Why Doesn’t My Golden Retriever Retrieve or Fetch?

Golden retrievers were bred to retrieve, and most people think that it’s not normal if they do not fetch or retrieve.

Some goldens can be playful and fun but when it comes to fetching they will not even chase the toy or whatever you are throwing, they just look at it and do nothing.

After some research here is the reason why?

So, why doesn’t my golden retriever retrieve or fetch? Golden retrievers are not born with an instinctual understanding of fetching, and you need to teach them to retrieve or fetch, however, if they used to fetch or retrieve and stopped suddenly they could be injured, in pain, or arthritic, and they need to go to the vet.

Keep reading to learn more about why doesn’t your golden retriever retrieve or fetch?

Why Your Golden Retriever Doesn’t Retrieve Or Fetch? 

Red golden retriever with a branch to illustrate the answers to why doesn't my golden retriever retrieve or fetch anymore

Golden retrievers were bred to retrieve or fetch, it is kinda true but they are not born with it, it is something you train them to do.

Does that make them like every other dog? Why is their name golden retrievers if they can’t retrieve naturally? 

Well, they were bred to be more easily trained to retrieve or fetch than other breeds.

So, you just need to train them to fetch or retriever and they will more than live up to their names.

Nature VS Nurture 

The reason some people are concerned when their goldens don’t go after whatever they throw is that they misunderstand the nature vs nurture of their dogs.

For fetching and retrieving items, whether we’re talking about goldens or any other dog breed, it’s important to understand what it really is. It’s nurture, not nature, they retrieve or fetch by training, they do not inherit it because it is not a biological factor.

So simply whether they can or cannot fetch depends on you and external factors. It is important to train your puppy to retrieve and fetch at a young age.

Why are they called golden retrievers then? Because they are more easily rained to retrieve or fetch and they are built to be the best for it. They have the strong bodies, the energy, and the smarts that make them so excellent at it.

To give you an example that can make it simpler to understand the concept think of Basketball. Can only tall people play basketball? No, anyone can play basketball.

Now, are tall people born knowing how to play basketball? Definitely not, and as a tall person who sucks at basketball, I can confirm.

However, tall, athletic people have natural advantages that just make them better at it when they get their training.

Why Doesn’t My Dog doesn’t retrieve or fetch anymore 

If your dog used to retriever and fetch and suddenly stopped, this deserves your attention.

Here are 6 possible reasons why your golden retriever could suddenly stop fetching or retrieving.

  • Injury or pain 
  • Too old
  • Losing interest 
  • Too much retrieving 
  • Confused
  • Trauma  

Injury or pain

If your dog used to retrieve or fetch and suddenly stopped, they could be injured or in pain.

Always watch out for signs of pain or injuries in your pet because they can not tell us what is hurting them or whenever they are in pain so it’s up to us to find out.

It could be a tear on the joints, sore paws, cut in their paws, or a broken leg.

Here are some symptoms to help you notice if they are in pain or injured.

  • Yelping, growling, or crying out.
  • Limping 
  • Less active
  • Hiding 
  • Stiffness 
  • Show signs of agitation 
  • Sensitive to touch 
  • Noticeably slow when they are getting up 
  • Become grumpy and may even snap at you
  • Reluctant to walk
  • Refuse to climb the stairs
  • Losing weight 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Rapid shallow breathing 
  • Depression 
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Change in their behavior 

You can learn why your dog is limping here, and I also make sure to discuss all the possible solutions to golden’s limping, so make sure to check it out.

Too old

If they are senior dogs they can lose interest in playing, just like us when dogs reach a certain age they become tired and they can stop trying.

So your dog might look at the toy you just throw it for them to retrieve and they think, Nah, I am too old for this… stuff.

Losing interest

Just like humans, they could lose interest in something they used to love, maybe you do it too often, or you toss them the same things every time so they get bored with it.

So maybe try playing fetching in new places with some new and interesting toys. You can check out my recommended toys for golden retrievers here, and I only included those toys that have stood the tests of time and my dogs’ jaws.

Too much retrieving

Some golden retrievers will get bored from playing fetch. They may just get bored with it if you are only playing fetch with them. Dogs love routines, but they can also get bored if your routine is too rigid and it’s too limited.

