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Dog runs to get ball, walks back


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Unless you own stock, or are a marathon runner, fetch is a life-saver for a border collie owner. You just use your arm, and let your dog do all the work. But darn my luck if my dog is just not "playing ball."

 

I posted here recently about my dog Blake dropping the ball five meters before getting to me. We've now almost overcome that, but have a new problem.

 

Though he runs after the ball, he's always been pretty slow at bringing it back. Recently he seems to be getting slower and slower. In fact, sometimes he almost walks back.

 

This is not to do with low energy levels, because when I put the ball in my pocket and play the chasing game, he tears around the park at full throttle.

 

An odd exception is when I take my four year old daughter to the park. Then when I throw the ball he chases after and returns with it at full speed, every single time... and then drops it at her feet, not mine!

 

I tried playing the tug game with the ball to get him more interested. I've been praising and giving treats. I've been calling him in a high-pitched voice and running backwards. And still he brings it back at the slowest trot.

 

Someone suggested the ball and bucket game. I've stocked up on balls and will be teaching him this soon. Meanwhile, it is just not possible to take my daughter to the park twice a day, and anyway, I feel like he should be running the ball back to me too.

 

Does any one have any advice?

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All I can say is that Solo does the same thing -- runs out after the ball, and meanders back with it. He likes chasing but does not find fetching particularly rewarding. I've never been able to speed him up much except by making a bigger game out of it. Solo is much more enthusiastic if I start adding rules. If I ask him to do four or five things BEFORE I throw the ball, like sit, go out, run under my leg, go out around the tree again, and THEN I throw the ball, he is way more enthusiastic about running after it and bringing it back. Solo is easily bored, and finds plain old fetch quite mindless and not very interesting.

 

That said, there are two games I know of that are good for building enthusiasm for fetch because Solo, like your dog, had zero interest in bringing the ball all the way back at first. The first game, courtesy of Jean Donaldson, teaches the dog to run at you full speed for a ball: you put him in a sit-stay, walk some distance away, then call him to you and as he approaches you, you throw a ball backwards between your legs (obviously you have to be standing with your feet apart for this to work). If your dog is not comfortable with running between your legs, teach this first and then add the rest. The other game involves having another ball in your hand and throwing it in the opposite direction to the last one you threw. Eventually, hopefully, the dog will bring the first ball all the way back and you can just turn and throw it the other way, and not need to have two balls on you.

 

Also, building an enthusiastic recall can help, since when your dog picks up the ball you've thrown you can then whistle or call "here!" And hope he doesn't drop the ball in his enthusiasm as he rockets back to you.

 

I always thought it would be fun to run Solo in flyball on a slow team. He learned how to manipulate the box in about a minute and got really psyched about running out and banging it, but would always, always walk back with the ball. You'd never know by seeing him on a start line that his time is more like 15 seconds than 4.

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I've never had a problem teachngg a BC to fetch. that is until now. Jin has the same problem. He's learned to fetch b ut after 3 fetch's he doesn't bring it all the way back. Instead he drops it at his fee and starts to bark at it. I call it fetch and kvetch (means to complain). Pleh!

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Does any one have any advice?

 

My advice would be to try to find a way to make bringing the ball back to you more rewarding, but I suggest trying something a little bit "out of the box".

 

Instead of simply feeding when he gives you the ball try something like saying "GetIt!" and tossing the treat for him to chase.

 

Or, again, after he hands you the ball, play a game of keep away with him (or tug if he likes it).

 

The idea is to get the behavior - even if it is slow - and then, once you have the ball back in your possession, reward him with something he goes really nuts over.

 

I know this sounds counterintuitive - like you are rewarding slow performance and so he'll always be slow - but I have found that the effect of this type of training will end up having the opposite effect. What will happen if you do this over time is that the value of the reinforcer (given after the fact) will transfer to the act of bringing the ball back to you, and you should see an increase in enthusiasm.

 

Like I said, it's a bit "outside the box", but it's a technique I've had surprising success with.

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Senneca does not do fetch; she collects balls. She happily runs after a ball, but then goes and caches them in some -- to her -- suitable place. I have adapted myself to cope with her idiosyncrasies. Firstly, I position myself near a know favoured caching spot. Secondly, I try to us multiple balls; two is sufficient though it gets easier with three or more. Now I throw a ball and wait for her to place it in the "secure" place. She will guard this ball until distracted, so I call and wave the ball to get her interest. Throw ball #2 and while she runs, go and pick up ball #1. Repeat until one of gets bored. This way we both get some exercise.

