Fetch!  Yes!  It's a THING!   

AKC added this fun test to the Family Dog program which also includes the other tests like the CGC, CGCA, CGCU, Farm Dog, FIT Dog, Therapy Dog, ATT and Virtual Home Manners. 

From the AKC website

AKC Family Dog is a comprehensive good manners program for all dogs, whether purebred or mixed breed. While participating in enjoyable activities that are fun for both dogs and people, dogs become well-socialized and develop a lifelong bond with their owners.

AKC Fetch titles were created as another activity in which owners could have fun with their dogs in the AKC Family Dog Program. Earning AKC Fetch titles provides opportunities for both physical and mental exercise. While some dogs will naturally fetch balls, AKC Fetch, especially at the advanced levels, will involve teaching new skills such as directed retrieving.

SO...  I thought another FUN thing to do with the Mookster!! 
He's been retrieving since Day 1 and gets a reward for bringing me things around the house.  This transferred easily to the dumbbell in obedience and I figured out how hard could it be!  I discovered the first 2 levels were just that...  a piece of cake!!  

He earned the Fetch Novice title in February 2024 at Camp Bandy by retrieving a tug that was thrown 30 feet 3 times in 3 directions with 4 distractions twice.  This was called 3 "single" retrieves.  This was the FIRST Fetch trial in Wisconsin. Click here for more!


In March 2024, he earned the Fetch Intermediate title in Oshkosh by completing 4 single retrieves between 8 distractions but this time they were 50 foot retrieves and I used bumpers. Again, he passed both tests as required for the title.  Mookie was one of 5 dogs who passed the intermediate title that day!  Click here for more!

In April 2024, he earned the Fetch Advanced title in Plymouth in a dusty horse barn with birds flying around!  The previous 2 tests were in a facility with rubber matting floor so this was very different.  Also, it all of a sudden became more challenging!!  The distance for the Advanced retrieves is 70 ft. The course has 3 blinds which are screens at least 24 inches tall, and 10 ft. to 12 ft. wide.  As Mookie sat by my side at the start line, a helper dropped a bumper behind each blind as he watched and he calls "hey, hey, hey" as he dropped the bumper.  To pass, Mookie had to do 2 single retrieves and 2 double retrieves.  A double is when the helper drops the bumpers behind 2 blinds and Mookie had to bring the first one back and then immediately go back for the second.  Additionally, I had to tell the judge which one he was going to get and then direct him to get that one.  He passed the first run so he had one leg but then in the second test he retrieved the bumper from the wrong blind!  Day 2, he passed the first test and got the title!!!  He may be the first WI dog to get that title and may be the first Mudi also. Click here for photos!


In April 2024 at the location described above, Mookie dipped his toes into the Fetch Retriever test since we were entered.  Retriever is similar to Advanced but 80 feet and the retrieves are 2 doubles and a triple.  He did the doubles but then in the triple went to the wrong blind.  It was a great learning experience and off we go to the next trial in May. 

In May 2024, we were off to a farm in the middle of nowhere - which by the way, is NOT uncommon in WI!!  As we drove in we saw lots happening!  Farm Dog and CGC testing and way in the back in the sheep pen was the Fetch area! During the briefing I noticed and pointed out what I though was dog poo and they said no..  that's from the sheep and it's all over!!!  YAY!!  Oh Well...  it was a nice day to spend on the farm!!  

Regardless, Mookie braved the poo and other distractions and earned the AKC FETCH RETRIEVER title which is the 4th and highest level in a test in Amherst! So proud of him!  Since I've had him, each time he would pick up anything I would reward him for bringing it to me and he learned that fetching is a GOOD thing!!  Click here for photos!

And a final note:  Mookie may have been the first dog to earn the Retriever title in WI and he, for sure, was the FIRST Mudi to earn the Retriever title in the country!!  Love this dog!


So people ask, how did you teach Mookie the upper levels? Let's start at the beginning because I was teaching him to fetch before AKC Fetch was even a thing!

Two years ago in 2022 when Mookie arrived on the plane at 13 weeks old, his training started. Whenever he would pick up something in the house I would get all excited and treat him for it. Now I suspect that he didn't have the type of tasty treats that he was getting from me for bringing me things​ so he was MORE than willing to bring stuff. It ​became a habit and to this day he knows when things are out of place and where they should be​. ​If I don't put my shoes away, he brings me one and then takes me back to where they belong and gets rewarded. 

