Could someone explain to me why it's not good to play fetch with toys, and then train your dog to hunt with birds etc live 'stuff' if you will? There was a guy who told me I should never play fetch with my lab only when I'm training him. I'm sure there's some logic there, I haven't taken my boy out to my friend who helps train. I know I can ask him thought I'd ask on here first. He's just now 1 still a big puppy.
In the most simplest explanation, if you are playing fetch (keyword playing) you usually are teaching your dog bad habits. Its harder to break those habits the more you play fetch with your dog. If you are teaching your dog to hunt, you are no longer playing, you are working. You need to teach that dog that when he is retrieving, it's not play time, its time to focus, and it's time to work. That doesn't mean he isn't having fun, labs love to retrieve.
One of the worst habits people create is throwing a toy or a dummy, and allowing the dog to bolt and chase after it to bring it back. You praise your dog for this behavior. When hunting, every time you tell your dog to mark a dummy or whatever your command is, your dog can't break that stay to chase it down, until you release him.
I use a lot of play retrieves for rewards in both obedience and hunt test training and have had no issues w/ confusion, but I do require delivery to hand each time w/o tugging, etc.
Most pros that I've chatted w/ have had to undo the bad habits referred to above when pet homes play tug, ball, frisbee, etc, at home and create an out of control dog.
My puppy is 16 wks old today, is already doing fantastic Hold work, happily retrieving not only toys, but live and dead birds to hand (and has been since 7 wks), etc, so it's never too early to start building/enforcing good habits. I love the "2 toy game" personally for puppies and use the same concept to get pups to hustle back w/ their birds to hand as well, so it's all in the structure of the play imo.
WindyCanyon Girls, August 2014
Fetch with toy is good exercise for the dog, particularly if the owner is elderly or unable to walk long distances. The dog will learn to freely give the owner items it may pick up, rather than running away. Dog owners can teach their dog to fetch the paper or their slippers.