Are You as Fit as Your Dog? 5 Ways to Play Fetch

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Simple Game, Brutal Workout

It turns out fetch is a really intense game. Rocketpack threw a ball, then I chased the ball and brought it back to her (not in my mouth). Then she threw it again.

Throw. Sprint. Avoid sticks and slipping in the mud. Grab the ball without stopping. Change direction. Sprint back. Two seconds of rest while Rocketpack takes aim. Throw. Sprint again.

Repeat 6-8 times and you've got a brutal sprint suicide routine with variable direction, agility demands, and a bit of eye-hand coordination (apparently, it's just as funny to fake me out as an over-eager retriever). It was like twisted tabatas where you never knew which direction you were going next.

We made up a few variations, all of which were much more demanding than the regular game. I didn't last more than 4 rounds of multi-ball fetch.

Feel free to modify any of these to make them more sporting. There has been very limited (or no) testing to ensure balance.


What you need:

How to Play:

Everyone stands within arms-reach of the thrower. The thrower throws the ball as far as possible. Everyone else chases the ball and tries to be the first person to bring it back. This person wins and becomes the thrower.

If there's only one fetcher, that person runs several rounds before switching.

Variation 1: Multi-ball Fetch

Extra materials: more balls

This is more appropriate for multiple people, but it also creates new path-finding and agility demands for a single fetcher.

The thrower simply tosses 2, 3, 4, or more balls into the field. The fetcher tries to collect and return all of them as fast as possible. The thrower can throw them all together, or in sequence, which forces the fetcher to improvise new routes in the field.

If there are multiple fetchers, they get points for the number of balls returned. The winner is the first person to 10 points, and that person becomes the new thrower, which resets all the scores.

Variation 2: Race the Clock

Extra materials: a stopwatch

The thrower starts a stopwatch upon tossing the first ball. Every 5-10 seconds, they throw another ball. The goal of the fetcher is to get all the balls back before the next toss.

So, if the fetcher manages to get the first ball back to the thrower before the second ball is thrown, they win. If two balls are thrown, and the fetcher manages to get them back before the third is thrown, they win. If all the balls are thrown, the thrower wins. The fetcher can catch balls in the air.

Once someone wins, switch roles.

This variation requires some tweaking based on your ability and the size of the field. 5 seconds is a very short interval and will probably result in a lot of balls thrown. 10 seconds might be too easy. With multiple people, you can get more balls in sooner, so you can get away with shorter time intervals.

Variation 3: Who Let the Dogs Out

Same as regular fetch or multi-ball fetch, but all fetchers are limited to quadripedal movements. So, they must crawl, gallop, slide, roll, or crab walk around the field, but at no point can they bear all their weight on just two feet. This is very, very, very exhausting.

Variation 4: Guardian

Guardian adds a strategic element to play. It is played like multi-person fetch, except that the fetchers don't start close to the thrower. Instead, they are scattered throughout the field. The thrower is standing in the center of the field, in a safe-zone, about 5 paces in diameter (mark a box or something with shoes, extra balls, or shirts).

Gameplay proceeds as normal. Once someone catches the ball, they become the Guardian, and they must return the ball to the thrower without being tagged (or tackled depending on how intense you want to be). If someone else tags them, they must throw the ball straight up into the air and it becomes live again, at which point anyone can grab it and try to return it to the thrower.

If a Guardian makes it back to the thrower, they win and become the thrower.

Once a fetcher gets inside the safe zone, they cannot be tagged. This prevents everyone from simply crowding the thrower and waiting for the Guardian.


If you have more variations, please share in the comments. Anyone who can go head-to-head with a real dog and actually win will have my deepest respect, and should definitely leave a link to a video. Have fun!


I am excited to announce that I will be hosting my first guest poster. On Thursday begins the first in a series of three posts from a fellow warrior, Shawn Rhodes.

The word 'warrior' is often associated with soldiers and the military, and I've gotten into discussions on that here a few times. I have no real experience in that realm, however, so I have stuck to my more spiritual definition of the word.

Still, it is undeniable that traditional warrior cultures sought to create holistically formidable individuals by imbuing them with empowering mindsets.  Shawn will be sharing his insights from actual experience on the battlefield and with US military personnel, to show how adopting the warrior mindset can help us live life to the fullest.

Please check back on Thursday for the first post.

(Photo credit: Werwin15 on Flickr)