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I am currently training Sniper to fetch - 16 wks old and is doing well. I'm a firm believer in walking or running in the opposite direction when the dog is coming back.

 

What I have done is practiced in the home first - short tosses down the hallway, as soon as he is on his way back I begin to take a few steps in the opposite direction and turn my head slightly away from him, then when he returns to me he gets rewarded and we do a few commands (sit, down, SPIN!, one of his faves) and then reset. In the beginning stages I realized he was only good for 4 fetches, so I quit at 3. I picked up the ball and put it on the TV until our next session. Later in the afternoon, we would pick up the fetch game again - this time a set of 4 and so on. Build up to your backyard and then frontyard and then take it to the park.

 

Yesterday we took our fetch game on the road...first park outing with the intent on playing fetch. Sniper did awesome! We spent 30 minutes at the park, 15 of that was fetch. I start park play off by walking around the perimeter off leash. As he was exploring I do recall work, then after one walk around the field we began our fetch game. I started tossing the ball only about 15 feet away then built out to 30 feet. Each time he returned with the ball I walked backwards and cheered him on telling him to bring it etc. He then would drop it at my feet or just a few feet away and wait for me to throw it again. We then did a few of our facorite commands then reset him for the next throw. After his first set of 10 we took a walk again and got a drink of water - then restarted our fetch game. Each return was faster than the previous, though not ligtening fast, but they are on their way - he's only 16 wks.

 

When playing any game with your dog, remember it's a game....I give lots of verbal praise on top of the treat reward.

How motivating are you compared to enjoying a ball? Make yourself more exciting and you may find him wanting to return to you bit faster. How is your recall?

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This sounds like a motivation issue to me. Either you aren't motivating enough, since he will charge back for you daughter. Or the game isn't motivating enough, since he will play with you in other high intensity, like chasing, games.

 

With the first issue, even though you may be calling him back with a high voice if you don't really change your engery he is going to see right through you. And if you don't find the game amazing, why would he. I would think more on the lines of most of the other people that it is probably the game. Both our bc's will play ball fetch w/ enthusiasm for 4-5 tosses and then they are done with the whole thing. But frisbee is a completely different ball game, ha, :rolleyes: . Frisbee could easily go on for hours and often when we are done Boots will give up begging for one more throw after about 10 minutes and go nap with the frisbee. Especially if you throw in other commands in between tosses like Soloriver was saying.

 

Best of luck

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Oh boy. Today was really bad. Absolutely the worst day we've had.

 

First time I threw the ball he walked back with it dropped it about ten meters away from me. From then on it was all down hill. The last time I threw the ball (perhaps the third or fourth throw) he ran to it, sniffed it, and didn't even pick it up.

 

I was extremely frustrated, so I just sat down on a park bench to cool off. Blake sat down by the ball, about 50 meters away. For about five minutes, we just watched each other. Then I got up and put the lead on him and came home.

 

It was not a pleasant evening.

 

When I got home, I put Blake in his crate and read through this thread. I think Jumping Boots is right—it must be a motivation issue. Tomorrow I'll mix it up a bit, play the chasing game, throw the Frisbee, etc. and take it more slowly with fetch.

 

However, I have a question about Frisbee.

 

What do you do before your dog learns to catch the Frisbee? When I throw it for Blake, he lets it land on the ground, which is firm and flat, and then can't scoop it up. He ends up pushing it around the park with his nose.

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I started with the flying squirrel frisbee that is fabric and has corners. I found that it was a lot easier for them to pick it up off the ground. For catching I worked close distances. Kneeling down and tossing maybe 4 or 5 feet out, but just as high so it had a nice arc to it. The other thing I like about the soft frisbees is that I will play tug with them to keep them motivated and loving the toy.

 

Another thing that I have ran into in the past is when a dog has a toy that he has access to all the time, they can loose the excitement of that toy. When I was starting out with Smudge, he was not toy motivated at all. So I picked a toy, a sock with a knot in it. And twice a day, I would play with it infront of him. As soon as he started to show interest in what I was doing the sock went up onto the fridge. As he started to show more interest in the toy I would play with it a bit longer, but always making sure to put it way with him wanting more. After he was locked onto me as soon as I would get the toy I started letting him interact with me and the toy. Tugging, tossing, dragging it along the floor, but always ending the game with him wanting more. He never had access to the toy without me being involved. I have since used this exercise on any dog that comes into our home, fosters included, and find that it really helps with bonding, they associate the fun game of sock/frisbee/whatever with you, not with the item. Eventually they can have access to the toys, but when I pick it up to interact with them, I immediately see an increased interest b/c it's about our relationship, not the toy.