Back in the day when I was training my GSDs, I became acutely aware of how important directionals were so I did some research and discovered the wagon wheel method of training retrieving that some hunting dog people use. It became my go-to method of training dating back probably 15 years.  So​, fast forward to the new pup in 2023, I decided that I was going to teach Mookie how to be a good retriever and purchased a dozen black and white bumpers. Over the winter as I was doing indoor training at my local dog club, I realized it wasn't smart to be throwing the bumpers because it's a pretty low ceiling so I purchased a dozen gloves that are used for obedience trials. Because, you know, directional training is directional training.  Additionally,  I would use miscellaneous items around the house and point to them ​for him to bring them to me. 

So then in January 2024, I heard about this thing that AKC ​started called Fetch and a local club is having the first event in Wisconsin in February. Off we go, I didn't roll a ball as many people d​id but rather a tug that he plays tug with me was tossed and he brought it back to me three times. That was all it took! Do it two separate times and you have the Fetch Novice title.  Probably the hardest thing was having him release it to me so it could be tossed again but that's a whole different story! 

A month later in March, a local kennel Club had an event and we did the same thing except it was tossed a little bit further four times instead of three as in novice. He did it twice again as described above and got his Fetch Intermediate title. 

But ​TRAINING is what the  upper levels are about. Novice and Intermediate levels were pretty darn simple.. roll the ball throw the ball/tug bring it back. Now there are blinds​ AND more distance; 70 feet for advanced and 80 ft for retriever tests. So I had to train for these and decided to put some blinds in my yard using fence posts and fencing that I had around. 

First of all​, remember, Mookie always brought things to me and sat in front so the retrieve with the front and give it to my hand was already there.​ So was a finish that I taught practicing rally and obedience so I didn't have to teach th​ose skills. We were doing shed hunting at this same time for almost a year and he would find a shed and bring it to me and hand it to me for a treat. 

Also as a puppy, I taught him a whistle recall which was pretty darn good! The sound of the whistle hits his brain and he realizes that he needs to come to me. I say this now because there were several times when we were participating in the upper levels that he got distracted, one time was because birds were in the ​barn and another time because a golden retriever was being walked along the edge of the field. Both times I was able to get his attention back to what he was supposed to be doing​ with a short whistle or two. 

If you haven't read what's required for the Advanced and Retriever titles it's above in this post. I started with the three blinds in the yard but fairly close so he knew exactly which one because I was directing him to go to find the bumper and bring it back. Slowly I backed up until I was maybe 50 ft back from the blinds. Occasionally, I would be farther back but not always.  Train for success and the rest will follow I believe. 

Initially there was no order ​in how I put them out but I did end up using a pattern. Good or bad (I normally don't like to teach patterns​), I did it because I just wanted to ​get the process in his brain because I had relatively little time to train this before the test that we entered. ​After we passed, I practiced in the yard to break the pattern so that he really goes exactly the way I tell him. But since Mookie has an amazing memory, what I did before the trial was I always started on the left facing the blinds. 

  • If it was single hides I would do left, center and then left, right. 
  • If it was a double, left and center. 
  • If it was a triple I would do left, center, and right. 

The video below is BEFORE I decided to do the left side first.  Once he learned the pattern, he rarely made a mistake. 

I would practice wherever I could and not only with bumpers but also with gloves. Same principle. I would have people drop them at the dog club, in parking lots or at my house! Each trial location was different that we had tested in so being able to adjust to all environments is essential.  In my yard, I would put him in a sit 50 or so yards from the middle blind and he would watch me drop the bumpers before I returned to send him to retrieve them. 

Basically, I broke it down into the pieces what I would do if I was training another dog:

  • Teach the following separately:
    • Recall training (voice and whistle)
    • Retrieving a bumper including from behind a blind
    • Returning a bumper to my hand
    • Returning to my left side (heel position)
    • Directing (go outs) using my hand by his head to face the correct blind
    • Sitting at side (no holding collar) while bumper is thrown
  • Generalize where I train. 
  • Make sure my dog can work through environmental things I encountered
    • Type of flooring (matting, grass, weeds, dirt, sand)
    • Dog's pee and poop fresh from event
    • Females in heat
    • Types of weather (rain, snow, heat, wind)
    • Livestock around area or smells in test area
All of these things are really just good training and useful in other sports and just daily life!!

Remember this is just a fun thing to do with your dog and enjoy the test.  Your dog doesn't do things wrong on purpose and not passing is just information that shows you where you​ are ​with your training and​ where you need to focus to improve!  If your dog is running around the test area in circles, remember the Kenny Rogers song that says: “You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run." and get your dog and get out of there and reevaluate where you are in your training program!!  If you're a dog trainer, you've been there, we all have!!  Make trialing and training a journey that you take with your best friend and enjoy the ride!