Why You Should Rethink the Game of Fetch
We all know that exercise for our pets is important, especially for dogs with seemingly endless energy and breeds with high prey-drive or herding instincts. There are several ways to ensure your pet gets the physical and mental stimulation it needs to maintain a healthy weight and manage behavioral concerns, like daily walks, puzzle toys, and of course, our personal favorite, a good game of fetch.
In this blog, we’ll explore the benefits of fetch, how the game is traditionally played, and how you, as an educated dog owner, can rethink the fetch methodology and the toys used during play to promote healthy, long-lasting fun. Use the links below to jump into a specific topic:
Why Do Dogs Fetch?
Fetch, at its most basic level, is simply throwing any toy a certain distance and encouraging your dog to chase it down and bring it back. Dogs are natural hunters. In their domesticated lives, they aren’t able to engage their instincts consistently. This is where fetch comes into play, especially for breeds that are natural retrievers.
When you throw a toy and your dog brings it back to you, those natural instincts to track, chase down, and capture prey are ignited, engaging what they were born to do, leading to happier, healthier dogs.
Not all dogs instinctively know how to fetch, but many can learn and naturally enjoy it.
What Are The Benefits Of Playing Fetch With Your Dog?
There is a myriad of benefits, both physical and mental, to playing fetch with your dog.
Physical Benefits Of Fetch
When you come home from a long day at work and are met at the door by a bounding, tail-wagging dog, chances are they have been sleeping most of the day. While you were working, they were napping, so they are energized and ready to play. By playing fetch with your dog when you get home in the evenings, they are given the opportunity to burn off their pent-up energy. This is important in staving off boredom, which we’ll cover more in-depth, to alleviate common behavioral issues.
Running, pouncing, and walking are all great ways to help your dog stay in shape, too. As
mentioned above, dogs sleep the majority of the day, so it’s important to get them up and moving at least half an hour a day to make sure they maintain a healthy weight. After all, overweight dogs are unlikely to be as physically active, are less prone to playing, and can suffer from preventable health problems throughout their lives.
Mental Benefits Of Fetch
Have you ever walked in after a long day and found dog beds, toys, or worse, furniture, chewed up and ripped to shreds?! If so, your dog was likely bored and was looking for ways to entertain themselves. While all of these things are replaceable, they’re not inexpensive to do so. Many dog owners get frustrated with their dogs for chewing inappropriate items while they’re not home, but often, finding ways to mentally stimulate or “tire out” a dog’s mind can help prevent this from happening.
As previously mentioned, by playing fetch with your dog you ignite their natural instincts to chase, track, and capture prey. This type of mental stimulation helps alleviate boredom, which ultimately leads to better-behaved dogs and happier owners.
Other Benefits Of Fetch
Another benefit, and arguably the most important one in our opinion, is that playing fetch with your dog is a bonding activity. When you throw a toy for them to bring back, you are actively participating with your dog and rewarding them through love and excitement, thus strengthening the human-animal bond. This positive praise and quality time spent with you is just as important to your dog as the thrill of the chase. The game of fetch accomplishes all three benefits in one activity.
How Is Fetch Traditionally Played With Dogs? The game of fetch is relatively simple. As mentioned above, the basic concept is simply throwing any toy a certain distance and encouraging your dog to chase it down and bring it back.
During our first-hand, real-life fetch observations, the most common issues we see involve the toy that’s being used. Ultimately that’s why Fetchfix exists - to improve the toy itself that is being used while providing proper shape, proper material, proper size, and proper construction, leading to an overall safer product for your dog. We’ll get into that more in-depth later in this article.
Secondly, we believe how the toy is used can be improved upon as well. Generally speaking, we think there is too much emphasis placed on throwing a toy for maximum distance, rather than encouraging more retrieval at shorter or mid-range distances. Several issues can arise from the traditional, long-throw fetch approach:
The dog can become overly tired too quickly and does not get enough healthy play activity.
You, as the owner, may have less control over your dog and the play environment as your dog is getting too far away from you to maintain proper control.
There’s an increased chance of losing the toy because you can’t see where it lands, or the dog may become distracted and not retrieve it.
Further on in this article, we’ll cover our approach to “rethinking fetch” and how it can increase enjoyment for you both and optimize the time spent playing with your dog.
What Are Some Concerns With Traditional Dog Fetch Toys?
There is a wide variety of dog toys on the market, and very few pet owners realize there is a lack of oversight and regulation on how they are made. Popular fetch toys range from hard and soft flying discs to hand-thrown training bumpers, like those used for hunting dogs, to brightly colored, branded balls that bounce and squeak. Essentially, any toy that can be picked up and carried by a dog can be fetched, but there are multiple concerns with giving your dog certain toys, especially unsupervised.
There are also many ball launchers available in a variety of sizes but almost all are designed to throw the most commonly used toy for fetch - a tennis ball. Millions of tennis balls are purchased by dog owners each year and used as fetch and chew toys. Tennis balls were never intended for dogs to play with. The felt fabric and hollow construction pose real dangers to teeth and soft mouth tissue.
