Do Huskies Like To Play Fetch? (Why It’s Hard & 4 Top Tips)

Fetch is probably the most well-known game to play with your pup, but do huskies like to play fetch, or is it too difficult to get them to listen to you?

Huskies definitely enjoy playing fetch, but it’s a whole different story teaching them how to play it. Huskies aren’t natural retrievers, and they are also prone to not listening to commands and being stubborn, so you’re probably getting a good idea of the difficulties involved with the game of fetch.

In this guide, I’ll explain why huskies are so challenging to play fetch with. I’ll also teach you how to get them to play fetch and why it’s worth persevering with them so they can learn how to play it properly.

Let’s get into it.

Why Is It So Hard To Play Fetch With A Husky?

All dogs love to play fetch, right?

Well, not exactly…

Huskies are one of several dog breeds that are not easy to play fetch with, and to understand why it’s important to look at their history and personality to get a better idea.

Stubborn & Independent

Huskies are stubborn and independent by nature.

This is a classic behavior trait seen amongst many Spitz-type dog breeds, and it makes playing games like fetch tough.

Your husky might not want to play fetch at all in the first place, and it can be very hard to convince them to play if they’ve already made up their mind.

A husky laid down
Handsome Hank! Sent in by one of our readers.

It also makes it incredibly hard to teach them how to retrieve the ball because why should they bring it back to you anyway?

Luckily, there are ways you can encourage them to retrieve an item during fetch, and I’ll share these later in the article.

Not People-Pleasers

Huskies are not natural people pleasers and have little drive to please their owners.

This is a big reason they don’t score well on dog intelligence tests; they are simply not interested in participating.

When playing fetch, they have very little drive to return the toy or ball to you. You might be able to get them to chase after something, but getting them to return it is a different story altogether.

Not Natural Retrievers

The last reason huskies are hard to play fetch with is that they are not natural retrievers.

If you’ve ever played fetch with a dog like a golden or Labrador retriever, you’ll know how getting them to fetch a ball or toy back to you is like second nature to them.

These breeds of dogs were historically used to retrieve game for hunters, and this instinct remains in them today.

Huskies, on the other hand, are natural sled dogs. This means they excel at endurance and working together as a pack to move sleds, but they are not naturally inclined to retrieve anything.

This, combined with their stubborn and independent Spitz-type personality, makes playing fetch very difficult.

How To Teach Your Husky To Play Fetch

Although challenging, it is possible to teach a husky to play fetch.

Here are the steps you need to follow if you want your husky to learn fetch as quickly as possible.

Get Them Used To Holding Their Toy

The first part of teaching fetch is to get your husky used to holding onto their toy.

Start by holding their toy in your hands and calling them over. Offer the toy to them, and if they bite it or put it into their mouths, give them praise and a treat.

Repeat this until they start holding the toy for a few seconds; at this point, you can reinforce this with the command ‘Hold.’

Once they get the hang of the ‘Hold’ command and keep the toy in their mouths for a few seconds, you can start transitioning this to fetch by introducing some space.

Slowly Introduce The Fetch Command

This time, you’re going to place the toy a few feet away from you and your husky on the floor and repeat the hold command.

If they pick up the toy and hold it, reward them with some praise and a treat.

You can then change the command to ‘Fetch!’ and increase the distance where you place the toy. Over time, they will start to hold the toy and bring it to you to get their reward, which is where hold turns into fetch.

Take It Outside

Continue practicing until you can throw the toy instead of placing it somewhere and take it outside to increase the distance.

Remember to continually praise and reward them with a treat when they follow the command successfully.

4 Tips To Get Your Husky To Play Fetch With You

Here are four tips you can implement to make teaching your husky fetch a little easier.

Tip #1 – Use One Of Their Toys

When you first start teaching your husky how to play fetch, it’s important to use one of their favorite toys rather than a generic ball.

It’s much easier to get them to chase after their favorite toy rather than something they might not be interested in.

Tip #2 – Implement Other Obedience Training

Another thing I’ve found that helps teach your husky to fetch is to focus on other obedience training, like teaching them basic commands such as sit, lay, and stay.

