Please, please fetch the ball. How many people have dogs that don't fetch? And how many people wish that their dog would fetch? I have to admit that the whole game of fetch is very useful. When you are in a pinch for time and need to get some exercise into your dog it comes in very handy, especially when they are a speed retriever. Retrieving does not come naturally for all dogs; in fact many dogs just will not retrieve a ball. And I know many people with a "retriever" dog that does not or will not retrieve. Some dogs go after the ball with gusto but the idea of bringing it to you is not on their agenda.
Other dogs go through the whole, run after the ball, pick up the ball and even retrieve it. But if you attempt to get the ball away from the dog, forget it. So how can you have a dog that retrieves a ball and hands it over? The first thing is genetics, not all dogs have drive to chase a ball, some watch it roll by and have no desire to chase the stupid thing. For those types it is hard to get them to like it but sometimes you can. You have to make getting the ball the most exciting thing in life. Tons of praise and baby steps just might get you there. Sometimes a cheering section is all that is needed. If you make the object of the retrieve the only toy available, that helps as well.
For most dogs the problem with the retrieve is handing over the ball. Even if they want you desperately to throw the ball, they are reluctant to give it up. Afterall, dogs are not programmed to share. And if they really love their ball or toy then handing it over can be tough. So you need to teach them that the only way that this toy is flying for a game of chase is for them to drop it. Never, ever go after it out of their mouth if you truly want them to retrieve and drop.
So once your dog likes the thing that you want them to retrieve, the trick is to have two. Two items of equal value, so equal that your dog wants both. You throw the first toy, with the other behind your back. And when they run out to grab it you whip out the second one. Once your dog picks up the item and has it in their mouth show them the second item. This typically creates a "hey, give me that." This is what you want, you want them to forget to drop the item in their mouth at first and run to you. Once they are right near you tell them to drop if they know what that means. If not; just wait holding the other item. Most dogs will eventually drop the item and as soon as they do, I mean immediately toss the second one. Quickly pick up the first item as they run after the second and start the sequence over.
Once they start to catch on; use the word "drop" or whatever word you want. This teaches them to drop the ball on command as well as to drop it fast. The faster they drop the faster they get the second item tossed. Do this practice for several days to weeks, depending on the dog. Once the whole sequence is well imbedded in their head, you can stop the second ball or toy. They should still habitually run back to you and drop the ball. Make sure that you pick it up and throw it quickly. Many people lose the momentum and a good retrieving dog by lagging on the throw and this might just be the thing that makes them turn and run with the ball instead of fetching.
So out you go to find two equal objects of desire for your dog. ;)