Why Do Dogs Like Fetch So Much?

a brown short coat large dog jumping on grass field for fetching

In the beginning, all dogs were wild. Then a human came and found that some dogs displayed behavioral tendencies which would be helpful in hunting activities. They could track and chase down smaller animals, and if needs be brought the catch back. Certain dogs were better than others. Those who excelled at hunting and retrieving preys were then domesticated and bred. Throughout thousands of generations, that hunting capability still exists in today’s dogs, but in a much less aggressive fashion such as in a game of fetch. 

Instinctive Reaction in Root

Some dogs seem to naturally understand the game from the get-go without any actual learning or training of any sort. Once you throw an object away, they will chase and retrieve it just like that. Most dogs, however, will just either sit or stare at you – as if they are wondering why you trash a perfectly good toy; these dogs have to be taught how to play first. In some cases, the dog chases after the toy, but it doesn’t bring the object back. Pet owners may think that all dogs like fetch, but this is just not true.

a brown short coated dog on brown soil looking at the green ball in hand

Certain breeds including (but not limited to) Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd, German Shorthaired Pointers, and Standard Poodles are exceptionally good at it because they have been bred to retain a hunting trait similar to that of their ancestors, so genetics might be at play here. It is within their instinct to chase and pick up items. But it doesn’t mean other breeds cannot be trained to develop such internal drive.

That said, the opposite is also true. Not all dogs from any of the aforementioned breeds will instinctively know how to fetch or want to do it. Just like people with their own personal preferences, dogs may like different types of physical activity. The inner hunting trait may not be very obvious at first because the dogs were introduced to the game of fetch in a way that they did not enjoy.

Type of Fetch Toys

Regardless of how cute or pricey a dog fetch toy is, you can only expect your dog to bite it hard and play a little rough with it. There is also a chance that your dog will soon get bored with the object, ignore the toy, and of course shred it to pieces. Dogs enjoy variety, so you may want to get a few or more toys to get started. Here are some of the most common objects dogs like to chase around and retrieve.

  • Baseball: actual baseballs or tennis balls are likely better than the fuzzy-type ones. They are made to be heavy-duty, more aerodynamic, and bouncy. Dogs like it when a toy moves in a predictable way. Furthermore, you can throw it more accurately thanks to the design and weight. Fuzzy-coated balls are good for dogs that have sensitive jaws or when you play indoor (less bouncy is safer). Get a new ball as soon as the old one starts to show some real signs of damage, which may happen quickly if you have playful dogs.
black and white Boston Terrier bitting a baseball
  • Squeaky Toy: most (if not all) dogs like toys that look and sound like prey. Ripping apart a plush toy or hearing squeaky noises from an object can be a satisfying activity. As long as the squeaky toys are made from safe materials and soft enough that they don’t injure dogs jaws, they are good options. Once again, dogs are individuals that prefer different kinds of pleasure, meaning some of them may like harder bigger non-squeaky ones better.
a black and white dog sitting on couch with laika squeaky dog balls
  • Frisbee: available in various sizes, Frisbees are popular fetch toys. If you are fond of the shape, choose one constructed from soft durable rubber with flexible surface because it is safer for the dog’s jaw. A heftier Frisbee is often easier to throw and can maintain a flight pattern well against the wind, making it easier for the dog to chase and catch.
black and white long coated dog bitting jumping to bite a red Frisbee

Dogs like fetch, but not everything can be a safe object for the game. A stick or tree branch you find lying around on the ground is arguably the worst choice ever. This object has unpredictable flight pattern, and it may land in awkward position that your dog easily gets injured when catching it. The pointy end is as dangerous as a knife if it landed sticking up from the ground.

Benefits of Fetch with Dog

People have been playing fetch with their dogs for as long as they can remember. More than just being an easy, affordable fun your dogs like to play, fetch is much more beneficial than you might know or realize.

  • Intensive Physical Exercise

A dog owner probably can just sit down and relax while throwing a toy for the dog to fetch. It is not much of an activity for a person, but an intense physical exercise for the animal to run back and forth multiple times. Dogs require a lot of physical activities; without proper training in a controlled environment, all those energies can otherwise turn into aggression. For dogs, a few 10-minutes of fetch a day would be enough in addition to a regular walk. A healthy dog is a happy dog.

  • Improve Mental Health

Just like human, dogs can get bored when they have nothing much to do. If you’re the kind of pet owner who has to work all day long, therefore leaving your dog alone at home almost on a daily basis, the boredom can really get into its mind. It is a stressful situation, which may trigger aggression such as excessive barking or digging. Bored dogs can engage in destructive behaviors to entertain themselves.

Playing fetch (or any other physical game for that matter) with dogs helps keep their physical condition in good shape and their mind sharp. Catching a fetch dog toy stimulates the brain, improves concentration, and increases awareness of the surroundings. 

a golden dog standing and smiling on the yard

  • Induce Pleasure

According to Debbie Jacobs, the author of “A Guide to Living with and Training a Fearful Dog,” fetching is one of many self-reinforcing behaviors for dogs. Fetching makes them happy and high-spirited. It is something that they naturally should be able to do well with ease (or with a little of training and persuasion). For dogs that like fetch, playing the game triggers the release of feel-good serotonin in the brain, which then only encourages them to have more of it.

Fetch with Your Dog
The dogs have a great time playing fetch, and so should you. In pretty much the same way that fetch relieves stress and improves mental health in general for the dogs, playing the game can give similar benefits to you. Watching your dog playfully running around provides an escape from your busy world – and at the end of playing time, you’ll get back home refreshed. Remember to choose a safe dog fetch toy designed specifically for the purpose. It makes little sense to have fun without practicing safety precautions.

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