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I have noticed something very interesting with my 3 month puppy. I am busy training him to retrieve an article. As young puppies go he will sometimes chase after the ball with great enthusiasm but then fail to bring it back to me and rather lie down and chew on his prize. I then did a bit of trouble shooting and tried to exchange the ball for food once he retrieved it. The problem with this is that once the food came out his prey drive diminished significantly. I then devised another plan where I would first play tug-of-war with one of his favourite toys to stimulate his prey drive and once he is as crazy as a Malinois with drive, throw the ball and then use the tug toy as a reward for this behaviour once he retrieves the article. So far this is working like a dream. What I then do at the very end of the training session is to give him a food reward as well. In the dog's mind this is like simulating a hunt. I am a firm believer of working WITH nature to get the best behaviour out of my dog. Could it be that once you introduce food, the prey drive gets diminished because in the dog's mind the need for prey drive is no longer needed because food is presented?
 

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Some dogs have what we call a lower food drive - they are just not as motivated by food as they are by play. It's not that the drive is "satisfied" with the food and they drop out of drive, it's that the motivation to stay engaged for food rewards just isn't as strong.

Pretty insightful though that you figured out how to tap into your pup's prey drive to train him - this is what handlers of working dogs do with pups to build their drive and work ethic.
 

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nice that you are getting him to retrieve so young. My dog was like that too and i was worried he wasnt interested in the ball as much. Then one day i think around 5 or 6 months he flipped a switch and became a wack job for the ball. Chasing it down to exhaustion, barking for it and carrying it around everywhere. It only increased since then. Your pup will likely be the same.
 

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nice that you are getting him to retrieve so young. My dog was like that too and i was worried he wasnt interested in the ball as much. Then one day i think around 5 or 6 months he flipped a switch and became a wack job for the ball. Chasing it down to exhaustion, barking for it and carrying it around everywhere. It only increased since then. Your pup will likely be the same.
Thanks, that is good to know. I think we sometimes tend to forget that our puppies are still babies with very short attention spans.
 

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It has more to do with conditioning. When food is presented it is normally for behaviors you've been teaching up close. Once the puppy realizes food is there all his prior conditioning to stay engaged and close is in conflict with going after the ball, his mind is split as to how to obtain the food reward and whether or not he wants to chase that ball down or stick around to try to obtain the food. Once the dog becomes clear the ball is the path to the food in that circumstance the loss of drive you see will go away.

Either way the play method you discovered is the way to go. Don't bother with the food for a retrieve. The reason the dog wanted to chase it down and then munch on the ball is the dog desires to possess the ball like a prey item. It was going through the rest of the prey sequence. Chase catch eat. Once the dog enjoys the chase catch part more than the possess part when it gets the game you will have less issues like that. Every so often when the dog brings the ball back allow the dog to possess and mess with the ball while in your lap and being petted. It will help create that trust that causes the dog to have no conflict about bringing the ball back to you. After you end the game you can allow the dog to possess the ball too and it will help the puppy satisfy that desire.

At some point if it is still an issue you need to make a rule that is enforced. When you are called to retrieve the item it must happen. It isn't optional. You can enforce this with negative reinforcement with a long line back toward you while you are playing. That step may or may not be necessary depending on how naturally possessive the dog is.
 

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I too have noticed once I give a dog food as a reward, he shuts down and becomes disengaged. When I used the tug I got better focus and quicker results. Food can be used as a reward in the beginning, but a tug got better results a they go older for me at least.
 
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