I’ll post the link when I have it done. 🙂

  11. Johnnie says:

    Kathy…I have a 2 yr lab that loves to play fetch, but I can’t get him to bring it directly to me….runs around yard, etc…then drops it in front if me on command..or begging! What is your suggestion to improve this situation.

    • Kathy Kawalec says:

      Hi Johnnie, when he’s on his way back, try running backwards a bit, so that he has to ‘chase’ you to get it to you. Keep running away from him until you have the sense that he is attentive and then throw a second toy.

      I’m going to do a Q+A video to answer these great questions posted in the comments. I’ll post the link when I have it done. 🙂

  12. Stephanie Durham says:

    I would love to know how to teach my dogs to play fetch!

    • Kathy Kawalec says:

      Hey Stephanie, I’m going to do a Q+A video to answer these great questions posted in the comments. I’ll post the link when I have it done. 🙂

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