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My 6-month old Finnegan is generally a very good and obedient dog (well, for his age, although we have a long way to go, especially with meeting other people and dogs!).  His only real quirk is with soccer balls -- he's obsessed with them and puts the full weight of his border collie attention to the soccer ball when I bring it out to play.  Typically, this is fun for everyone (especially my 5-year-old daughter, who loves to kick the ball for him).  I can generally get him to bring it back to us and drop it at our feet, especially if I use some sort of lure, like treats, plus enthusiastic praise for him coming over and dropping it.  

However... If he's left alone with the soccer ball, he'll really get into his own world: running around with it, shaking it, bumping it with his nose, etc...  When he's in this state, he's pretty much out of my control unless I can distract him with a treat, and even then it takes some real cajoling. 

My question to the group is whether allowing him to get into this zone is healthy, or whether I should curb this behavior by only having structured play with the soccer ball.  On the one hand, it's kinda nice when he's occupying himself in a non-destructive manner.   On the other hand, because it takes effort to bring him back to reality, I'm not sure if I want that part of his brain to develop all that much.

Any thoughts on how I should proceed with the soccer ball?

Thanks, 

Dan

 

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Any obsession like behavior is not healthy for a border collie. They are naturally dogs with intense focus, and some of them are prone to Obsessive Compulsive disorder, or OCD. Once OCD gets going it's very, very hard to stop.

I'd not let him play with a soccer ball at all. OCD behavior can switch from one particular object to another. Get him interested in other things, other kinds of activities. Trick training, agility, scent work/tracking. Get him used to the idea that there are lots of interesting and fun things to do. 

Do some research about canine obsessive compulsive disorder. In humans, OCD is classified as an anxiety disorder and is sometimes helped with anti-anxiety drugs.

Good luck ~ let us know how you do.

Ruth & Gibbs

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Thanks -- I'm glad I posted.  I had a feeling that letting him go after the soccer ball without structure was bad.  When it's controlled play (fetch), he does pretty well, so I think I'll go with my gut and only allow soccer ball play with constant supervision and clear guidance/expectations (i.e., have him bring it right back and drop it at my feet -- no exceptions).

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Keep a tight watch on it, Dan. Put the ball out of his sight when you're not playing soccer with him.

If he were my dog, at the very least I'd be introducing him to other fun stuff. If there's nose work classes or tracking classes in your area try those. Dogs get sooo much information through their scenting abilities. If he's a swimmer, take him swimming. My first bc loved every single body of water she encountered, from the smallest puddle to the Pacific Ocean. Except of course, bath tubs.

These beasts keep us humans hopping!

Ruth & Gibbs

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Obsessive behavior is not healthy. If this were my dog I would remove the soccer ball from his life entirely, then, play fetch with him with a regular ball or frisbee. But never leave the toy available to him to play with it when you are not controlling when and where and for how long.

My dog Jester was, you could call it, obsessed with fetching. But because I tightly controlled the game for the first two years he was with me and never left the toys available to him, he learned that I would only throw something when I chose the time.  Eventually I could leave the toys (all of them stuffed sheep :)) in a basket in the house, and he could get them out and play with them or sleep with them on his own. He knew that he couldn't bring one to me to throw unless I told him to. Similarly he never bugged guests to throw a toy for him. And he knew when I said "last one" he wouldn't get another throw and he settled down.  But all of this took time and strict management, without ever a single exception to my rules. He got to have his passion, but did not spend his time looking for it or obsessing about it. 

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13 hours ago, D'Elle said:

dog Jester was, you could call it, obsessed with fetching. But because I tightly controlled the game for the first two years he was with me and never left the toys available to him, he learned that I would only throw something when I chose the time. 

This.

I enjoy a good game of fetch so when I have a puppy, I like to introduce the idea of toys being thrown and then brought back (with minimal running so as not to hurt the pup). Once they get it and it clicks, I basically shelve it until they are mature enough to not obsess over it. And like D'Elle,once I say all done, that's it.

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