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7 Real Reasons Why Dogs Like To Play Fetch (Updated 2023)

Why Do Dogs Like To Play Fetch

When you throw a ball or stick…

Most Fidos will chase it.

Then they’ll gladly return the item to you and stare.

As if they’re sending telepathic signals for you to toss it again…

Makes you wonder:

“Do they ever get tired of playing fetch?”

Continue reading to learn:

  • 3 types of dogs that enjoy fetching the most.
  • 7 amazing reasons why dogs like to play fetch.
  • Whether all canines love playing this game or not.
  • And a lot more…

Do all dogs like to play fetch?

Not all dogs like to play fetch. Some have a stronger urge to chase and return things. It’s because hunters bred them for it, like Retrievers. Meanwhile, other canines may not understand the game right away and find it not enjoyable. So it’ll depend on their breed, motivation, and personality. 

Why dogs like to play fetch – 7 reasons

#1: They’re natural hunters 

First, the answer lies in your furry friends’ DNA.

And you can trace this trait back to their great ancestors.

According to experts, dogs evolved from wolves.

Those animals are 1 of the top predators in the wild.

And to survive, they must have excellent catching skills when hunting for prey.

But even though dogs and wolves don’t share the same genes anymore…

Canines still have a bit of their ancestors’ hunting instincts.

Now you might ask…

“Why does being a ‘hunter’ connected with this?”

Fetch is tossing an object away from your pooch and asking them to return it to you.

But if you think about it…

The game mimics some of the hunting stages in animals:

  • Chasing.
  • Catching.

So, as a result, playing fetch can trigger a dog’s innate instinct to hunt. 

That’s why most Fidos love it so much.

And if that’s the case, you may also wonder…

“Do wolves like fetch too?”

You might expect that they won’t enjoy playing games with humans.

But believe it or not.

A recent study found that wolves can also fetch balls like pet dogs.

To find this out, researchers studied 13 wolf puppies.

And when they showed a ball, they observed that 3 of the pups showed interest in it.

Plus, the young wolves even brought back the ball when prompted. And they did it even to a stranger.

#2: They’re genetically hardwired for it

Most Fidos enjoy playing fetch due to their instincts.

But why do some dogs don’t get bored of it at all?

Well, another reason to blame is their breed.

Take Labrador Retrievers as an example.

It’s a type of Fido notorious for getting objects. 

(But not so much on bringing back socks, though).

And with their energy…

They can play fetch until you can’t feel your arms and shoulders anymore.

“What’s the reason for it?”

It’s because Labs are ‘gun dogs’

These are canines bred for retrieving game birds that a hunter had shot.

So some people also call them ‘bird dogs.’

And due to their drive to chase and get objects…

These Fidos will likely enjoy fetching.

Examples of Retriever dogs
  • Golden Retrievers.
  • Labrador Retrievers.
  • Flat-Coated Retrievers.
  • Curly-Coated Retrievers.
  • Chesapeake Bay Retrievers.
  • Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers.

But other breeds also have retrieving skills, such as:

  • Pointers.
  • Irish Setters.
  • Barbet dogs.
  • Weimaraners.
  • English Setters.
  • Gordon Setters.
  • Tibetan Terriers.
  • Boykin Spaniels.
  • Sussex Spaniels.
  • Clumber Spaniels.
  • Hungarian Vizslas.
  • Newfoundland dogs.
  • Italian Spinone dogs.
  • Irish Water Spaniels.
  • Spanish Water dogs.
  • Dutch Partridge dogs.
  • Portuguese Water dogs.
  • German Water Spaniels.
  • English Cocker Spaniels.
  • Welsh Springer Spaniels.
  • American Water Spaniels.
  • English Springer Spaniels.
  • American Cocker Spaniels.

Now, most of the Fidos above are ‘water dogs.’ 

They’re canines used by fishermen and hunters years ago to get objects while afloat.

And also to relay messages between boats.

So they love rain and can retrieve a ball in the water.

Also, due to these dogs’ instincts to retrieve things…

They may also walk around all day with a ball or plushie in their mouth.

Some can even whine while carrying toys too. And this often means they want to play.

You might also like:  7 Weird Reasons Why Dogs Are Gentle With Eggs

#3: They have ‘rat-hunting’ roots

Dogs Like To Play Fetch Because They Have Rat-Hunting Roots

Like cats, some Fidos also love chasing rodents.

“But why?” you might ask.

Those dogs belong to the ‘Terrier group.’

Their name came from the Old French ‘chien terrier.’

It means ‘earth dog.’

And it’s only fitting since these Fidos used to hunt vermins underground. As well as badgers.

Plus, these dogs are energetic too.

So because of these traits…

Experts say Terriers will follow anything that moves.

May it be a running ferret or a flying frisbee.

Examples of Terriers?