 

On a last note, I'm sorry that last night didn't go well. But try really hard not to put that much pressure on your pup. If he doesn't want to play ball, who care's. But don't leave the park with you feeling sour and him feeling rejected. Always try to end on a good note, and you just have to let the disapointment go. Working with horses, I've learned to have a three second rule, and I've applied this to dogs too. I have three seconds after any situation with them to feel upset, to correct a behavior, and then to move on. This is hard to do at first, people seem to like to hold grudges; but just let it go. I have found that I get a lot further working with an animal and gain a much stronger relationship by moving on then I do by stewing over it.

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Sounds like a motivation issue.

 

I do as Sassy Girl does when training a retrieve. I do pretty much the same routine except I do it all at home since we have an acre and there are not any parks close by.

 

There is no need to get upset over the lack of bringing the ball back. It is a game, not life and death.

 

If he is so much better with your daughter there, maybe bring her more often and actually watch them interact and see what she does differently than you. Body posture can show a lot of things.

 

Is there a chance you have taught Blake inadvertently that he does not need to bring the ball to you - you always go get and continue playing.

 

Have you tried the 2 ball game? When he chases the ball one direction as he comes back towards you, you throw a ball in the opposite direction?

 

You could even try going backwards in the fetch game and train him to bring you the ball by giving him treats. At home or even at the park, throw the ball a very short distance and when he brings it back, give him a treat. Slowly start adding more distance. You could also try just tossing balls at him to catch - one after the other - making you more fun.

 

I would stop stressing over the lack of bringing a ball back. Your stress could be part of the problem.

 

Frisbee catching - there are a couple things to do

 

I prefer cloth frisbees and will start with the dog just a couple feet from me and will toss it to them to catch and not throw it away for them to chase and catch. I will start adding distance as they get better at catching.

 

You can also do the hard frisbee that rolls. Many people teach the dogs to start catching teaching the to pick of a frisbee that is rolling which teaches the dog mouth/snoot coordination but also to pick up a moving object.

 

Start small - don't expect too much too soon.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I had amazing success with 2 balls. As soon as my dog turned back towards me I would show her the new ball and she would come tearing back for more fun. The only problem is that it may lead to the first ball being dropped too early. So just continue to reinforce that she doesn't get the second ball until the first is brought right to you.

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Have you tried getting more into it? like getting kind of rowdy with him to excite him or just excite him however you do? My dog Rush had a lot of fetching issues when she was a puppy. Mostly it was not bringing it back. I threw the toy and she got it and played with it by herself or dropped it really far from me and picked up another toy and chased Bear (my older dog). I had to get her interested in playing with the toy I had and not Bear or dirt or eating my agility equipment. Jumping around and running away from her worked really well also putting the toy close to her face then playfully pushing her away and then running and throwing the toy worked too. You might want to try just playing small games in your house first, he may be more interested in things around him, or just really not enjoy playing with toys (I dont know!). I am not an expert :x I promise you that, but Rush loves fetch now, she will bring her toys back and drop them at my feet outside or even wake me up at 5am shoving a muddy ball in my face after my mom had let her outside to go potty :rolleyes: You guys will figure it out, it took Rush some growing up to learn that it was a game with me and no with herself and that it was actually fun, Blake will catch on! Just be as exciting as possible, even if you are borderline crazy looking :D.

 

Good Luck!!

 

Diane

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Have you tried getting more into it? like getting kind of rowdy with him to excite him or just excite him however you do? My dog Rush had a lot of fetching issues when she was a puppy. Mostly it was not bringing it back. I threw the toy and she got it and played with it by herself or dropped it really far from me and picked up another toy and chased Bear (my older dog). I had to get her interested in playing with the toy I had and not Bear or dirt or eating my agility equipment. Jumping around and running away from her worked really well also putting the toy close to her face then playfully pushing her away and then running and throwing the toy worked too. You might want to try just playing small games in your house first, he may be more interested in things around him, or just really not enjoy playing with toys (I dont know!). I am not an expert :x I promise you that, but Rush loves fetch now, she will bring her toys back and drop them at my feet outside or even wake me up at 5am shoving a muddy ball in my face after my mom had let her outside to go potty :rolleyes: You guys will figure it out, it took Rush some growing up to learn that it was a game with me and no with herself and that it was actually fun, Blake will catch on! Just be as exciting as possible, even if you are borderline crazy looking :D.

