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Tweaking the fetching concept


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So, Seamus joined our family about a week ago. His previous owners didn't have much time for him after their new baby arrived... a year and a half ago. And just got around to getting rid of him. I've got him now and all is good yada yada yada.

 

What were trying to work on now is taking off the extra pounds he's got on him. He's a hefty 55lbs and really needs to lose some weight.

 

He loves the ball and will play forever (no surprise there) he just needs some fine tuning with the general concept.

 

I throw the ball. He's very interested and chases it no problem. He's not very good at picking it up while rolling though and normally tumbles over it (i'm going to pin this on the weight issue.) He gets it and will bring it back to me. About 10-15 feet away. And then will continue to stare at the ball. Eyes flickering to me every minute or so briefly.

 

I've tried asking for it, walking away when he doesn't bring it, rewarding the few times he does, all the normal stuff. Sometimes he's so stubborn that he'll stand in the same exact spot for 5 minutes just staring :rolleyes:

 

It seems what has the most success is walking the opposite direction that i've thrown the ball and wait for him to appear in my peripheral vision. But the second he knows i'm looking at him- he drops the ball, backs up a few feet and stares. This has a success rate of about 50% of the time.

 

I'm totally at a loss about how to tackle this.

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Have you tried teaching a specific command from just a few feet away when you want him to bring something to you? I use "bring it here" on Mick when I want him to bring me something. He's so ball/frisbee driven that it's not generally an issue, but he will occasionally drop it out of my reach. It's also useful for when he has something I want to take away from him. He knows that "bring it here" doesn't necessarily mean he'll get it back, but it's a command he's 100% on regardless.

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I've known a lot of dogs that did that. They were usually "only dogs." If another dog - an avid retriever - was brought into the equation, things shaped up pretty quickly. I throw the ball, one of the dogs gets it. If it's the "dropper," and he does the dropping thing, the other dog will pick up the ball and bring it in. If that dog gets big praise and a yummy treat each time it brings the ball to hand, the "dropper" will usually quit dropping it to prevent the "fetcher" from taking it.

 

There may be a sort of game of keep-away started by this, but whichever dog makes it back to you gets the yummy treat. The other dog is completely ignored - no encouragement, no directing, no recall. Unless he brings the ball right to you, he doesn't exist. When the ball is brought back to you, praise and treat that dog. Do a "fake" so the dogs will start away from you and then throw the ball so it lands nearest the dog that just brought it back. This seems to motivate the "dropper" to try harder to get the ball, and to hang onto it when he does get it.

 

Another thing that seems to work with a "dropper" is to play fetch with something that has a mouth feel that the dog really likes. For Sugarfoot that's a Wubba. Balls are all very well and she will go after them, but she loves "mounging" the Wubba, so she comes in when called but won't let go of the Wubba until given a "give" command. Of course the dog has to have a reliable recall for this to work - otherwise they'll just stand there blissing out while mounging the object of their oral fixation.

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Have you tried teaching a specific command from just a few feet away when you want him to bring something to you?

 

Most of the time he will respond to "c'mon" with the frisbee. But he doesn't have much interest in the frisbee at the park. Balls really only matter at the park and that command just must not cross over :rolleyes: He just continues to stare at it. Crazy dog.

 

Not much of a tugger, and doesn't really like the wubba too much. Picks it up and drops it right back. Then walks the other direction. :D

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Most of the time he will respond to "c'mon" with the frisbee. But he doesn't have much interest in the frisbee at the park. Balls really only matter at the park and that command just must not cross over :rolleyes: He just continues to stare at it. Crazy dog.

 

Not much of a tugger, and doesn't really like the wubba too much. Picks it up and drops it right back. Then walks the other direction. :D

 

I have always heard that training just the end behavior works well for this sort of thing. Go to a small room that he can't get that far away from you, and teach a drop in your hand command, then slowly add distance...then move to a bigger room, then move outside. slowly adding distance outside also.

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I have always heard that training just the end behavior works well for this sort of thing.

 

That's what I was going to recommend, as well.

 

I would train "take" and "give" with something the dog doesn't care all that much about - like the Wubba. Then I would teach the dog to pick it up off the floor and give it to me. I would gradually move it further and further away so the dog had to go get it, bring it, and give it.

 

Only after the dog could do this with an object of little value would I repeat the process with something that the dog really wants like the ball. After the dog got to the point where he or she could go get it, bring it, give it, I would start to incorporate short throws.

 

I learned my lesson with Mr. Speedy. My new dogs will always learn the end behavior before I start throwing toys for them!