  • Rat Terriers.
  • Cairn Terriers.
  • Norfolk Terriers.
  • Yorkshire Terriers.
  • Jack Russell Terriers.
  • Miniature Schnauzers.

You can notice these Fidos right away.


It’s because they have something in common.

Since Terriers need to catch prey in burrows, most of these dogs have a:

  • Long head.
  • Square jaw.
  • Deep-set eyes.
  • Small/lean body.
  • Rough low-maintenance coat.

But apart from Terriers…

Dachshunds are also ‘ratters’

People also bred these tiny ‘sausage-looking’ dogs for the same job.

And like Terriers, most Dachshunds also like to play fetch.

Not convinced?

Watch the short clip below of a little pup.

See the excitement in his face and tail as he chases the ball. And also while returning it back to a robot launcher.

Tip: Do your shoulders hurt from throwing objects many times a day? If so, and you have a Fido who loves playing fetch, consider getting a tool similar to the video above. Like this automatic ball launcher.

#4: They’re bred to herd

Due to their jobs, bird and vermin dogs have a ‘high prey drive’ than other Fidos.

And it’s also the same for the herding breeds.

So they’re bound to enjoy a game of fetch too.

But before I explain this…

Let me define ‘prey drive’ first.

It refers to an animal’s motivation to stalk and chase.

So, this doesn’t necessarily mean that herding dogs pursue prey to kill.

Since people created these Fidos to control livestock and ducks…

Herding breeds like keeping everything in line

Yup, they’re that dedicated to their job.

So when they see you throw a ball. Or if they spot anything that flies…

These dogs would rush right away to get it.

Then they’ll return the object to its original place.

Examples of herding dogs

#5: They like pleasing their humans

Besides DNA and breed…

Dogs also like playing fetch if that’s what their humans want.

“What do you mean?”

Canines are clever.

They do a lot of things that’ll benefit them.

So if your Fido often gets positive responses by fetching a ball…

They’ll realize it over time.

And what I meant by ‘positive responses’ are rewards, such as:

Most Fidos go loco over these things.

Well, whose pooch doesn’t want a yummy snack or hear their human call them “good boy/girl”?

But aside from the prizes, a study also shows that…

Dogs love to please their humans

The experts observed Fidos with familiar and unknown people.

And their findings were surprising:

The dogs tend to mimic actions made by a familiar human more than a stranger.

“What does it mean?”

Your Fido often does what you say because they want to please you.

Plus, another research says that dogs can also read our emotions.

So if your pooch senses that you also enjoy playing fetch with them…

Then it can make your dog more motivated.

Reading tip: 7 Real Reasons Why Dogs Chase Cars + How To Stop It

#6: They love social interaction

Does your pooch look more excited to play fetch with you than they do with an automatic ball launcher?

If so, then it’s only normal.

Treats and praises may encourage dogs to play fetch.

However, there might also be a deeper motivation for that.

And it’s being able to spend time with you – their beloved human.

As a fur parent, you may have already felt this with your Fido. So you know this fact by heart.

But, I’d still share some studies to prove this.

Dogs feel happy once they smell their parent’s scent

In 1 research, experts made 12 Fidos sniff 5 odors from:

  • Strangers.
  • Themselves.
  • Dog buddies.
  • Familiar humans.
  • Unknown canines.

Then they observed the dogs’ brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging, a.k.a. fMRI.

And researchers saw that when the Fidos sniffed the scent of familiar humans…

There was an activity in their ‘caudate nucleus.’

“What is it?”

It’s a part of the brain linked to:

  • Memory.
  • Rewards.
  • Emotions.
  • Motivation.

Also, the dogs didn’t react the same way to strangers’ odors.

So it only goes to show one thing:

Fidos feel a strong emotion towards their humans.

And if your scent can already make your Fido so happy…

Imagine how glad they are to be able to play fetch with you.

One more thing…

Do you ever wonder why we enjoy doing things with the people we love?

According to another research

Both dogs and humans gain ‘oxytocin’ as they interact

Experts also call this the ‘love hormone.’

And it’s because it causes the fuzzy feeling we get when we’re around people we love.

But doctors say that oxytocin is usually discharged during:

  • Labor.
  • Breastfeeding.

And in males, it can even aid in the movement of sperms.

However, according to the same professionals…

You may also release oxytocin doing these with someone you like:

So by playing fetch, you won’t only strengthen your Fido’s muscles…

But you’ll also boost your bond together.

Check out also:  Why does my dog sleep with me every night?

#7: It’s in their personality

Lastly, a dog’s love for fetching might also be due to their personality.

Based on a study, you can only link 9% of a dog’s behavior to their breed.

And several factors can affect the other 91%, such as:

  • Age.
  • Humans.
  • Socialization.
  • Environment.

So with this logic…

It’s possible that a few Maltese dogs with low prey drive like playing fetch too.

Meanwhile, some Labs might not be as motivated to catch balls as other Retrievers.