You can be forgiven thinking that all gundogs will play fetch. While most gundogs should be able to perform most tasks in the field, some are just more proficient. Playing fetch is an integral part of getting your gundog, and more specifically your Vizsla, primed and ready to retrieve while working. Playing fetch is a great way to teach your Vizsla the very important task of retrieving while making the task fun and rewarding. So how do you train a Vizsla to play fetch in five steps?
Teaching a Vizsla to play fetch is simple and uncomplicated since they are very intelligent and learn fast. As one of the best all-round gundogs, a Vizsla can hunt, point, flush and retrieve game. Playing fetch on a reward basis will come naturally to the dog because it loves to please its owner.
Various breeds within the gundog family will enjoy it if you throw a ball for them but will then refuse to bring it back, or they end up running away with it. They want you to chase them, and you end up getting frustrated. Most dogs don’t instinctively know what you want them to do; however, a Vizsla has the instinct to retrieve and to do it very well. You can channel that instinct properly while teaching it to play fetch. This will be useful in the field if you maintain a consistent training routine. Any Vizsla can be taught to play fetch. Let us look at how to go about it the right way.
Do Vizslas Naturally Play Fetch?
As a gundog and HPR or hunt/point/retrieving dog, the Vizsla was born for activities like playing fetch. They are a high drive and high-energy breed of dog and need a minimum of 60 minutes of vigorous exercise daily. More is always good, but the minimum will allow the dog to burn off excess energy and prevent it from getting stressed, bored or anxious.
Bored Vizslas tend to get destructive, and if behavioral issues like separation anxiety accompany that, you might return home each day to a total mess.
Since the Vizsla naturally loves to play fetch games, this is a great way to help the dog burn off energy, minimize any destructive behaviors, and improve the skills needed in the field if you use your Vizsla for hunting. Daily exercise keeps hunting dogs in great condition physically and mentally.
The Rules Of Training Your Vizsla
As you embark on the play training journey with your Vizsla, there are some rules you need to remember. It is very easy to let some commands slip here and there or to let it slide if the dog does not follow through with a command. What you want to avoid is picking up bad habits in the dog’s behavior and your discipline. Here are some basic rules you can follow;
- Repeat The Command – A Vizsla will learn things by repetition. For every command, cue, or activity you give, repeat it twice or more times if you feel your dog needs more time. Doing the same action repetitively assists in the habit-forming action for your dog. If your Vizsla learns something in 2 days, then double that to 4 days. After that, double it again to 8 days to imprint the action permanently.
- Patience At All Times – The Vizsla needs a patient trainer. Do not get angry, frustrated, or anxious. This will cause a negative response in your dog. Take it slow and have fun. Each step needs to be fully mastered before you attempt the next one.
- Write A Task List – Having a vision of what you plan to train when is super helpful. This will assist you in not getting overwhelmed, jumping from commands to command, and possibly confusing your Vizsla. You can break down each week and assign a task to that week. You should not set out with the idea of testing your dog. You are busy teaching it what to do.
- Keep A Progress Diary – Make notes on what you learned, what the dog did. What you need to work on and how to improve overall. This will assist you in growing as a trainer and owner.
Where Do You Start?
The following steps are there to guide you on how to get your Vizsla to play fetch. Remember that every dog is unique and individual. Some dogs may catch on much quicker than others; however, the key to mastering will be repetition;
Tip #1 – Naming Your Dog
When you bring a new puppy home, the best part is usually the naming ceremony. You might spend a few days just calling the dog something arbitrary to get its attention, and as the personality starts to shine, you can decide on a permanent name. Why is this important?
Choosing the right name for your Vizsla is essential, especially for fieldwork. The D, F, G, and K type sounds are excellent for names to start with as they are strong. It gets the dog’s attention and travels far in the field on a recall. Think of names like Jack, Jasper, Fred, Gerry, King, etc.
Repeating the new name a lot is recommended. Use it every time you call the puppy and reward it for coming when called. Never use the dog’s name to scold it. This will confuse them and cause the dog to associate your tone and its name with fear and negativity. The more fun the dog is having when you call it by name, the more assured you can be that your Vizsla will react to its name and immediately come when you call it.
Tip #2 – Lay Down The House Rules
This is the make or break rule. You need to decide what you will allow your Vizsla to do and what will not be allowed. Dogs don’t understand grey areas, they are pretty much black or white, and whatever it is you decide, you need to stick to it for example:
- Where will the puppy sleep?
- Is the puppy allowed on the couch?
- Who is responsible for discipline?
- Can the puppy be fed from the dining table?
The rules need to be enforced firmly but with patience and kindness. This will limit confusion for your Vizsla.
Tip #3 – The Puppy Pen
Your new Vizsla puppy will need a space of his own. This is important for a dog to be able to retreat into an area where it’s just theirs. Puppies do really well with a controlled puppy pen. In here, you can introduce limited chew toys, refrain from giving gundogs squeaky toys, an area kitted out with puppy liners, and a bed. This will provide you with the means to implement a good housetraining routine.
Since Vizslas can suffer from separation anxiety, it is a great idea to leave your puppy in the pen for short bursts. Return to the puppy, call it by name and reward it with a treat when it comes to you. Do not give in if the puppy whines; this is normal. If you go to it when it whines, you will help it form a bad habit of negative attention-seeking.
