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Help with changing a behavior

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Sydney will be exactly 1 year old on the 28th, he is a wonderful dog who is eager to please. He is not very motivated by treats but rather enjoys playing; ball and tug are his favorite activities. I am not an experienced trainer, we are learning together as we go. He does pretty well with basic commands our main problem has to do with fetch.


Sydney and I walk a few miles every morning during which we play alot of ball. I have a "chuckit" ball thrower and Sydney is totally obsessed with the game. The problem centers around his returning the ball. He knows he needs to bring it to me so I can throw it again, but he will not bring it all the way to me.


It is as if there is a 15 ft invisible barrier all around me, he will not cross the line. He brings the ball to within just about 15 ft of me and sets it down. No matter how much coaxing I do, he will not bring it all the way. When I coax him he will pick the ball up, take one or two more steps and drop it again. Eventually he gets frustrated and will not look at me anymore (la la la la la!), but looks at the sky, the birds, the ground - anything but me, effectively cutting off communication.


I know this doesn't sound like much of a problem, but it has me (actually both of us) totally frustrated and is making the game less enjoyable for both of us. The game is important for us because this is really where he gets a huge amount of his daily exercise.


Any advice on how to get him to bring the ball all the way to my feet?


Any help is greatly appreciated!




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I would simply stop playing the game. Throw the ball and if he doesn't bring it back close enough just pick up the ball and walk for awhile. Then throw the ball again and see if he brings it back a little closer, if he does you can throw again, if not pick up the ball and continue your walk. Rinse and repeat. Slowly build the the distance he has to bring it to you, don't expect it to come straight back, work in baby steps.

Our Brody would only retreive a couple of times then he wanted the humans to fetch the ball, over a period of a few months we changed the game to a proper game of fetch, he also slowly built his ball hunting endurance so that he would not quit looking for the ball in long grass, we did this by simply stopping the game as described above. At home we would go in the house or go about chores.

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That said, I had some good luck at the early stage of the game by walking away from Molly (backward, so facing her) to encourage her to get closer/bring the ball closer. After that, though, no. First time I have to fetch the ball, the game is over. I know she really likes the game, though, and wants it to continue.

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Teresa, have you experimented with a ball on a string/rope? If you have a toy that can be both thrown and used for tug, --- and you introduce it first as a tug toy -- then you may find that your dog starts coming all the way back to get that game of tug after chasing the ball. All my dogs (herding, terrier types) have had good retrieves because I started with toys that could be used for tugging and bringing them back to me got the dog a tug game and then another throw. DO make sure your dog learns to tug on the toy before you attempt to play chuck-it with it, and do practice tossing it gently around the house and the yard before taking the show on the road.

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Definitely do not throw the ball again if it is not brought all the way back to you. If my fetching-obsessed dog doesn't bring it all the way back, I say "Closer!" and wait. if he still doesn't, I turn and walk away. I pretend to be interested in a plant, or the ground, anything else but him. Then he brings it to me and puts it at my feet, whereupon I throw it. If he doesn't bring it to me within a minute or so then the game is over and we go back inside. Do this enough times and if he is as obsessed with fetching as you say he is, he will start bringing it to you every time.

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All good suggestions above.^^^


Another suggestion is when he starts back to you with the ball in his mouth, take off running in the opposite direction so he has to chase you. When he catches up to you, bring out another ball and see if he will drop the first ball. (This is a version of the trading game.) If he does drop ball #1, then throw ball #2. Rinse and repeat.


Of course, if he won't drop ball #1, then you should work the trading game in the house or backyard for a while until he gets the idea.


Good Luck.

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Yep, I've basically done what other people were doing as well. Archer was similar, he would stop like 5-10ft away, then drop the ball and wait. Like other people, I would just stop and ignore the dog. I started just turning my back to my dog and wandering off. I wouldn't acknowledge him until he approached me. After a while I starting adding a command (like D'Elle), but mostly on accident. If he stopped I was eventually able to just say "all the way" and he would pick it up and drop it at my feet.


I've also done the run away method mentioned above. That one helped keep the game going longer.


Also, I stopped reinforcing any behavior that indicated that Archer was trying to stay away from me. When playing with the ball Archer didn't like me approaching him (I am assuming this might be a problem with Sydney). I started requiring that he allow me to approach him and eventually pet him prior to throwing the ball again. If he tried to get away then I would walk away from him with the ball. Basically, I was requiring him to get closer to me in order to get the ball. I've also started occasionally having him heel for a couple of seconds before throwing the ball. Really, just doing anything that makes him realize that he is being rewarded for being near me.


I've also done some work inside. This is easy to do while watching TV. I'll toss the ball and he has to bring the ball within my reach before I throw it again. It's easy because you don't really have to care about how long you wait because you've got some TV to watch, or maybe a book to read. I'm at the point where Archer now has to drop the ball in my hand for me to throw it.


Now Archer is awesome at fetch. I've relaxed the game a lot now that he realizes the ball has to be returned all the way to me. He's also taught himself a trick. He has started dropping the ball while running back to me so the ball rolls right to my feet. I've let him get away with this because I know he understand the rules of the game. He'll come to me if I ask him to.


EDIT: I forgot to mention that I also did another version of the trading game. Archer loves all balls, but not all are equal. Rubber balls are good, tennis balls are great, and kong air squeakers are amazing. I used this to my advantage. Most of the time I would have a non-squeaking tennis ball and a kong air squeaker on me. I start with the tennis ball and when he does a really good retrieve he gets the kong air squeaker. This jackpot only works once per session because once he gets his favorite ball he doesn't really want any another. After he got good at the return I started switching them during play and making him return his less favorite ball in order to get the kong air squeaker back.

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