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help on teaching fetch, please, dog has little or no prey drive

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I have a BC rescue that I've had now for 7 months. She is estimated at 5-6 years old, and was in a shelter for an unknown period, then a foster home where they basically gave her food and shelter but not much interaction. I have trained several other rescue dogs and a BC I had from puppyhood -- but they all had a high drive to chase objects/balls innately.


I have tried some shaping exercises to get her on the road to fetch/retrieve. I did not start this until recently as I did not want to stress her out. In general her temperament is kind of chill for a BC, and she is affectionate to me and pretty much anyone she meets.


I have kind of run into a brick wall and hoping some here could help out. I have read prior posts on the topic here but still hoping for more ideas. I want very badly to teach her because after months of effort, she has no reliable recall for off extended off leash exercise in a nearby forested park. I want her to get more exercise with fetch, so at least at the dog park she can work off some energy.


It's especially important to get her some more extended exercise because she has hip dysplasia and the vet has stressed that she really needs to lose weight (I am not over feeding her, got the vet's input on this and actually am feeding her less than the recommended amount for her to lose weight, including treats).


Her only innate "herding" interest is to alert to and chase cars, or go out to the backyard and listen to traffic. She will occasionally (but not consistently) try to chase squirrels. Her vision has been checked out and is AOK. In her foster home, a farm, she showed no interest in herding their sheep/chasing/eye-control.


She doesn't play chase at the dog park with the other dogs, but instead goes up to all the humans and sits and seeks affection. She does not play with friendly and playful neighborhood dogs on "play dates." She will tolerate play invitations for a while, then leave the area so the other dog will leave her alone. If the dog park is near a street, she will go the perimeter and watch traffic passing by rather than playing or running in the dog park.


She will chase ME, but will not play tug or even look at toys when you throw or run with them, or do various things to create excitement around the object. If she does look even briefly at the object and you "click/treat with hand delivery" she then becomes obsessed with the area around the place you treated her looking for crumbs rather than paying attention again to the object. In general, unlike other dogs I've trained, she doesn't even follow your hand motions or look in a direction you are looking --- unless food is in the hand or the direction. She just doesn't seem interested. She has learned "watch me" even without food treats after many many months of positive training with/tapering off treats.


She started out when I first got her by actually turning her head AWAY from any toy I put on the floor (just trying to get an idea of what might interest her, no training or encouragement). She seemed averse to the sound of squeaky toys. She doesn't do the head-turning-away anymore, so I guess that's a good sign. She will fetch and run away with food treats, i.e, a long chew toy for example.

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Get a container small enough for her to pick up in her mouth with a lid that she can't open herself and is sturdy enough to not be easily bitten through. For me that was a pill bottle. Put some holes in it so scent can come out.


Put a treat in it. Put it on the floor.

When she mouths the container, say 'Yes', open it up and feed her the treat.

Gradually increase the criteria. Feed her the treat (From the container) for mouthing, then picking up, then taking one step to give it to you, then two, then more. Once you're able to do a short toss, with the treat in the container, feed her the treat from your hand. Then gradually build to longer tosses and feeding from your hand. Then take the treat out and throw it empty, for shot tosses and building duration. Add a verbal cue 'get it'. Once the verbal cue is there and she's excited, switch to a ball and fade the treats.

It's a long haul, but it got my zero-toy, play, or prey drive dog into fetch.

And even if you never move beyond throwing your empty pill bottle or whatever, giving tiny bits of treats for the retrieve, she's burning more calories than she's getting and building muscle that will help her hind end.

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She doesn't need to exercise to lose weight, and I would ask my vet about running an overweight dog with hip dysplasia, particularly given the agility needed for fetch for an energetic dog. If she needs to eat a tiny amount to lose weight, then she only needs a tiny amount (barring disease which would affect this). Many dogs need to eat below the recommended amount.


That said- try giving treats from your hand so there's no scented floor area to search for crumbs. Work slowly and patiently and gradually shape the behaviour.

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I will also add that playing fetch may be too high stress an activity for a dog with bad hips. And to be honest, I don't put much stock in a blanket "recommended" amount for dogs. The stuff written on dog food bags is usually vastly over what most dogs need.

It depends entirely on the individual as to how much they really need to eat. I have a 35 pound 6 year old Aussie who gets 1/2 a cup twice a day - and she's still a bit on the pudgy side. Meanwhile my 32 pound 2 year old border collie gets 1- /14 cups of food twice a day - and she's thin as a rail.


Taking long walks or even encouraging swimming is good exercise that won't stress your dog's hips. You don't want to risk causing your girl pain in her hips with hearty repetitive motion.

How much does your dog weigh and how much are you feeding her?


~ Gloria

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Do be careful with running a dog with hip displaysia.

But, here is the method that has worked for me.

Wrap up smelly treats in a cloth rag in a ball shape. Have another person on the other side of the room. Show the dog the "ball" and when she is interested in it, give her a treat. Then, throw it to the other person or roll it along the floor. Have the other person pick it up and call the dog. When the dog comes to the other person, the dog gets a treat, and then the other person hands the treat "ball" to the dog. Before the dog can start tearing into the "ball", call her back to you. If she brings the "ball", she gets a treat. Repeat a whole lot of times. Eventually switch out for a ball or other toy, but continue to treat the dog each time she brings the toy back to you. If the dog catches on to the fun of it you can stop treating for the retrieve. Some really take to it and it becomes a favorite game, but some dogs never think it is all that much fun.


By the way, I sincerely hope you are discouraging the car chasing, even if it is done behind a fence. Potentially very dangerous interest on her part.

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My guy has tons of prey drive, but had zero for toys.

I just purchased a tug and treat frisbee (Clean run has them).

It has a food pouch inside.

He needs me to get the food out, so he brings it back. I switch things up & give him a treat from my pocket.

He's recently generalized to fetch a ball. (I'd tried and given up on training that in the past).

That said, maybe your dog is just not into running games. Maybe she is sore (those hips), and not feeling energetic.

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For food hounds who are still ravenous and food obsessed when you're cutting them back, you can add low calorie, low carb veggies to their food to fill up their bellies so they feel more satisfied. You can use frozen veggies or no salt canned. Or fresh of course. I used to dumpster dive at a couple supermarkets when they were throwing away old produce for one of my dogs. You'd be amazed what you can find, some of it still quite (human) edible; the amount of waste is criminal. I'd bring it home and puree it in the blender and add it to his food. He had a cast iron stomach, but you might want to try small portions at first to make sure it won't cause stomach upset and/or loose stools.


I agree that you should consult your vet before trying to focus on high impact activities like playing fetch.

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