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Your instinct is right, dont pinch his ear.......Ava retrieves because chasing the ball is more fun than playing with it alone. So, A great book to read is "the other end of the leash".
Begin by tossing a short distance when gets the ball make it into a game of him chasing you. He may run off with the ball, let him, and start running away from him........I bet he will chase after you. Dogs easily teach us to chase them when they grab something because we do go after them. but if we turn and go the other way, that encourges him to follow after you and not run away with the ball. Try tossing the ball and run away after he grabs it.

Whoops missed the the part that he already does this with Balls and toys, sorry.

I have Ava bring me the phone or remote, this was taught first by teaching her what it was...My husband would hand Ava the phone and direct her where to go, pretty soon she understood that she can carry stuff back and forth, now whe will get other things as well but I have to get her to understand the word for it first.
 
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