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...Return the ball

3168 Views 10 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  WiscTiger
My boy Max is extremly ball motivated and will do anything to get it thrown for him. When I am training him, in trying to keep it fun, his reward is me throwing the ball for him to fetch. First of all, is it as effective to use the ball as motivation over using treats? When I throw him the ball, he will jam away and grab it, the problem is that he will run back, stop anywhere from 5-10 ft away and sit/stand there and not complete the return. How can I get him to finish the return with dropping the ball for me at my feet, or atleast within a short distance, please comment...
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When I taught MY max to retrieve and drop the ball, I would tell him to "come", then once in front of me, "drop it". If he didnt drop it immediately, I would turn away from him. If he appeared in front of me again, I would repeat the same thing until he dropped it. I then praised him wildly saying "good drop it!".. it took just a little while with it.
I don't think it's a bad idea to use a ball as a reward, we use it all the time. In general, what I've found personally about rewards with my dogs...

Food is best for accuracy. It's not usually as exciting as toys so your dog won't get quite so hyper and it can be better controlled which makes it ideal for luring your dog into different positions. Food is usually best for puppies.

Balls and Toys usually bring more excitement and can make commands faster and the exercises look more energetic and "happy". On the downside, if you have a dog who REALLY loves his toys he may get so hyper he stops thinking during training. (It kind of reminds me of the dog in the beggin strips commercial..ya know baconbaconbaconjuicysmellyBACON! only in this case BALL!)

Also as a note on balls, many people I know prefer a ball on a rope as opposed to a tennis ball.
First the glue in tennis balls can damage the enamel on adult dog teeth and
Second (and this makes sense if you think about it) a regular ball or tennis ball is rewarding the dog away from the handler. The reward for the dog is running away from you to chase the ball. Why would they come back? Especially if their desire is to just possess the ball. For obedience training more people I know seem to prefer a ball on a rope or a tug toy, because that keeps your dogs rewards tied to you. If tugging and fighting is the fun part, well it can't happen unless someone has the other end of the toy! So even if I throw my ball to my dog, he'll bring it back to tug with cause that's fun!

(By NO means is it bad to throw a ball for your dog...there is no way I could wear my dog out without my Chuck-it and a bag of tennis balls...I just don't like it as much for training)

Couple of ideas for coming back...

1. Teach come separately, so you can ask you dog to come. Play on a long line, so you can enforce the command.

2. Don't always take the ball away when/if he does return. I find if I throw the ball and then start walking/running away in the opposite direction, our puppy always comes running. I then praise her for following along, and I don't take the ball until she drops it. This stops her from being possessive (if she thinks I want the ball she will do her best to keep me from getting it usually by running away with that silly stupid play galumphing), and pretty soon she learns that it's more fun if she gives me the ball.

3. You can try using 2 balls. Throw one and hang onto the other as an incentive to come back.
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I second the use of 2 balls, Saber did exactly what Max did and know he knows if he brings it back and drops it he will get anothr run. I am know working on slowly phasing out the second ball. When he returns and drops I then ask for more work before throwing the ball again. But I mix it up and have rewards where I throw the balls multiple times so he is still eager to come back and drop it.
"First the glue in tennis balls can damage the enamel on adult dog teeth "

I can't stress enough how dmaging tennis balls are for dogs teeth. Mine is going in for a root canal $$$$$ next week because the tennis balls ground her teeth down and exposed the pulp. The pulp retreated into the canine and the tooth died.
we played 2 ball alot with Kelso to teach "drop it" and to make sure he brought the ball back. It was actually very easy with the 2 ball method, i thought (he is very ball driven like you said about your pup), and did not take him very long to switch from "2 ball" to bringing back one ball and dropping it on command. It also just helped teach "drop it" in general...regardless if it is a piece of tissue or a ball.

Now, with two dogs it is even more fun as we can still use the 2 ball, just one gets the first and the other gets the next...but this isnt the point here so ill stop blabbing!

I like to use the mini chuckits..they go plenty far as tennis balls..we switched the chuckit tennis balls for the chuckit ultra balls..they are rubber

i was searching for a pic of the ultra ball and came upon this

it has a pic of the ball, but also a video about keeping the dog interested in the game rather than tiring them out and some stuff about summer heat..since we are now in summer

have fun
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With the tennis ball, I too use two balls and a chuck-it. When Kayla returns with the first, I have her drop it with an out command. Sometimes we do it with a 180 degree reverse direction and I call for her to drop the first as she sprints by. I do not toss the second until she releases the first.

