ClickerSolutions Training Treasures

Playing Fetch and Giving Up an Object

They can not play fetch with him because if he goes to get the ball he will not return it, they try throwing another ball and he carries the first on with him to pick up the second.

It looks to me as though the owners *are* able to play fetch with the dog, just not on *their* terms yet. Mr. Doggie is playing ball by *dog* rules... "if you can't get this ball away from me you don't have a right to it." Why should he give it up? The game is much more stimulating if you're "winning", and he's been deriving a lot of ha-ha-on-you-guys power out of tricking his owner into competing with him-and losing!

He really likes having the ball in his mouth. He just needs to learn that if he wants to chase it, he has to give it up.

If he knows the second ball is going to be thrown he will drop the first ball half way back in anticipation of the second.

Here's a good opening for the handler to click dropping-the-ball behavior... when the dog drops the first ball on the way back. And also a great place to start a detour in the game plan that leads uptimately to the kind of ballgame the owner appreciates.

When the dog drops the ball on the way back, the handler could click, toss a high-value treat. Stroll over to the place where the first ball was dropped. The dog may move with the trainer, eyeballing the #2 ball in her hand (that he *thinks* she is about to throw). Pick up the ball. Throw when ready.

DO NOT throw that #2 ball-it's a decoy, just to *begin* this re-training with clickable successes, because the dog already thinks he can *make* the trainer throw #2, so he spits out #1-as you mentioned.

If dog drops #1 on the way back again, repeat as above.

Now, if the dog instead races to the dropped ball ahead of the trainer and tries to grab it up, there's another step to deal with. Make this less likely by trainer not looking at the #1 ball on the ground.

Plan B. (This is normally plan A for me, but the 2 ball approach is already in progress so I put this one second this time.) Sit in a comfortable chair with a magazine to read. Throw the ball. Read the magazine, holding it in one hand. Trainer's other hand is open, palm up, in trainers lap. Completely ignore the dog. This is the most difficult part for most owners who wish their dogs would play fetch by human rules.

If the dog tries to compete over the ball, the best response from handler is "I couldn't care less about the stupid ball." Go examine the flowers or the siding on the house for about 5 minutes, then go sit down with your trusty magazine.

At some point, dog will bring back the ball and push it into the open hand, or at least make the attempt. DO NOT TAKE BALL UNTIL DOG RELEASES COMPLETELY. This *MUST NOT* be a competition! Click, treat, and throw.

If dog teases owner and will not cooperate at first, give it 5 minutes sitting in your chair with teh magazine, then get up and walk into the house (or other room, if doing this indoors) and get involved in some non-dog activity for 10 minutes... ignore the dog.

Then, happily, ask dog if he wants to play. Throw the ball. Turn and walk away while the dog runs to get the ball. On his way back, he's looking at trainers back. If he comes around in front as if to say, "here it is, I've got the ball" praise him, pat him, but don't ask for the ball or reach for it until he tries to give it to you. Then maintain a passive receiving hand until he gives and drops. C/T, then throw.

Also, another idea...

Plan C. When the dog brings the ball and won't release, ask for a sit. If he can sit without dropping the ball, that's great! Click and throw the treat on the gorund a few feet away where he can drop the ball and eat treat without playing keep away. *DON'T* try to grab the ball while he's eating... remember this IS NOT a competition.

If he picks up the ball and brings it again, ask for a sit again. Click & drop the treat at your feet. *Dont* go for the ball, no matter how tempted you are! Let the dog pick it up and offer it again. Keep doing this for a few days. Work on a nice straight front sit holding the ball... forget about getting him to drop it for awhile.

Dogs like the guy you've described often get bored with proper sits fairly quickly and will return to figuring out how to get you to throw the ball. When you see this happening, offer your hand as a place the dog *could* put the ball. Don't ask for or demand it, just offer to help the dog by throwing the ball. If he'd like that service performed , he'll need to put the ball into the "throwing machine" (your hand).

If the handler can play hard to get-more convincingly than the dog-the handler will eventually win. It's a patience thing, primarily. The "old game" won't work any more. Eventually the dog realizes that... and gets interested in how to play the "new game". He just wants to play... but if he competes against his handler at all he will be playing to win. The trick is to put the dog on the same team as the handler... rather than opposing teams, as it sounds like your client is doing.

We lately talk a lot about the "zen" lesson the dog learns: of having to give up something in order to receive it. Now let's start talking about that same lesson for us handlers . If the handler is less attached to the "result" (in this case, getting the ball from the dog) she will soon find her dog *trying* to give it to her... so he *can* play the game. It's a mutual thing. And everybody wins.

What goes around comes around... or words to that effect.


September Morn
Bellingham, WA
copyright 1999 September Morn


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