If you can enlarge the pen, this is a great area to start your fetch training in. The familiarity will ensure the puppy is confident and feels safe. Once you have done a few rounds in the pen, you can move on to places like the lounge, passage, or courtyard. Any controlled environment will work.
Tip #4 – Reward Good Behavior
Rewarding your Vizsla pup every time it obeys a command and performs the task, reward it with a treat and vigorously praise it. This will boost his confidence significantly, and since the Vizsla is a breed that loves to please, you’ll soon see the benefits of reward-based training.
A good treat to consider would be chopped-up beef jerky or special meaty treats. You can take these treats into the fields as well to continue the consistency of your training.
Tip #5 – Always Come When Called
The most important command your Vizsla needs to learn is COME or HEEL. This will enable you to recall your dog in any situation at any time. This command should be taught repetitively and at regular intervals. Using your dog’s name and the cue command after.
This command needs to be obeyed even when your Vizsla is eating or distracted by a scent. The true benefits of this will be seen when the dog is bigger and working.
Tip #7: Use Dog Time When Training
Puppies and dogs live in the moment — two minutes after they’ve done something, they’ve already forgotten about it. So when your pup is doing something bad, use your chosen training technique right away, so they have a chance to make the association between the behavior and the correction. Consistent repetition will reinforce what they’ve learned.
Tip #7 – Jumping Up Is Not Allowed
Probably one of the most annoying habits a dog can form is that of jumping up on you or any new guests that walk in the door. This behavior needs to be discouraged from the onset. A puppy doing it might be cute, but when your Vizsla is big, it will be impossible to rectify.
Ways to stop that would be to lift your knee when the dog jumps or turning your back after saying a firm NO.
Ignoring the puppy when it does this works better than scolding. Immediately change the activity to something fun.
Tip #8 – No Biting
An excellent way of discouraging biting or nipping when your puppy gets to around 5/6 months old is to pretend that you are hurt. Making yelping or howling sounds like a puppy does when he gets reprimanded by his mom will immediately discourage him from doing that again.
Dogs communicate via yelps, whining, barking, and growling, and quick, loud yells will scare him out of the biting.
Swop whatever the puppy is biting on for a chew toy and place the puppy in its pen for a bit. Ignore them for a bit and start another activity.
Tip #9 – Always End Training Positively
As you start teaching your puppy the FETCH or BRING commands, remember that your Vizsla will respond best to positive reinforcement. Always praise it for following command cues. Never end a training session on a bad note but always with a great deal of positivity.
Step By Step -Training A Vizsla To Play Fetch
Now that you have some background on preparing for this journey, you are ready to begin training. Always lead in with the basic obedience cues, SIT, STAY, HOLD and praise and reward.
STEP 1 – Getting Ready
A good training session needs prepping. Before you set out to engage your puppy, have all the tools you need ready so that there are no distractions. What you will need are the following;
- 2 Identical toys
- A long leash
- Treats in a treat pouch
- Penned out area inside or in the garden outside.
Call your puppy to COME.
STEP 2 – The Throw
Now you can leash your Vizsla and lead it to the training area. Get your puppy to sit. Kneel beside it and place your hand around it and hold it by the chest to give it a sense of stability. Using the toy, show it to your Vizsla to get its attention and then throw it away from you.
As you use the cue command FETCH, you can outstretch the hand on the chest next to the dog creating a peripheral line towards the toy. This will come in very handy in the field when you don’t want to make noise. As soon as he picks up the toy, repeat the cue command FETCH and encourage the puppy to return to you. If he is reluctant, use the leash to reel him in gently.
STEP 3 – The Return
You have now given your Vizsla the COME command after he picked up the toy. When he comes back, you can use either the DROP or DEAD command cue. If he is reluctant to let go, show the other identical toy to entice the dog to release. As the toy comes out, repeat the cue command DROP or DEAD.
Do not allow the puppy to play tug of war with you. Praise the puppy vigorously and say, GOOD BOY or GOOD GIRL! Reward your puppy with a treat.
STEP 4 – The Second Throw
Immediately after the puppy has dropped the toy and you have praised them, you can do the second throw. Send him out with the cue FETCH as you throw the second identical toy.
Repeating the instruction in STEP 3, you immediately recall the puppy once he has picked up the toy with the cue command COME. Do exactly the same if the puppy is reluctant by gently reeling him in.
STEP 5 – The Second Retrieve And Finish
After you have given the second recall command cue of COME, encourage your Vizsla to come into your space, it’s a good idea to sit cross-legged or on your knees to be lower.
As your puppy approaches and is in front of you, give the command cue DROP or DEAD. If the puppy is reluctant to let go, follow the steps in STEP 3 to entice him with the other identical toy.
As it is dropped, reward the puppy with a treat immediately and praise vigorously. You should continue this routine until your puppy obeys all command cues without hesitation. You can then attempt off lead sessions.
You have now mastered the steps on how to train your Vizsla to play fetch.
Keep in mind that the Vizsla is highly intelligent and sensitive by nature, so any activity you do with your Vizsla must be done with kindness and patience. They have a keenly developed instinct to hunt and retrieve, so playing fetch should be natural for them. What you need to do is assist your dog in control and execution.
A Vizsla will do what makes you happy, and of course, they love playing games as well as it makes them happy. A well-trained Vizsla will be happy and content with regular mental stimulation and physical exercise.