That being said, I only use the tennis ball for play. For training, I use various tug toys, treats and praise for awarding/motivation, and praise/clicker for marking. With obedience/rally exercises, I use treats or a tug toy that I hold on to as I rarely want her going away from me. In exercises like agility, I will use toss toys/tugs when I want her driving forward and away from me in areas like driving through the end of the weave poles, or over obstacles such as jumps or out of the tunnels. With the tug toys, she brings it back because the main motivation is actually tugging and she can not do that without a partner.

In the case you put out there, you’ve got some great examples from folks on how to train to what you want. And you need to determine if one method of award works better that another. I've found with Kayla, balls,tugs, treats, praise are pretty interchangeable as I've always mixed them up.

I don’t want to dismiss Ollie’s warning about the tennis balls. To add to that, others here on the board have pointed out that as a ball accumulates dirt, it acts like sandpaper against the teeth as well. That being said, I only allow use when we’re out playing and they get put away as soon as we get back to the car/home. You will have to decide if you want to continue using tennis balls or find/use something different or in addition to the tennis ball.
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Toys and balls are excellent for rewards. The idea on rewards is that you use what motivates your particular dog. If you're willing to take the time to use toys and it works for your dog, then that's great. I used all sorts of toys with Trick's training.

On the returning with the ball .. Tazer did the same kind of thing when she was younger. She really wanted ME to chase HER and so she'd either stop or she'd run past me with the toy. So I just taught her to exchange the toy for a treat. I had to use some really GOOD treats at first .. *L* .. dog biscuits weren't good enough. And at first, when she came near me with the toy, I would throw a treat at her. When she dropped the toy, I'd pick it up and then throw it again as soon as she was done with the treat. Gradually she started coming closer and then I started holding the treat in my hand so that she had to come clear to me to get it. And then I added in the "drop it" command.

Once she found that I would throw the toy over and over and over (see how well she's trained me! *L*) then I could phase out the treat and she'll still bring the toy back to me. Now I can use a toy for a training reward and it's effective without us having to tussle over getting the toy back so we can do some more training.

I like the double toy/ball game too and use it a lot for recall training.

Melanie and the gang in Alaska
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Everyone, great responses, thank you. After hearing the negatives of using tennis balls and reading up on it a little, I have ceased using them while playing, thank you for giving me that insight.

I went out and bought the chuck it rubber balls and have been using the two ball method when playing/training the last few days. It has worked very very well. I have been able to use the second ball to motivate Max to come all the way back to me and drop it, if he doesn't I hide the second ball behind my back which tells him that he hasn't finished bringing me back the first ball yet; he has responded.

Is there a limit to the commands I can work on during a session of training. In this instance, I command Max to "sit", then I put the ball out to my side and ask him to "Focus" on me, once he makes eye contact I chuck the ball and tell him to "fetch" it, when he gets it and starts running back I tell him to "come" and when he gets to me I ask him to "drop it" before repeating the sequence. I also use the clicker and "good" after each successful job. Are these too many commands for one session, or is Max/GSDs capable of correlating his actions with my multiple commands?
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Your dog is about 1 year, right? Samuel's guidelines for adding commands and new items in your training sessions.

1. Keep it simple. When your dog starts to understand one command, add another command.
2. Keep it fund
3. As your dog starts to understand the next command, add the next.
4. Keep it fun
5. If the dog starts to not react to a command, step back a notch until he starts to get the previous commands.
6. Keep it fun
7. Be sure to distinguish (for you) the sessions of fun, where you also interject commands during play and training sessions where you interject play and motivation while focusing on improving your “team” skills (as opposed to just the dog’s obedience level) in what you are doing.
8. Keep it fun
9. Keep your sessions short. Add more sessions per time allotted –your dog is getting old enough where you can put more and more time toward the training sessions.
10. <u>KEEP IT FUN</u>! And that's for both you and your dog.

You need to judge how much you can do/add in a session. Don't push too fast but judge your dog (and you) on when to add another command. I see a lot of unnecessary frustration from different individuals (and I have been in that camp) who think their dogs are getting frustrated and bored or no longer paying much attention. It seems in listening to the rants, the dogs have been so successful and done so well, people start speeding up the lesson plans. Not always the case but I've heard time and time again when the dogs are so intelligent (and ours are!) the humans pick up the pace.

If there seems to be a setback or the dog stops listening on taking in the information, stop and step back a moment. Do a command exercise that you know he will complete succesfully and then stop and play while you evaluate how to proceed and start up later.
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I like toys not a combination of toys and treats.

To teach you dog to come to you on the retrieve, as you dog is coming towards you, start backing up, this keeps you dog moving forward. Also watch your body language, are you bending over at the waist, this body language shuts the dog down.
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