Teach: Catch

by | Sep 5, 2019 | Klog | 0 comments

Capturing a moving object needs careful definition. As predators dogs are not going to ignore a free lunch but they will have developed slightly better skills in one field of capture to another. Either the prey is moving away and capture is successful by following, overtaking and a grab-bite to take them down: this I refer to as chase-capture, or capture by blocking escape where the prey is coming towards the dog, and they move into the path of the prey to block it. Dogs that wait at the entrance to rabbit holes, mouse/rat runs etc.

Sheepdogs are selected to be skilled at preventing lone sheep breaking away from the flock but they are poor at the chase, and the sight hounds show a high skills for chase-capture but are often poor at catch-capture.

As with teaching children the eye-hand co-ordination for ball games we begin to teach dogs the same way.

The incoming object needs to be clearly seen and slow moving. It is the skill of anticipating the pathway of the object that leads to successful capture.

With young puppies, I hold them at my side, slowly roll a ball forwards whilst they watch it, wait until it stops and then let them pounce on it. This develops the eye monitoring, but you need to be consistent in both speed and direction. Toys than move in unpredictable paths may provide hilarious entertainment for people watching the dogs fail to capture, but are really quite destructive and frustrating for the dog, or cat.

As we play the puppy-watch game we can monitor the success of the pounce. Pups that “overrun” beyond and need to turn back are still developing their skills and should not be released whilst the toy is moving. But once they successfully nail it, then the release can begin just before the toy stops moving.

Of course you can play the same game with food that is easily seen, moves in a predictable way.

As they get a little older you can play “mouse”, which is floor capture. This build the air capture skills for the future. 


Both types of capture games, for food or toy delivery, will bring an intensity and increase of pleasure for the dog. Through each repetition the dog’s skill will increase alongside the intensity and focus.

There is a risk that any of these games can become obsessive for both throwers and catchers, and due to the nature of the pleasure experienced override common sense and risk analysis.

In essence, don’t overdo it, but don’t deny the dog increased rewards for the simple pleasures they will gain from “give the dog a treat”.


Most catching will be “out there” and the dog will be in a position of blocking the movement, but they can learn to catch very close to you.

Merrick is successful catch “out there” if it is a large toy, but cannot track the path of small treats. Surprisingly she does tend to catch the toy with a paw movement at the same time!

If she is at my side she can jump forwards to catch a treat no more than a meter ahead of her and that has proven very successful in building a particularly forward and upward anticipation to the heel position.

For collies in the anticipation phase they will often go into a predatory stalk. This as the effect of slowing down all movement (so the predator doesn’t know they are waiting), and this will override fast movements. If you have taught the dog to sit-down-stand with some speed then when they anticipatory catch takes over you will see this slow down. The anticipation seems to “trump” all previous conditioned responses.


The more videos the better! We all learn from watching so please share your videos in the comments?

Always have a plan

Teach graduated skills

Clear throw-coming cues

Dog shows the ready position

Knowledge & Understanding

Skills &


Application & Activities


Getting tired will reduce the quality of the learning, and the ability to remember what you are doing.

The same applies to the dog. Mental fatigue will be evident when there is an increase in errors, which is why we should never try to suppress mistakes. They are a good indicator of fatigue or confusion.

Sometimes the session needs to end, or a short rest of 2-3 minutes or a change in activity.

When using a computer, the recommendation to keep the quality and quantity of work at the optimum, is a change in visual activity every 20 minutes and a complete walk away every hour.


It would be really useful to add your own training tips, the one key point that you found useful, things you would never go without …. so please use the comment box.

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