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So I have this rubbery ball thing you put kibble in and Jupiter has to roll it around to get the food. I want to train him to find it and bring it to me on command.

My initial attempts have been only okay. Basically, I take the treat ball and put it about three feet from him. Any time he moves toward it, I click and treat. He mostly only does it when I gesture at the ball.

So he is getting the idea that I want him to interact with the ball, but he just noses and scratches at it. He doesn't pick it up. I can't figure out how to make him pick it up. It's bigger than something he would normally grab (but his mouth is definitely big enough).

Any ideas on how to progress this trick? Right now, especially, how to get him to pick it up?
 

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This sounds like what I call 'find it':
1. Toss treat a few feet away while cueing 'find it'. Pup runs over to get the treat. Recall pup, reward. Increase distance as possible.
2. Put pup in sit/down. Cue 'wait/stay.' toss treat a few inches away. Cue 'find it,' Pup runs over to get a treat. Recall pup, reward. Increase distance and duration as possible.
3. Put pup in sit/down. Cue 'wait/stay. Walk a few inches away. Walk back to pup. Cue 'find it,' Pup runs over to get a treat. Recall pup, reward. Increase distance and duration as possible. I now take several treat in different rooms and hide under things... if the treat is nice and stinky.

This was the basic 'find it'. Pup, loves playing it. If I am grumpy, we play 'find it' instead of a training session.

Next, I replaced the object with a toy. Instead of passively receiving the treat when he gets to it, he must bring the object back to me to receive a reward.

The key for us was to get a nice solid understand of 'find it' with a treat. When we transitioned to an object, at first I only tossed it a couple of inches. I shaped the return behavior by marking:
1. Following the object with eyes.
2. Following the object with mouth.
3. Touching object with mouth.
4. Picking up object.
5. Dropping object.
6. Coming back to me and dropping object within arm's length.

If pup every lost interest or stopped trying to figure out how earn the next marker, I did an iteration or two with the treat to refocus his attention. I kept the distances really short, a couple of inches, at first so that pup could get the hang of reaching over to pick the object up.

Then you can start working on specific items. 'find your ____' Pup can now find his bone, his toy, his rope, and his ball.

Experience trainers can probably skip many of the steps. I found them helpful
 

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I’m working on this exact thing. Good to hear advice. Thanks @davewis.

I also have a firm ‘find _’ with objects and people. Also a ‘get your _’ with toys. My boy will bring me treat balls and puzzles to fill but isn’t consistent about following through with bringing the toy when I request it of him. I do agree that the biggest issue thus far is grabbing the object and holding it for me.
 

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Awesome, I need to teach 'find grandma.' :)

The only other thing I could suggest is making sure you are using high enough value treats. For many things, Ole is happy to work for kibble. If I am having trouble getting him to work, I up the ante to small chunks of roast chicken.

Ole's 'out' is still a bit shaky... he hesitates to 'out' a valuable toy for anything less than chicken.

Roast chicken makes great treats. When I go shopping I pick up 10 lbs of chicken breasts for $1.50 / lbs, roast it in the oven ( I don't want to give myself salmonella), chop it up, and put it in 1 cup muffin tins to freeze. This gives us a nice big freezer bag of chicken balls we can take out and thaw as needed.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
3. Touching object with mouth.
4. Picking up object.
Thanks, Davewis. This part from your post is where we are currently. I made some progress today: from nosing or bumping it, to grabbing it. But only while I'm holding it in my hand. I am not sure if this is the right track or not, but I guess we'll see. It's only day 2-3 of working on this trick. I am so used to Jupiter getting things instantly that I'm having doubts.

I do a couple similar games.

FIND! He waits in the kitchen while I hide kibble. His is NULO limited ingredient with salmon, so it smells nice and nasty. He rockets out of the kitchen and starts nosing everywhere. Usually he finds it right away.

CLOVE! I put some cloves in a little tupperware container with some holes poked in it. Then I hide it. He runs around and finds it, and gets treats when he touches it with his nose. At first he did great at this game, but then I hid it in the AC closet and he just couldn't find it. It really seems as if he lost confidence after that and almost doesn't try anymore unless it's really easy!
 

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Yes, there have been a couple of interesting threads on nosework and barn hunts lately. I would like to get into those things. I looked into nosework a little while ago. All the local (<250 miles) nosework seminars and training that I found is rather high-end stuff. $1000+ at a fancy resort for a weekend seminar.

We might try some DIY stuff or just stick to barn hunts.... A big field, a camper, and an old barn with a $6 entrance fee seem more our speed :)

Sometimes if it feels like we are not making progress on a behavior, I just set it aside for a few days. For us, time off helps new things sink in.

Edit: Another thought. Ole is much better at picking up moving things than he is at picking up stationary things. I worked on 'find it' in a hallway with no distractions. I would toss the object a little way down the hall. I cheered him on until he picked up the object. Confining things to short hallway eliminated all other distractions.
 
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