At Fetchfix, it’s our goal to spread the word that tennis balls need to be left on the courts for people to lob over the net. The design, material, and construction of a toy can either make that fetch safer and healthier or pose potential health and safety risks.
Additionally, traditional ball launchers can make play in smaller yards or smaller parks extremely difficult because of the length of the “lever arm.” The length, paired with the force required to release the ball, can result in throwing the ball outside of smaller play areas. (If you’ve ever launched a ball over a fence and had to answer to a very unhappy dog, you know exactly what we’re talking about.)
Finally, we believe that size proliferation in dog toys has led to a confusing, inconsistent range that poses a real risk. The most common size of fetch toy is a 2.5” diameter round ball based on the common tennis ball. The tennis ball was designed for a human sport and both the shape and size are not ideal for dogs. This size is too big for many small dogs and too small for many large dogs which have resulted in a range of XS to XXL in round balls. If a dog gets the wrong size ball in their mouth, choking is a serious risk.
Many dog toy manufacturers use vague charts with dog silhouettes or weight ranges to explain what size ball to get. These are often imprecise or inconsistent between manufacturers and lead to too much guesswork on the part of the dog owner.
We’re redefining fetch toys to be universally sized so they’re safer for all dogs. We’ll explain how a little later in the blog.
How Can Dog Owners Rethink Fetch?
At Fetchfix, we’re rethinking the game of fetch and encourage you to try our approach with your dogs!
The Fetchfix Launcher is sized to encourage medium-distance play. This distance is somewhere in the 20-40 yard range and should be adjusted based on your dog’s size. Smaller dogs can fetch at shorter distances, while larger dogs can fetch farther.
The rationale behind our redefined fetch approach can be broken down into three main points:
Healthier play*: More repetitions over a longer period can be more beneficial exercise than a couple of really long throws. This is a similar rationale to healthier exercise routines for humans: higher repetitions over medium distances result in more overall exercise time, increased endurance, and less strain on muscles, tendons, and organs as compared to going all-out over a long distance.
Happier dog: More throws over medium distances means more playtime, more prey-chasing, more rewards for your dog from you – all of which results in a happier dog.
Safer Play: This is an important aspect from several angles. A medium distance offers much more control over where your dog’s toy lands. With that control, you’ll have a better sight picture at 30 yards than at 80 or 100 and you are more likely to land your toy where you want and avoid hitting another person or pet.
Additionally, you have more control over your dog at a medium distance. They can hear and see you better and you are more likely to avoid a situation where they get distracted by another animal or person and run out of your control zone.
Finally, you are less likely to lose your toy at medium distances. If your dog becomes distracted by sound, sight, or scent, and wanders away from the toy, you are more likely to find it quicker than if you threw it 60-100 yards away.
*We also recommend reviewing your dog’s exercise routine with your vet to better understand individual needs and customize your activity.
How Does Fetchfix Solve Traditional Fetch Concerns?
Fetchfix seeks to create a safer, healthier play system through its design and rethought fetch methodology.
We started by rethinking the shape and construction. The Fetchfix Cube’s unique shape can’t and won’t conform to a dog’s throat like a round ball. This makes it much less likely to become lodged in the back of the throat when catching or retrieving.
If the Cube does get stuck, it won’t block the entire airway and allows surfaces that a hand can grab to pull it out as opposed to round balls that don’t offer easy surfaces to get a grip on and do have the potential to block the entire airway. This shape also allows the Cube to be a one-size-fits-all toy. Small dogs can carry from a corner and large dogs can carry the entire toy in their mouths – eliminating toy size ambiguity and the dangers of a dog getting a too-small toy that becomes a choking hazard.
Also, the Cube features solid interior construction. There is no hollow cavity, like in a tennis ball or other popular round rubber balls, that can create dangerous suction during play. This suction can result in damage to mouth tissue, lips, and tongue. These incidents can be so severe that surgery is required to remove damaged tissue.
The Cube’s non-round shape creates an unpredictable bounce and chase path which is more realistic as prey and more challenging and rewarding for your dog. Round balls take mostly predictable trajectories allowing your dog to more easily anticipate and snatch the ball before even having to chase it!
Our Launcher is designed to throw the Cube short and medium distances. This allows easy play in smaller yards or parks, as well as in more open spaces. Additionally, the Fetchfix Launcher will throw any launchable toy we make now and in the future.
As an added convenience, if you have multiple dogs of multiple sizes, you only need one Launcher and one Cube. As we add new toys that have new and different play dynamics, the original Launcher is all you need to keep the fun going.
Our thoughtfully created toys, paired with a healthier, more intuitive fetch play methodology, are designed to encourage better exercise, more fun, and an overall safer fetch session.
Start Fetching Smarter with Fetchfix
Whether your dog is a backyard chaser or a professional retriever, they deserve a safe, fun toy that will enhance their playtime and time spent with you. We encourage all of our Fetchfix fanatics to give our fetch methodology a try and share with us how your dog reacts.
To learn more about Fetchfix toys and our mission, connect with us on Instagram or visit Fetchfix.com.
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