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Old dog, new fetch?

I often get asked if you can train a dog to fetch. The answer I give is . . . yes . . . and no. You can with operant conditioning teach a dog to go pick up an item and bring it back to you at any age. They will even enjoy it if taught with positive reinforcement conditioning. Generally though, most people are asking for a dog to naturally enjoy the game of fetch with them. That is an individual preference. Half of all behavior is environmental and learning, the other half is genetic. Many breeds we have, such as the fetching lab most people think about, have a fetching drive literally in their genetics. Without even trying they will find a ball or other object and become obsessed. Other breeds weren't necessarily bred to bring an object to their people. They just don't enjoy it. At this point I ask, is it worth the effort to teach fetch? Fetch generally is something we do for the dogs enjoyment, but if the dog doesn't enjoy it is it worth it?

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