This works well for two reasons:

  • If your husky gets bored of learning fetch (which will happen eventually), you can switch to another command.
  • Extra obedience training will get them used to listening to you and your commands, giving you a better chance of teaching them fetch successfully.

Tip #3 – Positive Reinforcement

You should always use positive reinforcement Throughout your training to get your husky to play fetch.

This means rewarding the desired behavior; for example, if your husky picks up their toy during the ‘Hold’ command training, give them a small treat and verbal praise.

Positive reinforcement will get you much better progress than negative reinforcement.

Negative reinforcement is when you scold your husky for doing the wrong thing; for example, if you shout at them if they don’t pick up their toy while practicing fetch.

This type of reinforcement doesn’t work either and can have other side effects like making your husky nervous or scared around you.

Tip #4 – Start From A Young Age

The sooner you teach your husky to play fetch alongside other obedience commands, the better.

A puppy floppy-eared husky

Mature huskies can be even more stubborn and difficult to train if they haven’t been trained in the past, whereas puppies can learn as they grow up.

Benefits Of Playing Fetch With Your Husky

Playing fetch with your husky has a lot of benefits that make it worth putting in the effort to teach them how to do it in the first place.


The first benefit is exercise, specifically exercise where you don’t have to put in much effort yourself.

Huskies need at least 2 hours of exercise per day, which can be difficult to achieve, especially if you have had a busy day.

Playing fetch can tire out your husky quickly without you having to do any of the hard work. You can soon get your husky running around and covering a large distance if you have a large yard.

Mental Stimulation

Another critical benefit is mental stimulation.

Huskies need a lot of mental stimulation because they are intelligent and have a high-energy drive – exercise is only one part of this puzzle.

Playing fetch incorporates exercise, as well as obedience training and mental stimulation for your husky in the form of chasing and fetching the ball back.

Reinforces You As The Alpha

I touched on this before, but huskies have a strong pack mentality thanks to their working background as sled dogs.

If your husky sees you as the alpha, they are likelier to listen to your commands.

Playing fetch and getting them to return the ball or toy to you is a great way to work on the pack order and reinforce you as the alpha.

Strengthens The Bond Between You Two

Lastly, playing fetch and spending one-on-one time with your husky is great for working on your relationship.

Huskies can sometimes seem distant, but it’s still important to work on the bond that you have to build trust between you two.

Huskies aren’t what we would call a one-person dog, but they tend to get more closely attached to one person they view as alpha over other people in the household. If you spend more time with them, especially doing something like playing fetch, they might start to view you as this person.

Other Games That Suit Huskies

There’s no denying how hard it is to teach a husky fetch, so if you’re having difficulties with it, here are some alternatives you can try.

Tug Of War

I love playing tug of war with my huskies because it doesn’t require any training at all.

All you need is a strong rope toy, and that’s it. If I even pick mine up now, it encourages my huskies to run up and start playing with it.

It’s a lot more hands-on than a game like fetch, but it can use up your husky’s strength and tire them out very quickly (and you in the process!).

Agility Courses

If you’ve seen videos of huskies doing agility at dog shows, you’ll know there isn’t much hope for getting them to follow you around a course.

That doesn’t mean you can’t buy a few plastic tunnels or put some obstacles out in the garden and let them run around it or even chase you through it.

It doesn’t take much to set up a basic obstacle course, and your husky will have a blast running around it and burn off lots of energy.

In Summary

I highly recommend any husky owner to at least try to play fetch with their pup.

It can be challenging, but it’s a great game to incorporate into your husky’s routine that will develop the bond between you two and provide them with plenty of mental stimulation and exercise.

Use the tips and steps in this guide to give yourself the best chance of success, and I’m sure you’ll have them playing fetch in no time!

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About The Author

Caitlin is the owner and lead writer for The Malamute Mom. She has over 10 years of experience with Alaskan Malamutes and Huskies. She is currently working on getting her PhD in materials science but continues to write for The Malamute Mom in her spare time.

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