Try to mix things up with new places, new faces, new friends (dogs), and new toys.


You may accidentally shout or punish them while retrieving even if it was unrelated to you. They may connect that retrieving makes you mad or if they retrieve it they will be in trouble. If it repeats a couple of times, then they may suddenly establish the connection and stop retrieving altogether to avoid making you made.

An example of this happening is if you’re talking on the phone while throwing them the toy, if you are angry at the phone, they will pick up on that energy and may connect the game or the toy with your anger.


It could be that while they were retrieving they got injured or something caused them any trauma (physical or emotional), so they are scared of retrieving because they think it’s related and whatever happened might happen again.

How to Teach Your Golden Retriever to Fetch

You can start with the two toy method which goes like this

  • Choose two balls or their favorite toys 
  • Throw one of the balls or the toy 
  • Keep the other ball in your hand
  • While they are going after the ball cheer them up and praise them in a happy mouth
  • When they have the ball in their mouth call them back and show them the other ball in your hand
  • After running back to you, they will drop the ball in their mouth in front of you
  • Now throw the other ball 
  • Repeat the whole process three times per day till they master the game.

Or you can try this method 

  • Prepare a ball or their favorite toy
  • Make sure they are comfortable picking up the toy in their mouth
  • Then train them to replace the ball or the toy in your hand
  • Now, throw the ball far but not too far from you
  • After they fetch the ball and replace it in your hand repeat it but this time throw the ball further
  • Repeat the process three times per day till they can do it blindly.

Games for dogs that don’t like fetch

  • Hide and seek 
  • Tug of war 
  • Round robin 
  • Blanket hurdles  
  • Doggy treat hunt

Hide and seek

Hide and seek can be fun for your dog too. Find one of their favorite toys and prepare some of their favorite treats.

Let them stay in one room and you go hide in another place, now call your dog, when they find you, give them the treat and praise them with a happy tone in your voice.

Tug of war

Use their favorite toy, put it on the floor in front of them, and train them not to grab it until you order them to.

Now, you leave the toy on the ground, help your dog to sit down, and when they stay still you can give them a treat then move on to the action word “get it” and when they grab the toy praise them and give them a treat.

Round robin 

This is a game for the family, and let every one of them sit around the room with their hand full of treats, then take turns to call out your dog name, every time they respond to your call and come reward them with words and treats.  

Blanket hurdles

First of all, you need to clear out enough space in your living room (if you have a backyard that will be fine too).

Prepare a couple of old blankets or towels then place one or two rolled-up blankets on the ground walk with your dog through the course and let him hop over the blanket a couple of times and once they mastered it, make them stay at one end of the room while you are staying at the other end and call them. 

Speaking of Blankets, you can learn if your golden needs a blanket at winter here.

Doggy treat hunt 

Take their favorite treat, and hide them around your living room or wherever you prefer it, but of course, make sure they are in another place so they do not see your secret hiding spots, lastly call your dog into the room and let your dog find them.

Living with a Retriever: Recommendations and Sources

Related Questions 

Do all dogs play fetch? 

No, not all dogs play fetch, in fact, many dogs are not into fetch, maybe they just like to chase the ball but never bring it back, or maybe they do not bring it all the way because they lose interest easily, and some dogs can get confused easily so they can’t play fetch. 

Is playing fetch bad for dogs? 

Playing fetch can be a risk for puppies, small dog breeds, and senior dogs because it can cause them a tear on the joints while they are jumping, and you have to avoid playing fetch with heavy objects, also it can cause them an unnatural shift in their body weight to carry things in their mouths. 

What are the top dog breeds that play fetch?

Here are the top dogs that play fetch:

  • Golden retriever 
  • Labrador retriever 
  • Border collie 
  • Australian shepherd 
  • German shorthaired pointer 
  • Weimaraner 
  • English springer spaniel 
  • English whippet 
  • Belgian malinois 
  • Poodle 
  • Miniature schnauzer 
  • Nova scotia 
  • Belgian sheepdog 
  • Belgian Tervuren 
  • German shepherd


Why Doesn’t My Dog… Fetch?

How to Train a Golden Retriever to Fetch

Nature vs Nurture Myths About Dogs

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