Does your dog know how to catch? Some dogs are naturally drawn to the game. They have excellent coordination that helps them to catch toys seemingly effortlessly. This is a classic game that many people enjoy with their dogs. But, not all dogs learn how to catch on their own!
For retrievers and herding dog breeds catching can be a natural dog behavior for them. However, it is a skill that other dogs will need to be taught. You can teach to puppies, adult dogs, and older dogs how to catch. However, dogs who have experienced vision loss may struggle with catching. It's harder for them to visually track the moving treat or toy.
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Start teaching your dog how to catch with treats
You'll want to start with throwing dog treats for your dog to catch. Even if your dog really likes toys, it's best to start teaching them with treats. They are smaller and easier for your dog to catch. When they are learning, it's likely that your dog will miss a catch or two. Even gently tossed toys can be frightening if they hit your dog in the face by accident.
1. Have your dog sit in front of you in a quiet location without a lot of distractions.
2. Prepare dog treats or kibble your dog likes. Then get your dog's attention with the treat in your hand and gently underhand toss the treat towards your dog from a short distance.
3. If your dog catches the treat, give them lots of praise and click — if you are clicker training. They might get very excited. If your dog misses the treat, pick up it up. Then, get your dog's attention again with the treat and try another toss. You want that your dog to makes the connection that the goal of the game is to catch the treat. If your dog is struggling, hold the treat above your dog's head and drop it from a few inches away from them.
4. Repeat the above steps multiple times over several practice sessions.
Build upon your dog’s catching skills
Once your dog constantly can catch treats, you can begin to make the catch game a bit more challenging. Now that your dog is catching treats tossed from right in front of them you can start increasing the distance of your toss, so your dog can track the treat as it flies. When your dog has mastered catching treats it's time move to teaching your dog to catch balls and other toys.
Teach your dog how to catch toys
It's important to start out with small and light dog toys. That way, they won't hurt or scare your dog if they miss catching them. Gently toss the soft light toy to your dog and when they catch it give them lots of praise.
You can make the throws more complicated by throwing from a further distance and in more distracting environments. Try having your dog practice catching while they are standing and not just sitting.
You can also increase the challenge by moving up from light soft toys to harder ones like tennis balls and frisbees. Once your dog has mastered catching these, you and your dog can explore different sports and activities. If your dog enjoys catching, connect with a dog trainer in your area who utilizes positive reinforcement methods. They can help introduce your dog to sports such as flyball as well as disc dog.
The bottom line
Catching is a fun game for dogs and people to play together. It can train your dog in a new trick. Though many dogs need some help to learn this skill. Start in a quiet location with treats that your dog enjoys. Once your dog is comfortable with catching the treats, start increasing the difficulty of your throws. You can start to introduce various hard toys such as balls or frisbees for them to catch. Once your dog is also confident with catching these, it can become a fun activity for you both.