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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-28-2010, 08:58 AM Thread Starter
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Play fetch?

I just picked up my new 4 1/2 month old pup yesterday and I'm wondering how to get him to play fetch. He runs after the toy, grabs it then just decides to leave it and come back to me. Often he'll even just run to it and ignore the toy and look around. Is there any technique to get him to learn fetch?

Thanks!


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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-28-2010, 11:59 AM
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I've always had natural retrievers so I've never had to work very hard to get mine to chase a ball and bring it back. I usually start by just rolling it a foot or two rather than trying to throw it very far. The only part I've had to actually teach is to give me the ball when they bring it back. But since you can get him to go after it, but he won't bring it back, I'd try backchaining - teaching the end of the behavior first, and then working backwards to the beginning.

Start by handing him a ball, praising him, and then stick a treat right up to his nose. When he drops the ball to take the treat, mark it ("yes!") and give him the ball back. After a few tries, add whatever command you want to use ("drop it" "give" "out") right before putting the treat to his nose. As soon as he's dropping the ball readily, stop showing him the treat first, give the command, wait for him to comply, THEN mark it and give him a treat.

When you've got him consistently giving you the ball on cue, have him take the ball, and then run backwards a few feet, encouraging him to bring it to you. (I use "bring it", but you can name it anything you like.) The next step would be to roll it a few feet away and encourage him to bring it to you and trade it for a treat. Eventually you'll phase out food rewards - the continuation of play will be the reward, but at first I'd be marking and treating as much as necessary.

As I said, I've never actually had to try this, but it's what I would do if I had a dog that didn't seem to grasp the concept of chase the ball and bring it back. The fact that he's interested enough to chase after the ball is good, so this shouldn't take too long to teach.

-Debbie-
Cava 1/6/18
Keefer 8/25/05-4/24/19 ~ The sweetest boy
Halo 11/9/08-6/17/18 ~ You left pawprints on our hearts
Dena 9/12/04-10/4/08 ~ Forever would have been too short
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-28-2010, 04:25 PM
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Take a tennis ball and poke a hole in both end with a knife. Thread a light rope through the holes and tie a knot in the end. Now you have a ball on a rope 10 feet long. You now drag it and play keep away with the pup. When he is really excited let him grab the ball and then you praise him for at least putting it in his mouth or picking it up. If he will hold it you can lead him into you with COME. Using a tiny food treat on his nose tell him GIVE and he should open him mouth to take the treat releasing the ball . Praise him again. Do this over and over but only for 5 minutes at a time. Over time he will become a ball fetching machine. It just takes time. He is really young so take your time. He will get it.

Training isn't expensive.... IT'S PRICELESS!
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-28-2010, 07:15 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the tips! Going to give it a whirl tomorrow morning on our walk.


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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-28-2010, 07:31 PM
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I would work on it around the house first. He might be too distracted by what's going on around him when he's outside. It's always best to teach new behaviors in low distraction environments before attempting them outdoors where there's a bunch of new stuff to see and smell.

-Debbie-
Cava 1/6/18
Keefer 8/25/05-4/24/19 ~ The sweetest boy
Halo 11/9/08-6/17/18 ~ You left pawprints on our hearts
Dena 9/12/04-10/4/08 ~ Forever would have been too short
Cassidy 6/8/00-10/4/04
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-28-2010, 07:37 PM Thread Starter
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Gotcha. For the most part he's been pretty great about learning in the yard. I tend to go to a very secluded spot on the morning walk so I think he'll be ok there. If not I'll take a break during the day from work and work with him.

Thanks!


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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-29-2010, 01:41 PM
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Don't throw the toy very far. Just give a light toss where your pup doesn't have to go after it. Each time he picks it up, Praise him! Keep doing that and just increase the distance once he clicks what the game is!
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-31-2010, 10:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cassidy's Mom View Post
I'd try backchaining - teaching the end of the behavior first, and then working backwards to the beginning.

Start by handing him a ball, praising him, and then stick a treat right up to his nose. When he drops the ball to take the treat, mark it ("yes!") and give him the ball back. After a few tries, add whatever command you want to use ("drop it" "give" "out") right before putting the treat to his nose. As soon as he's dropping the ball readily, stop showing him the treat first, give the command, wait for him to comply, THEN mark it and give him a treat.
Sorry to the OP for busting in on your thread, but I'm trying to teach my puppy to retrieve also and this piece of advice might be the answer to my problem too.

My puppy will fetch (the command I use when I toss the ball) and bring it back to me for a treat. The problem is she knows she's going to get a treat and so drops the ball before she gets to me, rather consistently a foot or two. I have not figured out how to get her to bring it all the way to me.

Is this backchaining the way to address my issue?
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 03-31-2010, 09:43 PM
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It's certainly worth a try. If she learns that giving the ball TO you rather than dropping it somewhere in the vicinity is what earns a treat, she should start bringing the ball all the way in. Once you've worked on it a bit, you could also start ending play if she drops the ball a few feet away. Simply say "oops!" and turn around and walk away, ignoring her for a few minutes or longer, then try again.

I wouldn't do this yet since she won't understand what she IS supposed to do until you spend some time rewarding her for taking the ball and giving it back to you, but she should eventually figure out what will make you give her the treat and also continue playing with her. Stop rewarding what you don't want, and reward the heck out of what you do want - big praise, a couple of treats delivered one at a time.

-Debbie-
Cava 1/6/18
Keefer 8/25/05-4/24/19 ~ The sweetest boy
Halo 11/9/08-6/17/18 ~ You left pawprints on our hearts
Dena 9/12/04-10/4/08 ~ Forever would have been too short
Cassidy 6/8/00-10/4/04
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