The Administrator from the Great White North, eh?
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Northern British Columbia
I'd let her win and run away with the flirt pole. The chase/hunt drive needs to be completed of catching the prey, defending it from others who might want to take it, bringing it back to the den, and having possession over it. That is why when doing bitework, the dogs are allowed to take the sleeve and just hold it while they calm down, or hold it while the handler walks/runs with the dog.
Not being allowed to work through the drive stages can be more frustrating for some dogs than others. The more frustrated they get, the harder it is for them to release.
I would do a number of things in your situation.
Do shorter sessions and stop before Zoey gets to the point where she won't release. Eventually, you will be able to do longer and longer sessions before she gets to that point.
Let her win more. Play tug more. Let her pull the flirt pole out of your hand and run away with it. If she is just going to take it to a corner and chew on it, then have a leash on her. When you release the flirt pole, grab the leash and run around with her until she is tired of running around and carrying dragging the flirt pole. This may be 30 seconds or 10 minutes, depending on the dog. When she drops it on her own, praise and start the game again. Her reward for dropping is the game starting up again.
Another thing you can try is to have a pocket tug on you, or a ball. When she is not releasing, redirect her to the tug or ball - immediate reward for releasing the flirt pole.
Occasionally, have a 'release free' game. Don't say a word, let her win, let her drop it on her own, redirect her to another toy, if necessary. You don't want the release to become a source of conflict between the two of you, that is no fun for neither the human nor the dog.
Not sure if this will help, but it will give you a bit of insight in how to work with this issue.
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Keeta BH, OB1, TR1, AD
Rottweiler/Hairy Dog mix?? 2004-2015