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My Border Collie has Ball Return and Release "Issues"?


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My 3-year-old BC is coming along in training and she is a monster ball chasing dog. Her "issue" is that she will not bring the ball back or release it easily. If there is anyone else on the field, she will run up to them and drop the ball right in front of them and wait until they throw it for her, for me, not so much. I use a Mini Educator if she doesn't release, giving her 3 vibrate warnings and then a low (35) pop if she still will not release. Sometimes if I don't have the Educator with me she will release upon the "drop it" command but not always.

 

Another weird thing she does is release the ball in the worst location she can find: like the only hole under a downward sloping fence or hidden in ivy, it's almost like a game of keep away. She does like chasing balls as she would do it all day if I let her.

 

Any thought on how I can work with her to return the ball and release it? I do praise her and pet her when she gets close but it's hit or miss.

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Seriously? You use a shock collar for something so trivial as not returning the ball to you? Your poor dog is the one who needs help, not you.

 

And I can pretty much guarantee that the reason she'll take the ball right up to someone else and drop it is that she's never been punished for taking the ball to them. She's afraid to give you the ball, and with good reason.

 

I'm pretty sure I'd be kicked off of this forum if I articulated how I really feel about this.

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Dearest Gentle,

 

Thanks so very for trying and convicting me on such a small partial slice of information, so helpful. I did not say that the only reason I use a training collar was for release issues, but you obviously know much more than I ever will.

 

The actual primary reason for the training collar is to keep her out of crowded areas playing sports games and away from busy places that have potentially dangerous access to traffic. A 35 on one of those collars is quite mild as I actually tested it on myself first and it's pretty darn gentle.

 

Seriously, you might have a problem as you actually did not read my post accurately but instead, jumped to conclusions. Pretty typical knee jerk anonymous response from an on-line forum, feeling better about yourself now?

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I think that the use of your e-collar is having "unintended consequences".

 

Please remember that dogs experience the world differently than we do and a "vibration" or "pop" to us may be experienced by the dog much differently. You are running an electric current thru the neck which contains major nerves and blood vessels that control things like heartrate, breathing, blood pressure, etc.

 

So much for my e-collar lecture which was likely a waste of time.

 

I think that you need to go back and retrain the retrieve (hopefully without the e-collar) in a smaller area with less distractions. Do a google search on the "two ball game". The FENZI Academy has online courses on play that you will likely benefit from.

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I read your post, just like I know Gentle Lake did, and I am in agreement with what she said. She is a valued contributor here with a wealth of experience and well worth listening to. You asked for opinions and you got one.

 

The information we have to go on is only and precisely what you wrote. I doubt I've ever heard anyone use a shock collar, no matter how mildly, for anything so unimportant as playing fetch. For serious, life-threatening issues, where nothing else has proven to work, then use of a shock collar on such a sensitive breed might be justified in the hands of a qualified trainer or handler, because correct use and precise timing is essential.

 

I'm with Gente Lake - if I was your dog and would get a shock, no matter how mild you thought it was, when I brought you the ball but didn't play the game quite your way, I would not trust to bring you the ball. But I might well trust the other people because unpleasant things don't happen when I bring it to them. Think about it from that point of view, your dog's point of view.

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^This.


I have no problem with e-collars, I really don't, but you really have to get into the dog's head/see the situation from the dog's pov.

 

And the real chain of events is 'I return with the ball and get shocked'. That's not going to get you an out. What may well work is having a second ball that you throw when the dog returns with the first or simply turning and walking away from the game or sitting down and reading a book until the dog gets bored and returns and outs the ball.

It's a border collie. Odds are very, very high that once the dog isn't afraid to return and out the ball to you, you'll get a nice fetch. They want to chase things, they like fetch, and they live to work with their people. Work with the dog before you et confrontational about it. The dog WANTS to be your partner.

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I've got no problem with the proper use of e-collars, either. In my book, teaching a dog how to play a game is not a proper use.

 

I'll expand on what your dog is feeling. She's excited, she's got that ball in her mouth, she's running around getting more excited, she gets to you and she experiences Something Unpleasant.

