Search Menu

AKC is a participant in affiliate advertising programs designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to If you purchase a product through this article, we may receive a portion of the sale.

Maybe your dog once loved playing fetch, but they’ve since lost interest. Or perhaps they never really enjoyed chasing after balls in the first place. Whatever the case, you may be wondering what’s going on, and why your dog doesn’t seem into fetch.

Why Do Some Dogs Not Care About Fetch?

While catch might seem like a universally loved dog activity, it’s normal for some dogs to simply not want to take part. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of preference.

“Just like not all people like a certain type of activity or sport, not all dogs like the same type of activity,” explains Heather White of Heather White Dog Training. “Some dogs may not have experienced being introduced to an activity like fetch in a way that they enjoy.”

Genetics may be at play

Some breeds — such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Standard Poodles, German Shepherd Dogs, and German Shorthaired Pointers — have been bred with an internal drive to pick up items. But others may need some extra guidance to get the hang of fetch. After all, dogs that have been bred for this ability have had the interest cultivated over centuries.

That said, even if you have a dog from one of these breed groups, that doesn’t necessarily mean they “will automatically know how to retrieve and also want to,” says White.

A health issue could be getting in the way

“Some dogs who have previously enjoyed fetching items might begin to lose interest due to an underlying physical component, such as arthritis, which can impact the amount of enjoyment a dog has in fetching,” explains White.

Even if it once was fun, your dog can lose interest

“Dogs, just like people, repeat what they enjoy and what makes them feel good and happy,” says White.

Some dogs might lose interest in fetch because they’re not getting enough positive reinforcement or enjoyment out of the activity.

Young French Spaniel fetching a tennis ball on the beach.

They may not like the thing you’re trying to get them to fetch

Some dogs might “have specific preferences as to the types of items they enjoy picking up and retrieving back to their person, including the texture, shape, and even weight of an item,” explains White.

If that’s the case, try mixing it up with other types of items, such as balls, stuffed toys, and dumbbells.

The dog will pick up the toy, but not bring it back

Certified dog trainer Penny Leigh says the most common problem she hears from owners is that the dog will run and pick up the toy but won’t bring it to the owner. “The best solution for this is to play the two toys game,” says Leigh. “The dog picks up one toy and you immediately show them that you have another toy and they want to return to get that toy — or you can have treats and reward for giving you the toy with food.” This way, the dog doesn’t feel like they’re constantly giving up their prize, and they’re constantly getting something in return.

They don’t understand how fetch works

Some dogs may simply be confused about what’s being asked of them when it’s time to play fetch. To teach your dog to fetch, White offers the following pointers:

  • Take it: First, encourage your dog to move towards a toy. Reward that first step with whatever your dog likes best (verbal praise, treats, or physical contact). Build to eventually having the dog touch the toy with their nose or mouth and finally taking the toy in their mouth.
  • Drop it: Here, the goal is for your dog to learn how to give up the toy or item they’ve picked up and then being rewarded for doing so.
  • Retrieving: Start by asking your dog to pick up an item that’s within a foot of you. Encourage them to either drop it in front of you or deliver the item to your hand. Once your dog accomplishes this, you can start increasing the distance between them and the dropped item.
German Shepherd Dog catching a disc in the park.
©Dixi_ -

Why Toy Drive Matters

To figure out which activities your dog really enjoys, White suggests paying attention to toy drive when you play with them. Look for which types of toys your dog gravitates towards and whether they are more interested in the toy or your involvement and praise. Trying out different toys, types of reinforcements and rewards, and activities are all good ideas for helping to increase toy drive. She suggests remembering that the overall goals of playtime are to:

  • Get your dog’s activity and energy level up
  • Keep things fun and safe
  • Make sure your dog isn’t overly excited, tired, bored, or disinterested

If fetch simply isn’t for your dog, White suggests considering the following alternative sport and activity programs:

  • AKC Trick Dog — teach your dog new tricks and perform them in front of a judge
  • AKC Rally — a team sport where you and your dog navigate a course, side-by-side, performing 10–20 skills.
  • Fast CAT — a timed 100-yard dash, short for Coursing Ability Test.
  • AKC Scent Work —this one is all about the love of the sniff, where your dog will have to do some detective work and sniff out a variety of scents and substances.
  • Agility — a race against the clock while completing an obstacle course.

“Once you learn about what your dog enjoys, chances are good that there will be fun activities out there for you two to explore together,” says White.

Best Fetch Toys

If you’re looking to mix up the toys you play fetch with, check out these dog owner-approved items.

Chuckit! Ultra Rubber Ball Tough Dog Toy

With over 3,000 reviews, the Chuckit! balls are a top choice for fetch and come in multiple sizes.

JW Pet Chompion Dog Toy

JW Pet Chompion Dog Toy

This durable dog toy in a dumbbell shape is made of natural and sturdy rubber. It’s ideal for both fetch and tug-of-war.

KONG Classic Flyer Dog Toy

KONG Classic Flyer Dog Toy

Available in two different sizes, this soft rubber of this frisbee makes it ideal for teaching fetch.

Related article: 11 Ways to Break a Sweat With Your Dog
Get Your Free AKC eBook

5 Tricks You’ll Want to Show Off

Are you looking for inspiration on new tricks to teach your dog? If the answer is yes, then this is the e-book for you!
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download