Why Do Dogs Love to Fetch?

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
Some dogs could play all day – you throw the ball, they go get it and bring it back for you to throw again… and again… and again. But what is it about this game that dogs love?

While not all dogs enjoy chasing after tennis balls, some dogs would be content to do it all day long. But why is it that some dogs simply can’t get enough when it comes to playing fetch? Keep reading to find out where this behavior comes from.

It’s All About Genetics

You don’t have to be an expert on dogs to know that genetics and instinct come into play for many of their behaviors. Dogs have a natural desire, for example, to explore things with their mouths. They don’t have hands, after all, so the best way they can test to see what an object is would be to pick it up in their mouth. But it isn’t quite that simple when it comes to the game of fetch.

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One trait that all species in the Canidae family have in common is that they will naturally orient themselves toward something that interests them. If your dog is out on a walk and he hears a sound off to the left, he will probably do more than just turn his ears in that direction – he’ll turn his whole body. After orienting himself toward the sound, he’ll watch and wait. If he sees the source of the sound and it starts to move, his next step will be to take off after it. The desire to chase is not a learned behavior – it’s a deep-rooted instinct.

Whether or not your dog is particularly interested in playing fetch has a lot to do with breeding. Retrievers, for example, are selectively bred for the desire to retrieve things – this is what makes them so valuable to hunters. Other breeds are developed to hunt small game or to herd livestock. These kinds of behaviors are self-reinforcing for your dog – he does it and it makes him feel good, so he keeps doing it. That at least partially explains why some dogs who enjoy playing fetch would keep playing all day if you let them.

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Beyond Fetch – Games to Play with Your Dog

While your dog may be content to play fetch for hours on end, at a certain point your arm is going to get tired. So, what other games can you play with your dog that will keep him amused while also working off some of that endless energy? Here are some ideas:

  • Blow some bubbles! While some dogs don’t catch on to this game, other dogs will chase after bubbles just as energetically as they would chase after a ball.
  • Throw a frisbee. If your dog loves chasing after a ball, he might enjoy chasing a disc. You may need to work with him a little to help him catch on to the game, but once he does you’ll be set.
  • Turn on the hose. Some dogs absolutely love water so all you need is a hose or a sprinkler and your dog will play all day.
  • Hide and seek. If you want to work on your dog’s obedience skills, ask him to sit and stay then go hide somewhere before calling his name.
  • Play chase. Dogs that love to chase balls will also enjoy a good old-fashioned game of chase – grab a few treats then call your dog’s name and play keep away until you’re both exhausted.

In the end, your dog doesn’t really care what game you play as long as he gets to play it with you. Playing games with your dog is a great way to work off his excess energy but, more than that, it is an opportunity to bond. What more could you ask for?

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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