Teaching Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel To Fetch

You’ve been out walking your Cavalier, and you see that person in a field throwing a ball for their 4 legged companions to retrieve. The dog dashes off and runs back so pleased to have collected the ball. This was me a few years ago, so I decided there and then, I am going to teach my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to fetch.

Some Cavaliers don’t naturally know how to play fetch, but it still can be taught with some time and a lot of patience. Also, if you have a rescue Cavalier, they may not have ever experienced play, and so will have no idea of what to do.

Many breeds, such as the German Sheppard, or the Golden Retriever, instinctively know how to fetch, and some Cavaliers too, however not all Cavvys do and they need to be taught. This can be a relatively simple process and is enjoyable for not only your Cavalier but you also.

In loving memory of Noodle, who used to love playing fetch. Rest In Peace beautiful girl xxx

Why Cavaliers Don’t Play Fetch

There can be a multitude of reasons why your Cavvy won’t play fetch. They may simply just not like playing it, not all dogs do. If this is the case then it would be wise to stop trying to make your Cavvy play fetch and instead focus on some games that they would prefer to play.

Other games you can play are; stay, hide and seek, and even trail sniffing games. The latter will take some prior planning but is so much fun.

Before your daily exercise regime, go out with a favorite toy, or a tasty treat to a regular walking place that is safe and away from traffic. Then rub the toy or treat along the ground, creating a scent trail, and then, after some distance, hide it in a bush, or hedgerow.

Then you can collect your doggie, and allow him or her to follow the trail to their prize, and then watch their excitement when they finally pull it out of the hedge. For beginner doggies to trail games, start with a small trail, and increase it over time.

Of course, there can be other reasons your Cavvy doesn’t like playing fetch, one of those could be the item that you are throwing for them to fetch doesn’t feel right in their mouth.

Whilst teaching Lady to fetch, I initially started with a tennis ball. Very quickly I noticed that she couldn’t comfortably hold it in her mouth. So I purchased some small tennis balls that were specially made for small dogs (if you are interested they were these KONG AirDog Tennis Balls).

Unfortunately, she didn’t like those either, I think it may have been the fluffy feeling in her mouth.

Then one day, whilst kicking around a cheap football in the garden with my daughter, Lady got hold of it and managed to burst it. Initially, it scared the hell out of her, but then she got hold of the deflated heap and started thrashing it from side to side, similar to what she does in the video.

Since then, teaching her to play fetch was easy. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to play fetch, it was the actual item I had chosen.

So bear in mind that your pooch may not like the texture, shape, or weight of the item that you are trying to teach them to play fetch with. Experiment with different items, and they don’t need to be traditional items either, nor do they have to cost the earth. That cheap deflated football cost just £1 (around $1.30), so they were not very expensive to replace after she had ripped it to pieces.

There are other possible reasons your Cavvy may not want to play fetch, and they can be:

  • Age
  • Arthritis
  • Illness
  • They no longer enjoy it

If your Cavalier no longer enjoys playing fetch, then you need to ask yourself why. They may not be getting enough praise, as a result, it would cease to be fun for your gorgeous girl or boy. If it’s no longer fun, then why continue to play.

The Right Equipment

You need to apply some thought to the equipment you are going to use for playing fetch. I used to think that you just need a tennis ball and away you go, how wrong could I have been.

Firstly there are items that you definitely don’t want to use. If your doggie snuggles up with a soft toy at night, then stay away from this. The last thing you want to do is interfere with their sleeping habits, instead, you need something new, or completely different that they can associate with playing fetch.

There are a few items that you may need to buy, but try not to get bogged down with buying all the latest dog training gadgets, I trained Lady with a burst cheap football, so there is no need to spend all your money.

Here are a few items that people have reported that can help to train your dog to fetch:

The next list of items is for when your Cavvy has mastered how to fetch:

  • Ball With A Rope to help you throw the ball
  • Ball Launcher for when your doggie can fetch from a long distance
  • Kong Flying Disc is thin and easy for your dog to grip. If, like me, you are likely to lose this, then buy a cheaper option. However, as Kong are made in the USA you can rest that they are good quality.


When beginning to teach your Cavvy to fetch you will need either a Dog Training Clicker or a memorable word(s). I personally used ‘good girl’, as a memorable word, and I still use it as positive reinforcement. Still to this day, she always acknowledges it with a quick happy tail wag.

Also, it is a good idea to use low-fat dog training treats. Earlier I listed Low Fat Dog Training Treats in the UK, and Low Fat Dog Training Treats in the US, but you can pretty much use anything as long as it’s small in size and low fat, as they will be receiving quite a few of them during training.

When I first started to teach Lady, I used a hotdog cut up into small pieces, but I moved away from that when I saw the salt content (shocking to say the least).

Teaching To Hold

Before teaching your Cavvy to fetch, you must first get them to hold the item you have selected. Some dogs might already do this, and will willingly take it out of your hand, if not, this will need to be taught.

  • First, sit in front of your Cavvy facing them, and hold the toy of your choice in your hand. Then if they sniff the toy, or take an interest, use your positive word or click the dog clicker and give them a treat.
  • The next stage is when your Cavvy puts its mouth around the toy, but ensure that you still have the toy in your grasp – positive reinforcement and a treat.
  • Then, moving up a gear, you need to allow your doggie to put its mouth around the toy for a longer period of time. Increase each time by a second or so, always keeping your hand in control of the toy still – positive reinforcement and a treat.
  • Continue this process until you feel as though your Cavvy understands what’s going on, and then you can start to introduce the word ‘HOLD’ when they have the toy in their mouth.
  • Then when your Cavvy releases the toy of choice, introduce the word ‘LEAVE’, and continue with the positive reinforcement and a treat.

Teaching To Fetch

Once your Cavalier has mastered how to ‘hold’ and ‘leave’, it’s time to move on to teaching him or her how to fetch.

  • Firstly, offer the toy of choice in your hand and say ‘Hold’, and if your doggie takes it, give positive reinforcement and a treat.
  • Then say ‘Leave’, and wait for her to drop it into your hand, again give positive reinforcement and a treat.
  • Then place the toy on the floor, and repeat the process, all the while giving praise so that he won’t get bored.
  • Then, move the ball a few inches away and repeat the process, then a few more inches away, and keep increasing the distance over a period of time. You need patience for training, as this will take time for your Cavalier to master fully.
  • Eventually, they will know exactly what is required, and you can start by giving the toy a gentle throw, and before you know it your doggie will have mastered it completely.

Failing To Release

Sometimes, during an enjoyable game of fetch, your Cavvy may not want to release the toy after collecting it, and the most simple way to get around this is to have two toys.

Throw one toy, and wait for your excited doggie to return, if they won’t ‘Leave’ the toy, then produce the second one from your pocket.

Suddenly, the first toy seems insignificant, and all your pooch wants is the new toy, and instantly drops it. You then throw the second toy, and whilst he or she is dashing off to collect it, you simply pick up the first toy, and repeat.

My Final Thought

Teaching your Cavvy to fetch can be such fun, and so rewarding, but it must be exactly that, fun. As soon as it stops being fun for your Cavvy, they will get bored very quickly, and may never want to play fetch again. If he or she starts to lack interest, it’s time to play another game. After all that hard work teaching them to play fetch, the last thing you want is a Cavvy that doesn’t like it.

2 thoughts on “Teaching Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel To Fetch”

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