 

At the low stim level you're using, it is likely unpleasant, not painful. However, I suspect that not only is it unpleasant, but also creates an automatic reflex of bearing down with her jaws harder.

 

So, she runs up to you, and for some reason she gets an electronic tap. It startles her, which possibly makes her hold on to the ball more vigourously.

 

The very fact that she'll drop the ball for others is a big indicator that your teaching method for 'drop the ball' isn't working. I'd advise you to stop using the e-collar for teaching 'drop it'. Another unintended consequence is that her not responding to it could bleed over into other situations, where you're relying on the e-collar to get her safely back to you.

 

If you haven't worked with an experienced e-collar trainer, find one. Patrick Burns, over at Terrierman.com, is a proponent of e-collars. He might be able to tell you how to find a good e-collar trainer.

 

Ruth and Gibbs

 

What other teaching methods have you tried?

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First off, my first post was slightly inaccurate as I was referring to when I first used the e-collar. After the first month, I never had to use the shock mode as she responded quite well to vibrate only. That being said . . .

 

I have had BC's for almost 15 years now so this isn't my first experience. I actually did use the two ball trick for quite some time and that worked well. My actual first use of an e-collar was due to the fact that her being so immature, she would seek out everyone in sight like 700-800 yards away and try and play with them which made for some very embarrassing and dangerous moments in recreational sports games like other peoples soccer matches, etc. She has since learned to listen and not join in everyone's events. Please don't call it a "shock collar" when I actually use it as a "vibrate collar". That's not an electrical stimulation but a distinct variant that lets her know that we aren't playing keep away as. like I said earlier, she always drops it after one or two vibrates. Also, she has already brought it back or I am already where she is so there is no remote activation.

 

But she reached a block point where she just doesn't bring balls all the way back but prefers me to come after her whereby she usually drops it. 99% of the time, one or two vibrates communicates to her that we aren't playing keep away . . . but it hasn't gotten any better, hence this post. Since she's learned the vibrate, I can't recall using the shock mode as I wouldn't actually want to hurt her, who would? I think she actually likes the keep away game as I can instantly tell when she's playing it as she runs watching me sideways over her shoulder. It might be simply that she's developed some hybrid of the two games and flip-flops back and forth between them.

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To quote that annoying dork Dr. Phil, "so how's that working for you?" It's not gotten any better, as you say.

 

Like everyone else here, I think your e collar use is having unintended consequences.

 

I have no objection to their use in certain situations, but I suspect this is not a good use of one.

 

In your shoes, I would stop playing ball in uncontrolled environments and go back to teaching a reliable release, rewarded with what she wants more than anything else, the next ball thrown. In the yard, not too far, keep the arousal level down. Reward with the second ball for any attempt at dropping it.

 

Move on slowly.

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Fetching the ball is supposed to be play.

That means it is supposed to be FUN.

 

Not something that ever, under any circumstances, involves punishment.

 

It is no wonder that your dog wants to bring the ball to anyone but you.

You are hurting her when she tries to play with you so she doesn't want to play with you.

 

Don't tell me that the shock collar doesn't hurt her. You have no idea how it feels to her, even when it is on "vibrate". And even if it is not actually painful, it most certainly is unpleasant. It is designed to be unpleasant, right?

 

So why on earth are you using something unpleasant and/or hurtful in the context of something that is supposed to be joyful and playful? This is wrong on so many levels. I feel sorry for your dog.

 

I will tell you how I trained a dog who had no toy drive to fetch. Try it, without the shock collar, and see if it works.

 

I used a rag with smelly treats tied up in it at first, but you don't have to do that since your dog already likes a ball. Have one person stand about 10 to 15 feet from you and roll or throw the ball to that person. Then have them call the dog, and give her a very nice high value treat when she comes. Then they give her the ball, and you call her to you. If she comes with the ball, you give her a very nice treat. Repeat. Do this indoors at first, then in a small fenced in area. Always reward returning the ball to you with the high value smelly treat. she will drop the ball for you to get the treat, so that solves the "won't drop" issue.