 

Good Luck!!

 

Diane

 

Thanks Diane. It's encouraging to hear that Rush (good name for a border collie, BTW!) came around after some initial reluctance. I'm going to try what you suggest.

 

The other day we were at the park playing around and I decided to get the tennis ball out of my backpack and give it a shot. I hurled it to the other side of the park, and Blake got it and brought it back and dropped it at my feet! I got my hopes up, but then the second throw he completely ignored. He looked at me as if to say, "What did you do that for? I just bought it back for you!"

 

I guess he still hasn't grasped the concept. :D

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He'll catch on! maybe he doesnt like running so far to get it (I am guessing its far - everyone in the world seems to be able to throw a ball more then like 20 feet besides me lol). Maybe just rolling it away from him and clapping you hands to encourage him to bring it back any number of things! I'm sure though he will get it, I havent met a border collie that didnt like to play fetch (in some fashion), though i'm sure they do exist. Him bringing you back the ball even part of the way or running after the ball are all good foundation though, it shows drive for it :rolleyes:.

 

Keep us updated on his progress!

 

Diane

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  • 2 weeks later...
Keep us updated on his progress!

 

Diane

 

We're making progress!

 

Blake has decided the tennis ball is very interesting. When I hold it in front of him now he becomes intensely focused and moves his head up, down, left and right following the movement of the ball in my hand. And when I throw it he scampers after it full tilt and brings it back too.

 

Hooray!

 

The only problem is he is still dropping it a little too early, like about three or four meters in front of me, but because of the momentum the ball rolls to my feet and I don't have to go and get it. I'm going to keep following the suggestions given me here.

 

I think the main problem was I thought I could go to the park and be a mechanical tennis ball server. Getting more involved, as was suggested, seems to have increased Blake's involvement.

 

Thanks again everyone!

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I'm a bit late on this thread, but I'd like to add a couple things:

First, what is the chasing game? If its you chasing him or him chasing you, its going to be more interesting and he's likely to wait to play that instead. I would stop that completely.

 

Second, when he doesn't bring the ball all the way back, wait him out. Zeb did this at first and it was his way of controlling where I threw the ball from. He would keep dropping it about 10 feet away until I was throwing from the location he wanted (usually as far from other dogs as possible). Once I realized that, I found a bench or chair to sit on and threw from there. That prevented me from moving toward the ball. If he dropped it too far away, I would lean forward, stretch my arm out and show that I couldn't reach it, then sit back. He would eventually pick up the ball and drop it closer. As long as I refused to pick it up until it was within reach, it worked. I encouraged him by telling him "closer" and now he knows that as a command to pick up the ball and bring it to me. I use this if he cheats and drops it too far away. Its useful in frisbee too.

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I'm a bit late on this thread, but I'd like to add a couple things:

First, what is the chasing game? If its you chasing him or him chasing you, its going to be more interesting and he's likely to wait to play that instead. I would stop that completely.

 

Second, when he doesn't bring the ball all the way back, wait him out. Zeb did this at first and it was his way of controlling where I threw the ball from. He would keep dropping it about 10 feet away until I was throwing from the location he wanted (usually as far from other dogs as possible). Once I realized that, I found a bench or chair to sit on and threw from there. That prevented me from moving toward the ball. If he dropped it too far away, I would lean forward, stretch my arm out and show that I couldn't reach it, then sit back. He would eventually pick up the ball and drop it closer. As long as I refused to pick it up until it was within reach, it worked. I encouraged him by telling him "closer" and now he knows that as a command to pick up the ball and bring it to me. I use this if he cheats and drops it too far away. Its useful in frisbee too.

 

Yes, the chasing game is me chasing him. I stop every minute or two and do a recall, then start chasing him again.

 

I started it as a way to get him running around and keep him focused on me for practicing recall. I did not realize it could be interfering with teaching him to fetch.

 

What you have suggested makes sense. I'll give it a shot.

 

Cool, thanks Genie. :rolleyes:

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  • 1 month later...

For those of you who are having problems with your dog returning the ball during a game of fetch, Sam started doing that a few weeks ago, however i cured it by not rewarding him until he went back and got the ball......

 

He was starting to get within 10 ft of me and would drop the ball but continue running and downing near my feet for his treat. I would then tell him to go and get the ball and point towards where the ball is, and i wouldn't treat him until he returned the ball to my feet.....

 

He soon learnt that it takes longer for him to get his treat if he doesn't do it right the first time!

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