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How to Teach Your Dog to Play Catch


Dog Catching Kong Toy ImagePoor Kesl. My bouvier used to close his eyes and turn away when I tried to play catch with him. I didn’t know what I know now – how to help him get better at this fun game. Now we could do it and now I’ll teach you how to teach your dog to play catch.

  • Not for young puppies. Granted, some pups are mighty athletic with stellar eye/mouth coordination early but that is not standard issue. Most pups are like little kids with eyes tracking sooner than hands/mouths can grab. I start teaching this around 9 months of age or later in most cases. And, in general, the larger the dog, the slower the necessary coordination develops.
  • Use a high-contrast food. Trying to teach catch with brown kibble and a hardwood floor makes things a lot harder. Make sure your dog can see the item coming at him. Dark flooring? I use light-colored, light-weight treats like bits of Whole Life Pet Products Pure Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese for Dogs, 7-Ounce, pupcorn (if the dog isn’t sensitive to corn) or the well-loved Charlee Bear Treats or the . Light flooring? Pick a darker treat such as Merrick Bite Sized Lamb Canine Training Treats 5 oz or theBoulder Dog Food Company cube treats NOTE: Keep in mind that dog’s see blue and yellow clearly, everything else is more muddy or gray. So a hunk of carrot against a green carpet is clear to us and gray on gray to your dog.
  • Toy motivated dog? Use soft, round toys sized for your dog’s mouth, such as Chuckit! Indoor Ball, PetSafe Pogo Plush Ball Dog Toy or the Treat Dispensing Chew Ball, Large. The Kong above is advanced catching: unusual shape, harder toy, larger. Not for beginner catching.
  • Let there be light (but not in their eyes). If your dog is facing into the sun or overhead light that makes things harder so make sure the area is well lit but not blinding for your buddy.
  • Traction for action please! This process often involves leaping, spinning and grabbing. Make sure your dog is on grass or carpet for this. Slippery surfaces can strain your dog’s body, whether it shows up now or later.
  • 1-2-3-Catch! Now, stand 3-4 feet away from your dog. Get their attention and slowly move your hand as if about to toss the treat or toy. I say 1-2-3 with each rep then “catch!” as I release the treat/toy. I soft lob it up in front of the dog with the goal of it landing in the dog’s mouth if they were to simply open wide. So fair warning plus a soft lob.
  • Have FUN! This is not just a suggestion, it’s a requirement. Laugh, cheer your dog on, have a blast. If you sound disappointed with each miss (of which there will be many) your dog may soon sour on the game entirely. Have a “no matter, let’s just try again” attitude and your dog will absorb it from you.

Now you know how to teach your dog to play catch; go have some fun!

Author: Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, Dog Expert, offers experienced-based dog info with humor. Author of 8 books, seen on PBS, Sarah knows all about dogs. {Pip} is her rescue dog.


  1. Ya know, we’ve had five dogs in our 18 years of marriage and not a one of them ever played catch quite that well. NOW YOU TELL ME! You’re so smart Miss Sarah!

    • Hi Sharon – yup, dogs and kids, always more to know and learn. I feel that myself all the time. Part of the gift and the challenge of it all. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. You know, Bailey was great at going into the local watering hole and getting the ball. But on dry land there was much more interesting stuff to go sniff. Except, of course, when somebody else is throwing the ball other then me… 🙂

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