 

Please listen to us and don't get defensive. We have your dog's best interests at heart. Shock collars should never be used except on very important issues, and then only under the supervision of a highly trained and competent trainer, and only when every single other technique has been fully exhausted. They should rarely be used at all on sensitive breeds like border collies. They should never, ever be used in connection with play.

 

If, ultimately, your dog doesn't really want to play fetch the way you want to play it, then invent a different game to play with her, one that she does like!

Play with you dog and have fun. Don't get hung up on making her "play" exactly the way you think she should.

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I agree with D'Elle on this. Fetching a ball is supposed to be fun. I did not teach my Aussie/Border Collie mix to fetch. It was a natural behavior for her. My Border Collie doesn't exhibit the same behavior. She will fetch sheep but not a ball. She will, however, enthusiastically take the ball from my hand, run around with it, then drop it. I work with that. It's hilarious!

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Rmlilley, I have no advice for you, and don't know much about e-collars, but I will say that if you use an e-collar, you will get next to no help on these boards. A majority of the members here don't like 'em.

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OK everyone mea culpa, mea culpa. I got defensive as the first response I received really left a bad taste in my mouth and really was too strong given the desire to solve the problem constructively. I do agree with the unintended consequences comments but was probably too close to see that. We exercise in a 10-acre field that may have 3-4 soccer or softball games going on at any one time and this may be too distracting or tempting for her to resist. I like the comment listed below and thanks for your feedback guys!

 

 

rushdoggie: In your shoes, I would stop playing ball in uncontrolled environments and go back to teaching a reliable release, rewarded with what she wants more than anything else, the next ball thrown. In the yard, not too far, keep the arousal level down. Reward with the second ball for any attempt at dropping it.

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I Feel as though the e collar should never be used but to each their own. I would never use one and I also don't think anyone is meaning to be "mean" they are just being honest. E collars are horrible and I think if you are using it to keep her away from certain areas or hazards like you say maybe she should just be on a long lead just a thought. I think she is hiding the ball because she is scared of playing with it you are teaching her that it's a negative thing and confusing her. I would not take these people's advise negativly I would learn from it and stop using that collar. You asked for help and you got it.

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I think all dogs enjoy keep away type games. They play that way with each other. One has something then gives that chase me look/posture and the race is on.

 

I try to "play" games that either are educational or at least provide some benefit to our relationship - ie working together.

When I ask a dog for something I want them complying because they WANT to not because of what punishment or unpleasantness I can provide. Having a willing partner is more than obedience. If you teach her being with you is enjoyable then she will seek YOU out. My impression is she has learned she might not be able to trust you. You might have to start over and reward - pet, talk, food- for doing small things once or twice and move on to something else rather than playing till she does not do as wanted then correcting her. Use a long line asking her to come to you then let her know it is a pleasant experience ALL the time when she does.

 

Now I do have them do things they do not like - nail trims ect- I just do those things as matter of fact as possible. Stand her let me do it then we can move on to fun stuff. There is not punishment but I have high standard from day 1 of what is expected being aware of what age/stage of development they are at.

 

Look at things from her point of view, what her body position for clues to what she is telling you. If she is dropping the toy then coming or coming to you with head down, not looking at you, ears not up and happy then you have taught her that coming to you is not enjoyable. Crouch down, sit on the ground, laugh make coming to you and bringing you things enjoyable. What her approaching other people to play, I am sure there is a difference in her body language. She is telling you what the problem is you just need to listen

It all boils down to your relationship.

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Dearest Gentle,

 

Thanks so very for trying and convicting me on such a small partial slice of information, so helpful. I did not say that the only reason I use a training collar was for release issues, but you obviously know much more than I ever will.

 

The actual primary reason for the training collar is to keep her out of crowded areas playing sports games and away from busy places that have potentially dangerous access to traffic. A 35 on one of those collars is quite mild as I actually tested it on myself first and it's pretty darn gentle.

 

Seriously, you might have a problem as you actually did not read my post accurately but instead, jumped to conclusions. Pretty typical knee jerk anonymous response from an on-line forum, feeling better about yourself now?

 

I'm failing to see how having a shock collar on your dog for the "the actual primary reason" is supposed to justify also using it to try to make her release a ball the exact specific way you want her to.

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