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This is a pretty common issue since dogs don't know how to put a ball in your hand unless specifically taught. Easiest way to overcome this problem is to backchain the retrieve, i.e. teach the last action first. Do this process for a few minutes 2-3 times a day; you shouldn't get through the entire process in one day, give it time.

 

Sit down with the ball (or another toy the dog likes), the dog and some treats facing the end of a hall or a corner (you can pop your knees up to control where dog goes or use a leash if needed). Put some small treats in an open container behind you (use something that's not more distracting than the ball). Hold the ball in your hand and try to get the dog to put his mouth on it. Be creative, move it around in front of him; even a nose near it is ok at first. As soon as the dog makes contact with the ball, mark that with a YES (or click if clicker trained) while you take the ball away and reach around with your other hand to give him a treat. So you basically give the ball for him to put his mouth on it, mark that, take it away & treat. Continue this until the dog is reliably putting his mouth on the ball and you can move your hand holding the ball to any point, including resting on the ground. At this point, put a command to the action, e.g. give, bring it, etc... Work to lengthen the time the dog has his mouth on the ball before you give the command and take it.

 

Next step is to get the dog to pick it up without it being in your hand. Put the ball on the ground with your hand near it. When the dog puts his mouth on it, give the recently taught command and take it away and treat same as before. Once the dog gets the concept, put the ball in different places within easy reach, slowly adding distance. You can even roll it a little in front of you. As the dog progresses, add distance to how far the dog goes to get the ball and also add duration to how long the dog is holding the ball. At this point, the dog should be fetching and bringing to hand and you can fade out using the treats. When it's happening reliably inside without treats, head outside with your new game.

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I’m having (some) problems with fetch, too. In the house, Cerb will play fetch all night. Tuggy, ball, stuffed toy, you name it. The only issue is that at some point I taught him to bring it back to my feet…..It must be the family tendency toward prehensile toes. :rolleyes:

If we go out doors, he’ll often play for 5 or 6 throws then he’ll be done….and this ONLY with his rubber cat. I think this is at least partly due to the venue; a grade school play yard/soccer field. LOTS of absolutely wonderful smells and treasures to be found. The other day I spotted him grabbing a chunk of Paleolithic bologna rind, complete with attached carnage, and slinking away.

Time to find another venue….

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I am an extremely lazy person so taught my dogs to bring the ball all the way back and pass it up and into my hand and let go making sure it stays in my hand. :D I basically trained in a session they only got a treat if it came all the way back. Of course my dogs have a strong history of recalls (or at least my puppy does) so I can call them back and put my hand out. When they get it close to me they get a game. They generally want to play so much they bounce around waiting for me to take the toy and try giving it to me if I don't take it. I haven't have a dog that is that obsessed or shall we just say "dedicated" about their ball so it is a bit harder. I feel for him as he has probably only ever had someone chuck a ball occassionally and thats it. The terrible co-ordination with the ball is probably because of his weight and just general lack of co-ordination which will get better with more play. I would just encourage him to bring the ball, try running the other way, calling, or tempting him with something. If he gets close (may not be very close at all but its a start) reward either treat or verbal and throw ball again. Each time wait for him to bring it a bit closer. I often see with dogs that "dedicated" if you wait long enough they will start to whine and perhaps push the ball closer. Its a patience thing I think and he has no idea about what you want as what he's doing may have always worked. Try putting the ball on the line and reeling him in lol. Then reward and throw the ball again. Try stop the staring in all facets of life so he doesn't have the chance to practice it so much and it may help decrease that behaviour. Also just relationship building which takes time may help in bringing the toy back. I would start with a toy that is perhaps less special, one he may bring back.

 

My foster has made a huge step with confidence and now is extremely "dedicated" to my puppy. She follows my puppy everywhere even when puppy is sleeping she is running circles around her. If I hold her she bucks and cries trying so hard to get back to running circles around puppy. So to fix it I just try decrease any chance she has to perform the behaviour. :rolleyes:

 

He sounds so cute as annoying as it may be I can just laugh when I see a dog so "dedicated". It's not particularly good behaviour but it is a laugh. :D

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  • 2 weeks later...

For disc doggin', Kit has to give the disc back to me - not drop it on the ground, because in a timed trial, it takes too long for me to pick it up. The "give" command was very useful in training this. I don't think it would have been possible if we hadn't done plenty of practice on this command at home first. Now she'll do it with a ball, too if I bend over and reach out my hands.

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